After winning an Oscar for Best Original Song with Common for their song "Glory" that was inspired by the civil-rights movement in Selma, John Legend is planning on performing in Bahrain. Similar to Selma, Bahrain is a country with a terrible human rights history. Legend is receiving criticism from many for being due to perform at Bahrain’s Spring of Culture festival.
One of these people is Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University, the head of GWU’s Institute for Middle East Studies, and a fan of Legend. In an open letter to Legend, Lynch explained that he hopes Legend “will think deeply about the implications of performing in a country like today’s Bahrain, where the violence of an unaccountable police against peaceful protestors mirrors everything against which [Legend] has spoken out at home.”
I disagree with Lynch’s remarks that Legend’s performance in Bahrain could pose as harmful to the country because I feel that the influence the new song “Glory” has will inspire the people of Bahrain to do as protesters in Selma did. The U.S civil-rights movement has been an inspiration to many Bahraini human-rights figures for quite some time now. For example, Zainab Al Khawaja, an advocate of peaceful protesting in Bahrain, is awaiting another jail sentence and is motivated by her studies of Martin Luther King’s philosophies.
If John Legend takes advantage of the rare opportunity he’s been given to perform in Bahrain by highlighting the human-rights issues that currently embody the country, then I certainly have nothing against him performing there. What are your thoughts?