On November 3, 1999, Marcel Khalife stood before the Beirut Court of First Instance accused of blasphemy — charges that could warrant six months to six years imprisonment. Evidence of the crime was his song “Oh My Father, I am Yusif,” based on a poem by the renowned Palestinian poet and writer Mahmoud Darwish. The song is from the album “Arabic Coffeepot,” released in 1995. The story of Yusif (Joseph) and his brothers inspired the song, and lyrics include a verse from the Qur’an. The song’s citation of a Qur’anic verse drew hostile attention from Dar-al-Fatwa, Lebanon’s highest Sunni authority, which ruled that singing verses from the Qur’an was “absolutely banned.” On December 14, 1999, the court found Marcel Khalife innocent of blasphemy.
In March 2007, fundamentalist members of the Parliament in Bahrain attacked a dance performance that included Khalife’s music and Bahraini Qassim Haddad’s poems. The setting of an epic love poem entitled “Majnoon Laila,” or “Laila Wal Majnoon,” (e.g. “Laila and the Possessed” or “Laila and the Madman”) inspired controversy. The performance was premiered in Bahrain on March 1, 2007 during the inaugural Spring of Culture Festival organised by the Bahraini Ministry of Information.
Oh My Father, I am Yusif 06:58
Music by: Marcel Khalife
Lyrics by: Mahmoud Darwish
Published by: Nagam Cultural Project
Licensed from: Nagam Records