Newest Arab Idol Is Palestinian Refugee
Politics takes center stage on a very different version of 'Idol'
By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2013 3:03 PM CDT
Singer Mohammed Assaf is seen on the Arab Idol stage in Beirut, Lebanon.   (AP Photo/MBC Group)

(Newser) – For all the tears shed by American Idol contestants over their emotional "journeys" and "struggles," America's wannabes have nothing on the winner of this year's Arab Idol: 22-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Assaf, who grew up in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He had to beg Hamas just to let him leave Gaza to compete, then bribe border guards to let him through Egypt to the auditions in Lebanon, Al Jazeera reports. As Assaf's popularity grew, Mahmoud Abbas instructed all foreign Palestinian embassies to start texting in votes, while the Bank of Palestine paid for promotional billboards in Gaza and the West Bank.

Now, in its second season, politics is a major part of the show, reports Reuters. One semi-finalist from Iraq's Kurdistan region caused anger for listing her country as "Kurdistan." At the end of the finale, she danced on stage with a Kurdish flag, which security guards quickly confiscated. The runner-up was a pro-government Syrian woman, who also had to travel through gunfire and checkpoints to compete. "Spreading the words of young people and watching them achieve their dreams—this is much better than the sounds of gunfire that we are getting used to hearing in Palestine, Syria, and around the Arab world," said Assaf after his win.

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Jun 23, 2013 8:23 PM CDT
Wow, very handsome.
Jun 23, 2013 8:01 PM CDT
Diverting, trivial, cheesy activities like these happen to be the number one enemy of war, tyranny, and people otherwise telling us how to run our lives. So, sing on!
Jun 23, 2013 6:16 PM CDT
I hate to say: but both sides need to sit down and in good faith etc etc...not simply one side at fault. After all, how many times did Israel try to invade Arab nations while declaing they would destroy them?