The pose and the mosque

Why was Rihanna posing for pictures at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi? Some are likely to titter over the accusation of "inappropriate" or “indecent pictures” that made the officials ask her to leave. Nobody is bothered about one simple fact: she was told to leave before she posted the photographs online. She was going against visitor protocol prior to the religious one.

However, one cannot nitpick about some things, such as when model Claudia Schiffer had Islamic verses on her dress at a ramp show. Indeed, there was a reaction to that as much as there was to Madonna using Sanskrit shlokas in a song or images of the Virgin Mother or the Buddha being commercialised.

But, every place has its cultural requirements, and a place of worship is not meant for 'posing'. I include politicians and celebrities doing so at various shrines, seemingly in a fit of adept fervour, but in reality to get mileage and publicity.

She was on a tour in the UAE, so clearly she must have seen people in various kinds of clothes, including western wear, at her performances, in her hotel, at clubs. These include women from some Arab countries. So, why did she have to mimic a veil, by wearing a hooded jumpsuit?

If anything, this is offensive. This makes some people laugh at 'indecent' (put in single quotes). She, in fact, appears to be smirking at some of the other women. It is insensitive, and insensitivity is indecent.


  1. FV,

    One can find offence anywhere if one looks for it single-mindedly. I don't think a rich, totalitarian Islamic state that entertains no questions, needs a show of sympathy for being "treated insensitively" by one of the numerous tourists.

    Like veils, hooded jumpsuits are quite common too.

  2. F&F:

    Sometimes, one does not look for offense, just as a person offending may not look to offend.

    Re. Rihanna, she was on a music tour in this "rich, totalitarian Islamic state". She did not perform wearing a hooded jumpsuit or anything close.

    These are not tourist type pictures, and any state can lay down rules. I know there are rules in India. Blisters on my feet have been witness to it, even though I don't see why aside from the sanctum one should be unshod. (No, I will not mention the particular place because I am secular enough to realise it happens everywhere, except for churches.)

    If a state is authoritarian it would not even invite these artistes. Simple logic. The UAE sees some of the most prominent performers from the West. Many Indians make the trip to catch these artistes live.

    And, the officials did not comment on the veil-like hood. That is my original conspiracy theory.

    PS: Glad to know you are up-to-date with fashion.


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