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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 13:57 GMT
Arabs rock to anti-war song
Shaaban Abdel Rahim
Abdel Rahim's songs are selling fast
A folk song condemning war in Iraq has become one of the biggest underground hits in the Arab world.

Shaaban Abdel Rahim's song Don't Hit Iraq is being played on private TV and radio stations across the region, including his native Egypt, though he is shunned by the state-run media.

"Leave Iraq in peace, you inspected him; it has no arms of mass destruction but they are still bombing it," is the message of the song.

"Go inspect Israel instead, there's a lot of arms of mass destruction there."

Sales of the song on pirated CDs and cassettes have rocketed, and it is expected to do very well when released on the official charts.

Working class hero

Abdel Rahim - a former laundryman - has gained popularity as both folk singer and working class hero.

His words are good because he tells the truth and fears nothing
Abdel Hamid
Cairo driver

He takes pride in his Cairo slum origins and once boasted that he made his clothes out of furniture fabric.

His profile was raised massively two years ago when he released the song I Hate Israel And Love Amr Moussa, at the height of the Palestinian uprising.

Amr Moussa is the Arab League secretary-general, who was then Egypt's foreign minister.

A Cairo janitor, Mohamed Taa, said Abdel Rahim was "great".

"He says words that even our leaders do not have the courage to say."

'Truth'

Indeed, fans agree that the crucial point about Abdel Rahim is his honesty.

"As usual, Shaaban keeps on talking," said driver Abdel Hamid, praising Abdel Rahim's latest hit.

"His words are good because he tells the truth and fears nothing.

"He considers nothing before he talks about our politics - but still what he can do is to sing."

However, Don't Hit Iraq is also critical of the role Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein himself played in creating the present crisis.

The lyrics include the line "Saddam, God forgives him, he's the one who brought them," - a reference to US troops and the 1990 invasion of Kuwait which sparked the 1991 Gulf War.

"We warned him, if only he would listen," the song laments.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Martin Plaut assesses the song's impact
"Shaaban has become a sort of working-class hero"



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