By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 29 — Datuk Zaid Ibrahim took a swipe at Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Muslim leaders today for claiming to be moderates but cancelling Erykah Badu’s concert tonight because of her “Allah” tattoos.
“The truth is, these leaders are not even sure what kind of Muslims they are. The truth is, the BN is not even sure what ‘moderate’ means,” he charged in a blog post today titled “How about this for a moderate BN”.
The former Umno minister, whose son Ezra is scheduled to interview Badu on radio station BFM 89.9 at 7.30pm, also expressed interest in watching the singer perform live in Jakarta next week.
“If my wife permits it, I would like to go and see her. I am sure the majority of the 220 million Muslims there do not share (Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri) Rais’s (Yatim) sensitivities.
Concert promoters today confirmed the cancellation of Badu’s show scheduled for tonight following Rais’s announcement in a Twitter posting yesterday.
The Umno minister had explained that the decision was made 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 decision has been backed by leaders of Islamist party PAS who last year railed against pop icon Elton John’s concert, accusing the openly gay singer of “hedonism” and claiming his same-sex marriage would have a negative effect on Muslim-majority Malaysia.
But Zaid argued today that there is no way of confirming if Badu’s “Allah” tattoos are permanent, unless “he (Rais) has personally inspected her body”.
If the tattoos are not permanent, he said, Badu would likely not have the offensive words on her body during her performance.
“On what basis, then, would Muslims get offended? Why ban the concert?” he asked.
Zaid also expressed certainty that the singer had not meant to offend Muslims with her tattoos and was merely sporting them as a form of artistic expression.
He pointed out that Queen’s famous song “Bohemian Rhapsody”, played often on local radio stations here, contains the word “Bismillah” but no Muslims appear to have been offended by it.
“It’s just a song. Rais was not the minister in charge then, so perhaps that’s why the song was not banned,” he said.
On Monday, three top editors from The Star were hauled up by the Home Ministry over the publication of the photograph of the American singer with the offending tattoos in the Star2 entertainment section.
Some Muslim groups have said Badu is not a good role model for young Malaysians because of the tattoos.
AP reported that an information ministry official said a government committee decided today to ban the concert because Badu has “offended the religious sensitivities” of Muslims by posing with such tattoos.
The Star published an apology yesterday.