US singer's Allah symbol sparks Malaysian anger

AFP , Tuesday 28 Feb 2012

A Malaysian paper apologises, says it "inadvertently" published a photo of Erykah Badu by The Star daily which many Muslims found offensive

Erykah Badu
A photograph of American singer Erykah Badu with tattoos of various symbols, including the Arabic word for Allah.(Photo: Internet)

A newspaper in Muslim-majority Malaysia apologised on Tuesday after it came under fire for running a photo of American singer Erykah Badu showing body art that included the Arabic word for "Allah".

The controversial soul artist is scheduled to perform in the capital Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, and a preview story in The Star daily on Monday included a photo showing various symbols on her upper body including in Arabic and Hebrew.

It was not immediately clear whether the symbols were permanent tattoos. Tattoos are forbidden in Islam and many Muslims also frown upon depictions of the word "Allah" that are deemed frivolous or disrespectful.

The Star said the photo was published "inadvertently."

"We deeply regret any offence caused to Muslims and sincerely apologise for the oversight," it said.

The Home Ministry said in a statement it would issue a warning letter to the newspaper asking it to explain within one week how the photo came to be published. Three top editors were summoned to the ministry on Monday.

Mashitah Ibrahim, a deputy minister in the prime minister's department, called the photo an insult.

"Our religion does not even permit the name of Allah to be brought into the bathroom, let alone be used as a tattoo," she was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying.

The opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) plans to submit a protest note to the government urging it to cancel the show and punish the paper, said Mohamad Adram Musa, an official with the PAS youth wing.

A spokeswoman for the concert organiser told AFP the show would go ahead.

PAS frequently protests concerts by Western artists, alleging they promote promiscuous lifestyles and corrupt young minds.

Most eventually go ahead after performers are asked to tone down their acts.

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.

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