Recently, British DJ Dax J performed a song that included a remixed verse of a Muslim prayer at the Orbit Festival in Tunisia. For useful context, Tunisia’s religious population breakdown is about 98% Muslim.
To say the least, this performance did not go over well with local authorities. The Tunisian government found out about Dax J’s actions through social media and quickly moved to shut down the club and arrest the offending parties, including the nightclub owner and the event organizer. The charges for arrest are based on ‘insulting public sensitivities and lack of modesty’.
As it is now, the same Western sensibilities about freedom of expression don’t apply universally. Even in a relatively liberal Muslim nation like Tunisia, an action like this was a very risky decision, whether Dax J realized it or not. Forward progression is often advanced through controversy, but did Dax J take the remix too far by playing it in a Muslim-majority nation?
You can decide for yourself, but the Tunisian authorities answered with a resounding yes. Dax J was sentenced to one year in prison in Tunisia. He will likely not be serving the sentence because he fled back to the UK and probably won’t return to Tunisia ever again. However, while foreigners traveling in other nations may feel secure in their actions knowing they have the option to leave and the protection of their own government, the local owners of the nightclub did not have the option to flee home.
While thankfully the Tunisian government decided not to pursue charges against the club owner and the event organizer, both locals, they could have suffered much worse for Dax J’s actions than Dax J would have. The prosecution is appealing the acquittal, claiming the owner should take responsibility for his bookings, including the artist’s work.
Dax J has apologized for the incident on his social media.
I wish to express my deepest apologies to anyone who has been offended by the music that I played at the Orbit Festival…
This just brings up something to consider: while the internet and travel have made the world feel smaller than ever, there is still distinct differences in cultures. The global environment of international collaboration is both a blessing and a curse when working to be creative. DJs, musicians, and artists should take this into consideration when attempting to be culturally provocative, and be mindful of opposing values and laws.
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