Tunisia: British DJ sentenced to jail for playing dance version of Muslim prayer

A Tunisian court sentenced British DJ Dax J to a year in jail for “public indecency” and “offending public morality” after playing a dance remix of the Muslim call to prayer on 31 March 2017 at the ORBIT Festival in the north eastern coastal town of Nabeul, reported BBC on 7 April 2017.

The Bristish-born, Berlin-based DJ had left the country before court proceedings and offered his “sincere apologies” for the song on his Facebook page, saying it was never his “intention to upset or cause offence to anybody”.

Since the incident, Dax J’s Facebook has been deactivated after he received over 200 death threats, reported Deutsche Welle on 4 April 2017.

In a Facebook statement on 3 April 2017, festival organisers said the DJ “had no intention of provoking your anger or offending you” and that his apology was “sincere”, adding that they did not want to get “involved in religious debates”.

Nightclub shut down
After footage of the song surfaced online causing outrage, authorities closed the El Guitone nightclub where the DJ played and launched an investigation into the matter.

Nabeul Governor Mnaouar Ouertani said the club would “remain closed” until further notice, adding that the government “will not allow attacks against religious feelings and the sacred”.

The governor also said the venue’s manager had been detained “for violation against good morals and public outrage against modesty”. An event organiser was also charged in the incident; however, charges against both people have since been dismissed, though the prosecution has filed an appeal.

Recalling “The Qu’ran Controversy”
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, musicians David Byrne and Brian Eno worked on the album ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’ in which they used sampled speech from various, mainly religious, people, mixed with multi-layered percussion tracks, voice excerpts of Middle Eastern singers, street noise and radio DJs.

On the track ‘Qu’ran’, Byrne and Eno mixed their electronic music and rhythm patterns with Algerian Muslims chanting recitals from the Qu’ran taken from the 1976 album ‘The Human Voice in the World of Islam’.

After the album’s initial release, without any explanation or comment from anyone involved in the recording, the track was removed from later re-releases, leaving fans to dub the incident as “The Qu’ran Controversy”, speculating if the removal was due to death threats or copyright issues.

Over two decades after the fact, Byrne confirmed in an interview with Pitchfork Magazine that they decided to remove the song “in deference to somebody’s religion” due to an Islamic organisation in London contacting them saying they considered the song to be blasphemous.

Photo: Dax J/Orbit Festival Facebook


» BBC – 7 April 2017
Tunisia sentences British DJ for Muslim prayer remix

» FACT – 4 April 2017
Tunisian club shut down after Berlin DJ Dax J plays Muslim call to prayer sample

» Deutsche Welle – 4 April 2017
Nightclub shuttered in Tunisia after Berlin DJ remixes Muslim call to prayer

» BBC – 3 April 2017
Tunisia nightclub closed after Muslim call to prayer dance remix

» Facebook – 3 April 2017
Orbit Festival statement

More from Freemuse

» 11 November 2015: Tunisia: Musicians confronted with censorship and repression

» 12 October 2006: UK/USA: David Byrne about self-censorship: “We didn’t want to provoke”

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