Official flyer for Erykah Badu's cancelled performance in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In an ironic turn of events, scarcely a week after Malaysian singer Yuna set music blogs buzzing with a Pharrell-produced track, an impossibly sweet voice and what some observers described as a “Badu wrap,” the originator of the style amongst college girls and “coffee-shop chicks”–Ms. Erykah Badu herself–was banned from performing in Malaysia for a fashion faux pas that has been interpreted by some as offensive to Muslim sensibilities. As Entertainment Weekly reports:

Muslim-majority Malaysia on Tuesday banned a planned concert by Erykah Badu after a photograph appeared showing the Grammy-winning singer with the Arabic word for Allah written on her body…

The Associated Press story goes on to note that the photo–also available on Badu’s official fan website and apparently altered for the official flyer (above)–generated controversy when it was published by The Star–Malaysia’s major English-language daily paper. The uproar is because, as Bikya Masr news site stated:

Tattoos in Islam are forbidden and the use of the Arabic word for God, “Allah,” is looked upon by many conservative Muslims as blasphemy.

The photo in question–a promotional shot created for her 2010 LP New Amerykah Part 2: Return of The Ankh–actually depicts Badu with painted symbols (not tats) from several of the great “world religions,” including Hebrew characters and other mystical symbols–a look directly inspired by a character from Alejandro Jodorowski’s psychedelic film Holy Mountain (see both the the offending shot and some stills from Jodorowski’s original after the jump).  As of today, Badu remains in Malaysia on a tourist visa but for the moment will not be allowed to perform as scheduled because according to Information Minister Rais Yatim, the image had “triggered public criticism that could jeopardize national security and cause a negative impact to the government’s image.”

In a statement given to AP by Razman Razali, managing director of the show’s Malaysian organizer, Pineapple Concerts, the promoters are still holding out hopes that the ban will be reversed and described Erykah as “worried and dismayed.” The singer herself summarized the dilemma by tweeting: “I deserve it.” But perhaps the most fitting (if accidental) comment on the situation was the fact of it’s reportage by the Sydney Morning Herald at the url  www.smh.com.

Controversial promotional shot of Erykah Badu featuring body paint of the name 'Allah' in Arabic created an uproar in Malaysia

Still from Alejandro Jodorwoski's film Holy Mountain--direct inspiration for Erykah Badu's controversial look for New Amerykah Part 2 promo shots

Still from Alejandro Jodorowski's film Holy Mountain, inspired Erykah Badu's controversial look for New Amerykah Part 2 LP

Still from Alejandro Jodorowski's film Holy Mountain, inspired Erykah Badu's controversial look for New Amerykah Part 2 LP

Still from Alejandro Jodorowski's film Holy Mountain, inspired Erykah Badu's controversial look for New Amerykah Part 2 LP


  • rtoriq

    Be you Erykah. Don’t you even worry one bit if them officials, we’ll support you over here and everywhere else!

    I SINCERELY and wholeheartedly hate religious extremism. Like freal freal.

  • Nurr

    Acckkk! what l saw those images up there just hurt my eyes!
    In regards to the situation, l’m glad Erykah ”got” it/understood why the ban on her concert was done. And hopefully she understands more about lslam better, as she mentioned published in another article (relating to this matter): “”I think art is often misunderstood in the realm of religion, and it’s OK,” she said. “In America, it’s a lot different. I am learning and understanding about Islam in other countries more as we travel.”
    She’s cool wit it. She gets it why.

  • You Can’t Be Serious

    The pink elephant in the room about her is that she’s been doing so much that is derivative of things that have already been covered. There’s nothing new under the sun, of course, but all of this & even “Window Seat” were based off of someone else’s artisitic statement. She’s made some music that is classic and WILL stand the test of time and some other ish that is contrived and corny. She just seems to be trying too hard and it’s kind of off-putting. It’s the main reason why a lot of people have an aversion to “boho”/ “hippie” types-they often adopt parts of people’s cultures (like locks from Rastas, beads from Buddhists, etc just for example) because they think it’s cool, but leave out the “meat” of the culture. On some level, culturally, it’s disrespectful of the originators/staunch followers. Glad she got why they weren’t having that naked body paint nonsense though. At the end of the day, however, religion is-at best- man’s pitiful attempt to put The Almighty in a box and it separates humans from each other to no end.


    You Can’t Be Serious

    • Technically dread locks belonged to a bunch of cultures before and after they became synonymous with rasta culture.
      The beads also belong to multiple cultures. And even within the cultures and religious practices they came from, both things have been used as statements of fashion, as well as belief.

      That said, she has definitely spent a good deal of her career trying to maintain relevance in the face of a constant threat of obscurity. I don’t know her motives for anything, but at least she knows when she’s in the wrong.

  • Moo

    If you don’t know anything else, know that Islam is modesty and she should have known better.

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