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Moon Knight Causes Controversy In Egypt Amid Censorship Issues

Moon Knight Marvel censor Egypt
By Richard Nebens

Although the MCU is in a great place during Phase 4 with recent hits like Doctor Strange 2 and Moon Knight, the franchise still has some struggles with its content releases. Specifically, this has to do with censorship of certain projects, whether it be for an upcoming title or retroactively once they are ready for streaming on Disney+.

Spider-Man: No Way Home had issues releasing in China due to the Statue of Liberty being a huge part of the final battle, while Eternals and Doctor Strange 2's use of LGBTQIA+ material caused problems in the Middle East. Disney has remained adamant about making sure that this kind of inclusion and representation doesn't get lost in its MCU properties, which hasn't gone over well with some factions of people worldwide.

Moon Knight has dealt with its own share of controversy, largely having to do with Oscar Isaac's casting and the use of Marc Spector's Jewish heritage. Now, after the vast majority of the Disney+ show took place in Egypt, its director looked back on another controversial part of the show that made some waves in his own home country.

Moon Knight Music Causes Stir in Egypt

An excerpt from Vox detailed how Moon Knight's soundtrack has sparked controversy in Egypt after the episode's premiere.

During Episode 3 when Marc and Layla are riding down the Nile, the track "Salka" by artist Hassan Shakosh begins playing. The song's genre, Mahraganat, is controversial in Egypt, having been criticized for being too vulgar and political by addressing issues that the working class deals with in Egypt. Shakosh has been censored and banned in the country on numerous occasions, and there are continued efforts to suppress the genre altogether.

Moon Knight, Marc Spector, Layla
Marvel

Director Mohamed Diab wanted to make sure that his home country was shown in a way that wasn't stereotypical, especially considering how many Egypt-centric projects had done that in the past:

“One challenge that was very important for me was how to portray Egypt, because we’re always seen in a way that is very orientalist, always seen in a way that is very stereotypical.”

Dartmouth University historian Andrew Simon noted how Mahraganat “reveals a struggle over what Egyptian culture is, and who has the right to shape it,” specifically tying it back to its use in Moon Knight. This inclusion came "much to the dismay of Egyptian authorities" while the country is still "actively trying to silence the genre.”

The song's title roughly translates to "unobstructed" and describes the strength of the working class in Egypt. It plays as Marc Spector and Layla El-Faouly are on the boat sailing down the river for their meeting with Gaspard Ulliel's Anton Mogart. While it isn't overtly political, it includes heavy implications of the economic and social conditions that hold Egypt's working class back, commenting on the political culture as a whole as well.

Hassan Shakosh
Hassan Shakosh

This was one of the numerous songs that Diab included featuring Mahraganat singers, many of whom aren't allowed to sing in Egypt whatsoever. 

Novelist and critic Ahmed Naji described the controversy that these songs caused, leading to at least 19 musicians being denied music licenses last year:

“Most of the songs that Diab used in this show are from singers banned from singing in Egypt. It created a lot of controversy and created a huge buzz."

This also comes at an incredibly difficult time for the country, as the national government has imprisoned tens of thousands of political activists who tried to freely express themselves.

Egypt's Troubles Referenced in Moon Knight Soundtrack

Although Moon Knight's ties to ancient Egyptian mythology added new levels of excitement to the MCU, Mohamed Diab was adamant about it not being all rainbows and sunshine as he developed the show. As a native Egyptian, he fully understands the struggles that many of his people deal with on a daily basis, which led to a desire to pay tribute to that community in a subtle way with his work with Marvel Studios.

While the MCU continues to deal with different types of controversy, this seems to be one that Diab and his team are more than comfortable taking on as they highlight what Egypt is really going through in this day and age. After all, Diab has also commented on how other franchises haven't portrayed his homeland accurately, and he's not afraid to speak his mind on what he feels is right.

The franchise shows no signs of silencing these kinds of voices anytime soon, especially as more projects featuring diverse characters take center stage.

All six episodes of Moon Knight are available to stream on Disney+.