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Page last updated at 18:09 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 19:09 UK

Lebanese singer causes Gulf storm

By Frances Harrison
BBC religious affairs correspondent

Haifa Wehbe (24 May 2007)
Haifa Wehbe has a reputation for wearing revealing clothes

A raunchy Lebanese singer is causing controversy in Bahrain, where she is due to perform for the first time.

All but one of the members of the Gulf kingdom's Islamist-dominated parliament have approved a motion urging the government to ban Haifa Wehbe's show.

They objected on the grounds that the pop superstar's performance would be sexually provocative, violating Islamic conventions and Bahrain's traditions.

Organisers had earlier promised she would dress modestly during the show.

Four years ago, MPs forced the satellite channel MBC to suspend the production of an Arabic version of Big Brother being filmed in Bahrain because it offended "the virtues and traditions of the Arab world".

'Sexual singer'

Ms Wehbe's reputation for revealing clothes and sexy performances have not endeared her to Bahrain's Islamist-dominated parliament.

But she did well in a list of the most desirable women compiled by the website, AskMen.com, and she has featured in People Magazine's most beautiful list.

I know my fans want me and I am there for them - I am not concerned with the other issues
Haifa Wehbe

Her career began at the age of 16 when she won the title of Miss South Lebanon in a beauty contest.

Ms Wehbe went on to become a runner-up for Miss Lebanon, a top fashion model and to release three albums and make countless TV appearances.

She is famous throughout the Middle East, but still relatively unknown outside the Arab world.

One website said Ms Wehbe's sex appeal could be measured by the number of prudes she had annoyed.

At one point, newspapers criticised her provocative dancing, saying she moved every possible part of her body including parts that have no muscles in them.

But, for the family concert in Bahrain on Wednesday evening, the organisers had promised the singer would dress modestly.

That was not enough for Bahrain's parliament which is dominated by MPs who regularly conduct campaigns against entertainment they think is too liberal.

One of the MPs called her a sexual singer who spoke with her body, not her voice.


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