By Lisa J. Ariffin
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 29 — Concert promoters today confirmed that the Erykah Badu concert scheduled for tonight has been cancelled and blamed the ban on an offensive photo that was published by The Star newspaper.
“Without the blessing of the authorities, we can’t go on with the show. Without a permit, the show is cancelled,” Razman Ahmad Razali of Pineapple Concerts Sdn Bhd told a press conference here today.
“Ticket buyers will get a full refund... We have tried our best to rectify the situation but the show as of now is cancelled,” he added.
Razman said prior to the cancellation yesterday, full approval had been given by the government and no issues were raised until last Monday, when a local newspaper ran an “offensive” image of the American singer bearing temporary tattoos of the word “Allah”.
Erykah, who was present during the press conference, praised the concert promoters for being very responsible in respecting local culture and beliefs, but expressed disappointment in “one paper that published the wrong picture”.
“Because of this one image we don’t get to be together,” Erykah said in remarks addressed to her fans.
“What good is religion if you push out love if it’s not in your comfort zone?” she asked.
However, Erykah said she bore no hard feelings towards the minister in charge and to “the people who feel the way he does”.
“My main focus in art is people; politics comes last when we connect as artists on stage,” she said.
“I’m here for the people and hope that the minister meets with me and hope we see love. Doesn’t know me and my music. Many people here care about the show,” she added.
When asked if she would return to perform in Malaysia in the future if the opportunity presented itself, Erykah said: “I have faith in people’s ability to evolve; that’s why I do what I do.
“Art is often misunderstood in the realm of religion. Art can’t be censored by anyone.”
Yesterday, Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim announced on his official Twitter page that the concert had been banned after a photograph revealing temporary tattoos on the American R&B singer with the Arabic word for “Allah”, or God, appeared in English-language daily The Star.
“The act of showing the ‘Allah’ symbol and ‘Nabi Muhammad SAW’ for entertainment purposes is unacceptable by Muslims,” Rais said on Twitter.
Rais said the concert was “violating Puspal guidelines, under religious sensitivity and Malaysian values”.
Puspal is the central agency for filming and performance permits, which falls under Rais’s portfolio.
Later on, he justified the cancellation of the concert, saying that if it had been allowed to go ahead, it would have created “a bigger and prolonged problem”.
“The ‘Allah’ graphic on the singer’s body will surely create religious controversies among Muslims who do not appreciate such practice.
“The cancellation of the concert is based on justification, if continued, will create a bigger and prolonged problem,” he said in a post on the micro-blogging site this afternoon.
On February 27, three top editors from the local English daily were hauled up by the Home Ministry over the publication of a photograph of the American singer.
The Star published a photograph of Badu with two tattoos with the Arabic word for ‘Allah’ in a profile piece in the Star2 entertainment section.
Some Muslim groups have said Badu is not a good role model for young Malaysians because of the tattoos.
After Malaysia, Erykah is scheduled to perform in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.