Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 2, the second edition of the Savage x Fenty performance-based lingerie show, was an extravaganza for the ages, with fashion lovers all around the world plastered to their screens (the show streamed exclusively on Amazon Prime) with bated breath to see what Rihanna would do this year that could top last year. This year’s show featured some of the biggest names in Hollywood, music and fashion, including Demi Moore, Rosalia, Bad Bunny, Travis Scott, Willow Smith, Combs, Cara Delevingne, Bella Hadid, Big Sean, Normani and Irina Shayk. The show is well known for being a pioneer for inclusivity in fashion and features models a range of genders, sizes and skin tones. However, this year’s show made quite a few people feel excluded and ‘appropriated’. It was actually another almost missable detail that derailed the entire show and got it a lot of bad press. CouCou Chloe’s song Doom, released in 2017, played for a part of the show and the song features an Islamic Hadith.
Hadiths are the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, and the ones used in the song are a recitation by Kuwaiti preacher Mishary bin Rashid Alafasy, and they make references to the end of time and the day of judgment. However, understandably so, Muslims around the world were enraged at the use of sacred religious verses as the backdrop for a lingerie show. After the debacle CouCou Chloe took to her social media handles to apologize for the ‘offence’, she wrote, “I want to deeply apologize for the offence caused by the vocal samples used in my song ‘DOOM’. The song was created using samples from Baile Funk tracks I found online. At the time, I was not aware that these samples used text from an Islamic Hadith. I take full responsibility for the fact I did not research these words properly and want to thank those of you who have taken the time to explain this to me. We have been in the process of having the song urgently removed from all streaming platforms.”
Rihanna also took to her Instagram stories and posted, ““I’d like to thank the Muslim community for pointing out a huge oversight that was unintentionally offensive in our Savage x Fenty show. I would more importantly like to apologize to you for this honest, yet careless mistake. We understand that we have hurt many of our Muslim brothers and sisters, and I’m incredibly disheartened by this! I do not play with any kind of disrespect toward God or any religion and therefore the use of the song in our project was completely irresponsible! Moving forward we will make sure nothing like this ever happens again. Thank you for your forgiveness and understanding.”
A 26-year-old beauty blogger, Hodhen Liaden, who happens to be a fan of Rihanna and has received Fenty products to review told Radio 1 Newsbeat that while it was refreshing to see Rihanna apologize, big brands “need more Muslim people in these industries that can pick up on things like this”. She is even reconsidering using the products send to her for reviewing, saying, “I don’t think I’ll be buying products or even promoting it on my Instagram. I literally have a box of Fenty products I’ve been sent to create content with and I don’t know how I feel about that.” She added, “Islam is not an aesthetic, religion is not an aesthetic. Do you actually celebrate people like me or does it just look good for you?”
Another fashion blogger, Arooj Aftab, told BBC Asia Network, “When I saw that video, it made me feel a bit sick. This is a Hadith and it’s been put into a song where women are dancing around in lingerie. Islam is very modest – [this is] opposite to that. I think every single Muslim has a right to be offended.”
Previous trips down cultural (in)appropriation
This is not the first time that Rihanna has stirred an uproar for hurting Muslim sentiments. In 2013, she was asked to leave a mosque in Abu Dhabi after posing for “inappropriate pictures.” However, she isn’t along, recently in August, Kanye West was also criticised for naming his Yeezy Boost trainers after two Islamic angels, Israfil and Asriel, while SheIn issued an apology in July this year for selling Muslim praying mats as “frilled Greek carpets”.