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Although we appreciate great media exposure and the efforts Ayesha Morris went through to interview Malika Negwa and the members of the Harem of the Queen, we, like Dave Whelan (The Mail, 7/28), were greatly disappointed and disturbed by the sexism, alienation, and many inaccuracies that appeared in the article “Gut Response” (7/14).

Although the article represented belly dancing as alien to men and the celebration of female energy as an excuse to man-bash, belly dance, referred to as Oriental dance by those in the Middle East, has a rich history of being performed by both men and women. It originates from tribal folk dances, and the stage or Raks Sharki version of the dance is performed in the U.S. and abroad by men and women. In fact, the June 25 event described in the article featured a dance (“Mish A’geeb”) that was choreographed by a male dancer—one that Negwa has studied and will continue to study under. Moreover, Negwa just returned from a trip to Turkey, where she learned a new movement from a man she and her travel companions met in a restaurant, and was congratulated by an all-male band and mixed-sex audience members on her dance style. Negwa teaches classes consisting of both men and women.

In addition to statements Whelan would describe as “the baggage of female politics,” the article contained numerous inaccuracies: Quotes like “I love it when men’s only purpose is to serve us” were taken totally out of context, and facts like Mediterranean Images’ being a nonprofit company were just plain incorrect.

Mediterranean Images and the Harem of the Queen are committed to educating the public about Middle Eastern dance and conducting performances that demonstrate that Middle Eastern dance is a classic dance style in the tradition of tap, jazz, and ballet. We invite anyone who is interested in this article, or in Middle Eastern dance in general, to speak to us directly. We can be contacted at www.malika.com or (202) 682-9440.


Amber Cohen and Gladys Garcia

The Harem of the Queen