Mega-successful pop star Rihanna has gotten into some hot water by using a track in her Fenty lingerie show. “Doom” by French producer Coucou Chloe samples the Kuwaiti Muslim preacher Mishary bin Rashid Alfasy reciting Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him. Alfasy has a beautiful voice and his recitations of Quran and Hadith are mesmerizing. I’ve spent hours listening to them.
Muslims believe the sayings of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) were told to him by God. They are sacred to us, but also we use them to understand the Quran and figure out how to live our lives as practicing believers. So yeah, as a Muslim, I can say that this is something you just shouldn’t do. I won’t join the others who want Rihanna to apologize because I doubt any apology would be sincere. She dated an Arab billionaire for years and had women dressed in hijabs in a previous fashion show. The only reason this recent episode is causing controversy is because it appeared on Amazon Prime.
Meanwhile Coucou Chloe has since apologized and is in the process of taking the track down from streaming platforms. She says the sample came from some Baile Funk samples and she didn’t know what it meant. I’m not buying this. In today’s world where information is a click away, “not knowing” is a lame excuse in today’s France. There are tons of Arabic speakers all around you and all you’d have had to do is have one of them listen to the words to tell you what it meant. But that would mean actually having to defer to someone else’s knowledge. While the French are snickering at Netflix’s Emily in Paris for all its cultural missteps, they shouldn’t feel so smug themselves if this is the level of ignorance they display to other cultures.
The French have the perfect word for this: “mechant.” I’ll leave you to figure out what it means. They talk a lot about women wearing burqas being a “provocation” but I think they’re pretty good at their own side of the coin.
(Cue lots of people (non-Muslim) talking about how easily our feelings are hurt and artists should be free to do what they want. The debate around the use of Muslim women’s dress as a Western tool of cultural appropriation/accessories/fetish is equally tiresome. I could do without this circus, thank you very much.)
Meanwhile, we could use this as a teachable moment about why you don’t stick stuff in your tracks if they’re in languages you don’t speak without bothering to at least listen to a translation.