Rihanna has long delighted the fashion world and her fans by creating products that are hailed for their inclusivity when it comes to size, color and sexuality. But with her latest Savage x Fenty show, the business and music mogul nonetheless earned the ire of some for her show's inclusion of a song that sampled from an Islamic hadith.
"Doom," the song by London-based Coucou Chloe, features a remixed sample of Kuwaiti preacher Mishary bin Rashid Alafasy reciting a hadith, according to Middle East Eye. The hadith in question is a saying of the Prophet Muhammad that deals with judgement day. The use of this sacred text in the context of a highly sexualized lingerie show didn't sit right with some fans, many of whom used social media to communicate their feelings.
"im really upset rihanna :( ive always loved and looked up to you and appreciated your sense of diversity in all your branding. now, i see you put an islamic hadith or prayer in your music for a lingere show? thats beyond disrepectful and disappointing. im so sad," commented one user on Instagram. The comment racked up over 50,000 likes in 24 hours.
Others pointed out that this isn't the first time that Rihanna has been called out for acting in a manner some say disrespects Islam. Though she's used hijabi models like Halima Aden in the past and been praised for that representation, she's also received backlash for the hijab-like head coverings worn by models like Bella Hadid in Savage x Fenty volume one, which were paired with lingerie. The pop star was also asked to leave a mosque in Abu Dhabi in 2013 after "she posed in ways that do not match the sacred status" of the holy site, according to Buzzfeed.
American pop culture has a long history of pulling religious imagery and text out of context to the chagrin of the faithful — Madonna built her early career on such outrage-inciting appropriations from the Catholic church. But Rihanna doesn't seem to be pulling a page out of that book, at least not intentionally.
On Tuesday, the day after the backlash began, Rihanna and the musician behind the song in question, Coucou Chloe, both posted apologies to social media. Coucou Chloe said that she was not aware at the time of creating the song that the samples included an Islamic hadith, and tweeted: "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."
Meanwhile, Rihanna posted an apology to her Instagram stories.
"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 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 something like this never happens again. Thank you for your forgiveness and understanding, Rih."
Some fans will likely forgive and forget, while others may not. But the whole affair is a great reminder that inclusivity in the fashion and beauty industries has to go beyond skin color and size – without a willingness to learn more deeply about other religions and cultures, these blunders are likely to continue, whether they're perpetrated by the Fenty team or someone else.