Rihanna apologises after raunchy show using Islamic Hadith causes outrage

Image credit: wenthwort CCLicense

By Sophie Gregory

The global fashion and pop icon Rihanna has apologised after provoking outrage from Muslims for using the words of the Prophet Muhummad in the backing for a raunchy dance routine launching her latest lingerie range.

Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show was recorded for Amazon Prime and broadcast on Friday.  It features dancers modelling the lingerie range to backing music, including the setting of the Hadith – sayings of the Prophet.

The remix is the song, ‘Doom’ by the London based producer Coucou Chloe, who picked the rhythm of an Imam reading this passage about the day of judgment and set it to a dance beat.

The Hadith is a revered collection of sayings of the Prophet Muhummad, a source of religious law and moral guidance, which provides daily counsel for Muslims, alongside the Koran.  Outrage at its use in this film, spilled over social media.

This is not the first time that Rihanna has faced a backlash for her use of Islam in business ventures.

Many claim Rihanna, 32, is appropriating Islam for its aesthetic. In 2013 she was asked to leave the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi after posing for photos deemed to be inappropriate for the setting. At the launch of her cosmetic brand Fenty Beauty in 2017, she included a hijab-wearing model Halima Aden. Two years later, she promoted Fenty sunglasses with a hijab wearing model.

Rihanna’s make-up brands are often praised for their inclusivity, but this film has caused deep offence.

Music producer Coucou Chloe, whose mix “Doom” is at the centre of the furore, says she was not aware that the text came from an Islamic Hadith and is removing the song from all streaming platforms. The decision followed a social media campaign #CancelDOOMfromSAVAGEXFENTY.

Today, Rihanna apologised and said her use of the song was “irresponsible” and an “honest, yet careless mistake”. “We will make sure nothing like this happens again,” she added.

The debate on Twitter

“. . .Using Islamic Hadith as background music, and hijabs as fashion accessories is NOT okay. you can’t let her away with this just because she’s Rihanna. stop normalizing disrespecting Islam. my religion is not your aesthetics.” — @ahgablink

“I can’t let Rihanna have a pass w appropriating Islam like for her first show the models wore a scarf around their heads and it looked like HIJAB and her second show she used a track that remixed a HADITH . . . my religion is not y’all’s aesthetic” — @reversecocunut

“Rihanna letting her models dance to our hadiths (sacred words of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh) is for f*ing disrespectful, when we Muslims hold them with such significance. Whenever we recite them we make sure we are covered as a sign of respect and here . . . I’m so disappointed rn” — @crystaldise

Others connected the choice of music to subtle Islamophobia, with @ZARRYKISSY tweeting: “I feel like Islamaphobia is so normalised to the point where people are calling us dramatic for being mad when our religion gets disrespected? hadith are sacred words of the prophet, they’re used to guide muslims & are second to only the Quran. rihanna should know better.”

Some users have come to Rihanna’s defence, with @LookingForR9 tweeting: “Rihanna made a mistake but isn’t an islamophobe. Rihanna should take accountability but isn’t an islamophobe. Rihanna did a mistake and should apologize but isn’t an islamophobe. Rihanna needs to be educated but isn’t an islamophobe.”

(updated 7 October – first published 5 October)