John Legend defends controversial Bahrain gig

The singer is set to perform at the country’s Spring of Culture festival in Arad Fort on Monday (02Mar15), but his inclusion on the bill sparked fury among campaigners, who insisted the star should boycott the government-backed event over alleged human rights abuses in the Middle Eastern nation.

Dr Ala’a al-Shehabi, of human rights advocacy group Bahrain Watch, criticised Legend for taking the job despite speaking out about social justice issues during his speech at the Oscars on Sunday (22Feb15) as he picked up the Best Song prize for Glory, his track featured in U.S. civil rights movement movie Selma.

Sayed Yousif Almuhafdah, vice president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, also compared the current struggles in Bahrain to those depicted in Selma, adding, “I’d like to tell John Legend that my people, the people of Bahrain, are fighting the same injustice and discrimination African Americans suffered in the United States.”

However, Legend is adamant he will go ahead with the gig and hopes it will help break down barriers in Bahrain, telling The Independent, “The solution to every human rights concern is not always to boycott… Often, the best way to drive progress is to show up and participate in the conversation. Part of my mission in life is to spread love and joy to people all over the world. I intend to do just that in Bahrain, regardless of my disagreements with some of their governments’ policies and actions.”

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