MUSIC

Rihanna's Fenty Show Provokes Muslim Outrage

Rihanna's Fenty lingerie event featured a song that sampled a sacred Islamic verse. I understand why people are upset. I'm upset, too.

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In Islamic culture, anything to do with the prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H. is held sacred.

His image, his habits, and his words must all be regarded with great reverence. And reverence is not what Rihanna's Fenty lingerie show was about–not even a little bit.

But while I understand why many people are upset and offended by the show's sloppy disregard of cultural beliefs, I have to take a step back and look at the whole picture. To me, this is less an example of a corporate entity exploiting an under-represented culture and more like a disastrous case of telephone.

Let's start with the song in question. "Doom" is a 2016 dance/electronic song by British music producer Coucou Chloe. The entire song's hook, chorus, and verses are built around a cropped and sped-up sample of a Hadith (narrated by Mishary bin Rashid Alafasy). For my non-Muslim readers, a Hadith refers to reports of statements or actions of prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H., or of his implied approval or criticism of something said or done in his presence. If this sounds vague and open-ended, that's because it is.

If you really dig into it, there are actually different levels of authenticity to Hadiths; some are regarded with mild skepticism and some are as sacred as the Quran itself. The specific Hadith that's sampled in "Doom" references a conversation between Mohammad P.B.U.H. and his followers, wherein he describes a period of time before the Day of Judgment called Haradge, or, "The Killing." He goes on to describe this Haradge as a period of chaos (or "doom") when you aren't killing your enemies, but killing yourselves: friend killing friend, neighbor killing neighbor, brother killing brother. Frankly, I'm surprised Blumhouse Productions hasn't optioned the rights to this Islamic nightmare yet.

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