Egyptian buisnessman Hisham Talaat Moustafa has been sentenced to death for the murder of Suzanne Tamim, who was found dead in a hotel room in Dubai in 2008. The buisnessman's relatives fainted upon hearing the news, and the police had beat up the journalists to stop them taking pictures of the elite looking unelite.
Coverage of this story has, from the start, revolved around the fact that Moustafa is a member of "the elite", but also, the "lurid fascination" with the "troubled private life" of the victim.
It was interesting to see how western media introduced the subject, the sort of background given to this tale of a murdered Arab pop princess. This article in Spiegel Online for example, ventured into economy, cultural anthropology, dialectology and the Arab Mind in its bid to educate the reader.
Lebanese singers are one of the main products this small Mediterranean country exports to the Arab world. Lebanese women are considered unreserved and many find Levantine accents attractive. Singers from Lebanon are the equivalent of French acts in the eyes of Germans: sexy, playful, and a little raunchy.
Tamim's disturbingly plastic looks are also frequently mentioned, although all you really need is a picture. As the article puts it, "Tamim did what was necessary for success in the high rolling Arabic music business." Like Nancy Ajram, Haifa, Elissa et al. There's a rule somewhere. All female singers of cheesy songs must have bloated lips, implanted cheekbones and eyebrows climbing towards their overly-dyed hairline.
Nadine Labaki of Caramel, who has directed Nancy Ajram’s videos, reportedly once commented on the new phenomenon in the Lebanon pop music scene, pointing out the strange contradiction of having plastic surgery to look as though you've had plastic surgery. As though looking plastic was the sign of success. Suzanne Tamim was a perfect example of that. Though a relative unknown, she probably felt she had reached the peak of stardom when she got a Michael Jackson nose.
In more ways than one, her story has all the elements of, as the Spiegel article puts it, a fairy-tale gone dreadfully wrong, and all fairy tales, even the Grimm no happy ending ones, have morals. So what's the moral to this fairytale gone wrong?
According to the writer, Arab parents and teachers will utilize it to ruin their daughters lives, stifle natural talent, and lecture young women on the fate lurking in the wings for insubordinate little girls who want to flout convention and cavort in the spotlight.
And many see the story's moral lesson as difficult to ignore. Indeed, the singer's life history has already passed into the annals of modern Arab myth. A young woman gets a big break, flouts convention, puts herself in the spotlight and dies as a result.
For parents and educators from the Persian Gulf to the Nile Delta, this is a potentially useful tale. They can use it to teach young women that insubordinate girls don't end up marrying the prince. Instead they meet a much darker fate.
There's an assassin for every insubordinate Arab pop princess out there.