KUALA LUMPUR – Muslims-majority Malaysia on Tuesday, February 28, banned a concert by an American singer for drawing a tattoo on her body with the Arabic word for Allah.
"Our religion does not even permit the name of Allah to be brought into the bathroom, let alone be used as a tattoo," Mashitah Ibrahim, a deputy minister in the prime minister's department, told the New Straits Times.
"While Americans and non-Muslims view tattoos as an art form, the name of Allah should never be used that way.”
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American singer Erykah Badu was scheduled to play a concert in Malaysia on Wednesday, February 29.
But the concert was concerned after a Malaysian newspaper published a photo of the Grammy-winning singer with tattoos with word for Allah written in Arabic and Hebrew on her body.
“With the graphic exhibition of “Allah” on the body of the singer, it is sufficient to warrant irrefutable religious controversies from among Muslims who disdain such practice,” communications and culture minister Dr. Rais Yatim said in a statement cited by Bernma news agency.
“The committee’s decision to disallow the entertainer to perform publicly is in our view justified.”
She said that running the singer’s concert would harm religious sensitivities of Malaysian Muslims.
“To proceed with such public performance would only attract bigger and more cascading difficulties the likes of which we cannot afford to have under the present circumstances.
“Symbolism of Allah and Prophet Muhammad in the realm of exhibitive entertainment is not in the order Muslims’ acceptance.”
Tattoos are forbidden in Islam and Muslims feel offended by using the word “Allah” in a way deemed disrespectful.
Malaysians say that the use of the offensive tattoo was meant to stir up religious tension in the Muslim-majority country.
"The offensive nature of the tattoos is undisputable. Not only is the term Allah clearly visible, it is surrounded by Hebrew symbols, as well as a symbol usually associated with Sikhism,” Nasharudin Mat Isa, former deputy president of PAS Islamic party, told the New Straits Times.
"The picture seems to be espousing the concept of 'religious pluralism', which is not something that we as Muslims here can accept."
Badu sparked controversy in 2010 with a video for her song "Window Seat."
In the video, Badu is seen stripping naked while walking the street in Dallas, Texas where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, eventually falling "dead" at the fateful spot.
Muslim Consumers Association chief activist Datuk Nadzim Johan blamed The Star newspaper for publishing the offensive photo.
"The country's peace depends on strong understanding and respect between the different communities and religions,” he said.
"But when such incidents occur, it gives the impression that insulting Islam is acceptable behavior."
The Malaysian newspaper has already apologized for the publication.
"We deeply regret any offence caused to Muslims and sincerely apologize for the oversight," The Star newspaper said on Tuesday.
Muslim Malays form about 60 percent of Malaysia's 26-million population, while Christians make up around 9.1 percent.Buddhists constitute 19.2 percent, Hindu 6.3 while other traditional Chinese religions make up the rest of the population.
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