Beyonce unwelcome in Malaysia
Beyonce’s planned performance in Malaysia, part of her world tour, may be cancelled due to Malaysia’s opposition Islamist party protesting against the singer’s show. They succeeded two years ago in preventing her from visiting due to “moral issues”. The group claims that such unclad acts promote sexual promiscuousness and are a bad example for the nation’s youth. It is not just Beyonce that has spurred protest from the group but also other Western artists, who in some cases have adjusted by wearing more clothes than usual on stage. Judge for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/user/beyonce?blend=1&ob=4.
Behind the news:
Beyonce does not seem to wish to adapt her act to local demands, or be seen as caving in to a minority group in one country. And why should she? It is her career and her life. But that’s not the point.
The point is: in order not to become the hostage of circumstances outside of their control, international brands need to look carefully how they associate themselves with pop icons, and stay particularly close to the pulse of markets with fast shifting, competing internal values.
Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country in which parts of the population object strongly to sexual suggestiveness. There is also national sensitivity, as it appeared a few years ago when the prime minister at the time banned a Toyota commercial using Brad Pitt as the pitchman, on the grounds that “Malaysians are just as handsome as Westerners.” Local political and religious groups take advantage of such sentiments for all kinds of reasons.
“Rejection reactions” such as this one is harmful to Malaysia economically, as a significant part of its activity depends on tourism, and portraying a consistently welcoming face to the rest of the world is important in attracting foreign dollars. However they also reflect a genuine internal reality of the country, where competing and contradictory values co-exist.