It's a sensitive age. People are more aware than ever of cultural and sociological boundaries and less afraid of calling out transgressions by anyone. The latest celebrity to find this out the hard way is Rihanna, whose October 1 lingerie fashion show for her Savage x Fenty line included music that inadvertently offended Muslims.
The show ticked a lot of boxes. It was as sexy as you'd expect, there was an unusually diverse selection of models, and the fashions presented were original and daring. However, a song used during the performance, Coucou Chloe's "Doom," contained sampled Islamic phrases called "Hadith." These musical snippets recorded the words of the Prophet Muhammad meant to direct a variety of religious actions.
Via social media channels like Twitter, Muslim users voiced a mix of anger and indignation, clearly feeling as if the song was disrespectful to their faith and essentially an act of cultural appropriation.
In response, Rihanna posted a statement on Instagram—see above—which read:
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.
Via Twitter, singer Coucou Chloe issued her own apology.
Chloe apologized "deeply" and said, "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."
She concluded by stating the song was being removed "from all streaming platforms."
As noted by several publications, while Rihanna is a prominent voice for social justice in the entertainment industry, she's been accused of appropriation in the past, when her July 2019 cover of Harper’s Bazaar China was dinged for appearing "Asian" in nature. Readers in China itself, however, didn't seem too bent out of shape, which neutralized the controversy before it really took off.
Rihanna, the richest female musician in the world, could likely afford to ignore such controversies, but thus far she has addressed them directly and taken measures to fix the problem.
Still, it really is a very sensitive time for a lot of people. This controversy will likely be forgotten pretty quickly once another one replaces it.