28 February 2012
SINGAPORE: American singer Erykah Badu has had her Malaysia concert canceled after controversy erupted over a tattoo she has with the Arabic word God, “Allah,” on her body. The photo sparked widespread anger among the majority Muslim population in the country.
Wednesday’s scheduled concert by Badu in Kuala Lumpur was banned for “touching on religious sensibilities” and failing to meet Malaysia’s cultural values, Information Minister Rais Yatim wrote on his Twitter account.
The show also failed to comply with official guidelines for filming and performance by foreign artists, he said.
“We deeply regret any offense caused to Muslims and sincerely apologize for the oversight,” said the Star newspaper that published the photo on Tuesday.
Tattoos in Islam are forbidden and the use of the Arabic word for God, “Allah,” is looked upon by many conservative Muslims as blasphemy.
Civic groups in the predominantly Muslim south-east Asian country criticized the newspaper, noting that tattoos of Islamic religious scripture are considered an insult to Muslims.
Mashitah Ibrahim, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said that while Americans and non-Muslims view tattoos as an art form, the name of Allah should not be used in that way.
Nadzim Johan, leader of Muslim Consumers Association, said the Star should have been conscious of the sensitive nature of the photograph and should have censored it.
The Ministry of Home Affairs asked the chief news editor, the managing editor and the senior editor to submit a written explanation of the incident within a week.
Human rights activist and blogger Mohamed Rishad in Kuala Lumpur told Bikyamasr.com that while the criticism is well-founded, the newspaper should not be blamed for what someone else is wearing or has on his or her body.
“At the end of the day, the newspaper was publishing a photo of a musician, an American one at that, so while we can get angry, it is not fair to the newspaper to get the people’s anger,” he said.