Beyonce skipped Malaysia in 2007, but will be making her stage debut in this Muslim-dominated country on October 25 for her "I Am…" world tour. This is definitely great news for her fans in this part of the world.
As Malaysians are all geared up to watch this "If I Were a Boy" singer strut her moves, more dramas are unfolding. Two years ago she skipped Kuala Lumpur because of strict guidelines, and performed instead in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. This time, Beyonce promises to cover up for her Malaysian fans, but an Islamic student group doubts the multiple award-winning singer will follow Malaysia's strict dress-code guidelines and calls for a ban to prevent the R&B diva from performing.
The group secretary general of the National Union of Malaysian Islamic Students was quoted in a local daily saying: "We doubt whether she will obey the 15.2 and 15.3 codes set by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission while performing." Both codes deal with attire, appearance, and behavior of performers.
Although more conservative Malaysians are calling for a ban on this "bootylicious" singer, the younger and more modern crowd is looking forward to the concert.
Yes, Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, with the majority of its population Muslim Malays. However, Malaysia is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. Above all, we Malaysians are as modern as we are traditional. We uphold our traditional cultures and values as much as we worship pop culture.
By "we" I refer to the generation with access to the internet and cable television – MTV Asia, Channel V, CNN, Channel E! and other channels at the flip of the remote control. We are a unique breed, greatly influenced by globalization and the effect of Westernization. Just like our Western peers, we love McDonald's, KFC, and Starbucks, just as much as we like to eat at the street-side cafes and Mamak stalls. Most of us depend greatly on our Blackberrys and iPods. We know the difference between Gucci, Zara, Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo (by the way, he is Malaysian!). Twitter and Facebook are just a click away.
Walk downtown at Bintang Walk and you will see us dressing just like our Western counterparts, but perhaps in a less revealing way. There are Muslims wearing the headscarf but still looking very chic. Very rarely will you see a woman wearing the burqa, which covers everything except the eyes.
Our easy access to pop culture via the internet and cable TV allows us to be entertained by great international artistes and performers. We have our own line-up of great local music acts, but opportunities to attend concerts performed by big names such as Beyonce are rare. Many prefer to skip Malaysia for neighboring Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore simply because there are no strict guidelines there.
"Hey, Beyonce is finally coming to Malaysia," a group of us yelled as we heard the news, rushing to get tickets before they sell out like hot cakes. Her name is huge in Malaysia; even a five-year-old I know knows how to dance to the beat of "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)". That just shows how popular and influential she is here. Previously, Avril Lavigne, the Pussycat Dolls, the Black Eyed Peas and Gwen Stefani have performed here and adhered to the strict rules.
"Morality" is always cited by Islamic youth groups who want to ban foreign acts from performing in Malaysia. While I agree that foreign artists must tone down their acts to respect the local culture and customs, there should not be a call to ban these great entertainers. “The West” and “Hollywood” are always blamed for “corrupting” the minds of the younger generation. But who has the power to say what is right and what is wrong? Why are we at the mercy of the judgments of a group that might have its own agenda? If we want to talk about morality, there are many issues in this country that need a little clean-up.
Beyonce is a huge star here and most of us are looking forward to her concert. We’ve bought her CDs and we want to watch her on stage on our home soil. It is unfortunate that her alter ego Sasha Fierce must tone down her act, but let the show go on and entertain us!