Concert Bans: What Is Too Much for Malaysia?

Uncovering the dos and don’ts of live performances in Malaysia.

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Concert Bans: What Is Too Much for Malaysia?
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Gomez| Rojak Daily

Selena Gomez is yet another target of disapprobation, as PAS Youth slam her upcoming concert asserting that Gomez is too synonymous with sexy attire. The Islamist party's youth wing calls for the government to ban former Disney TV star's concert “to protect the sanctity of the holy month of Syawal”.The committee has voiced its disapproval over Selena Gomez’s The Revival Tour concert which will be held in Shah Alam on July 25.

According to The Star, PAS Youth’s dakwah committee chairman Hafez Sabri claimed that Gomez’s provocative appearance would taint the sacredness of the month of Syawal. They even communicated regret that local authorities approved for the gig to take place. Sabri stated that Gomez’s concert would blemish “the month of Syawal, which is being celebrated in earnest, and further stokes the hedonistic culture among the country’s youths”.

PAS Gomez | Rojak Daily

Sabri took it a step further and called on the state Islamic religious council to issue an official letter prohibiting Gomez’s concert to take place. Free Malaysia Today reported that this isn’t the first time PAS has criticized planned concerts by international performers. In a statement, Pemuda PAS says local government should have thought more “strictly and carefully” before permitting promoter PR Worldwide a permit for the show, urging authorities to observe the guidelines set down by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) last year.

"I am ready to get back on the road and see my fans in person!," said Gomez in a press statement. "This album marks a new and very important chapter in my life. I cannot wait to get on stage and perform this new material." The 23-year-old pop sensation previously cancelled her shows in Asia including Malaysia, during her first world tour due to some personal matters.

gomez smiling | Rojak Daily

According to JAKIM, the entertainment guiding principles is meant to assist the authorities in ensuring that entertainment platforms are based on the Islamic faith and codes, and moral doctrines.

gomez concert | Rojak Daily


What exactly are these rules set by the Islamic Religious Department (JAKIM)?

Entertainers coming into Malaysia will have to adhere to rules prepared by the Malaysian Islam Development Department (JAKIM) which does impose limitations on stage performances, dress and behaviour codes and gender segregation.

We tried contacting JAKIM for further comment on the rules and guidelines for live performances in Malaysia but we weren’t able to contact them directly as yet at the time this article was published.

We know, however, that the artistes entering Malaysia should not have a criminal record, whether in Shariah or civil court and should always sustain a noble personality and have good morals, even outside of the performance. While they are on stage, the artiste must “dress decently” in apparel that covers their “aurat” which refers to intimate body parts that Muslims must cover.

jakim  | Rojak Daily

JAKIM’s guidelines, which are not compulsory, call for segregation at concerts, forbidding mingling and touching of hands, loud laughter or even facetious or satirical remarks among many other rules.

That’s not all. Some other guidelines cover songs, video clips presented, lyrics and the content of the performances which does include their dancing and backdrops. The routines, songs, music videos and events must not insult any religious sensitivity, the nation and any race, and the usage of any symbolism that goes against Islamic teachings and faith is prohibited.

Song lyrics should contain good and wholesome values in addition to “bringing awareness” and “leading to repentance”. The music that accompanies these lyrics should also “motivate positive atmosphere” and “bring peace” instead of inducing negative sentiments that oppose Islamic teachings. Here’s the best part, JAKIM asserts that jokes should be told sparingly and must “toe the line” and should never lead to “extreme laughter”. So “extreme” hilarity is now also barred?

concert | Rojak Daily

PAS have been criticized for being impervious and insensible about Malaysia’s multicultural society and although these guidelines are not obligatory, neither had they been retracted. The guidelines were drafted in 2014 but were only approved during the 107th National Fatwa Committee Meeting held on February last year. In 2007 there were six guidelines and now there are 11 in the latest set of rules.

 b1a4 | Rojak Daily

Some occurrences that triggered JAKIM to act on the event organisers of concerts would include the prominent controversial fan meet-and-greet event featuring a South Korean idol boy group called B1A4 which saw the performers embracing ‘tudung’ covered Malay girls on stage. “Did all the agencies and the organiser of the event take heed of this guideline? This concert was not referred to JAKIM, in fact, JAKIM had no idea about the event,” said JAKIM director-general Datuk Othman Mustapha, according to Malay Mail Online. Because of this “incident” on April 2 2015, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the organisers of the B1A4 event, TGM Events, had been blacklisted.

kesha | Rojak Daily

To read the entire list of rules by JAKIM and other particulars, you can head to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia’s website 

On April 19 2015, Irish pop rock band The Script arrived in Malaysia for their concert which was brought to fans by PR Worldwide and it was the first ever concert held after JAKIM set the new entertainment processes.

These rules might have a ripple effect because investors and artistes might not want to come into Malaysia to perform with these restrictions or if they are asked to “tutup aurat”. According to The Malay Mail, Executive S. Ramesh said the guidelines may discourage international acts from coming to Malaysia and cause a dent in tourism.

The Concerts That Could Have Been:

Megadeth (2001)

megadeth | Rojak Daily


Who Said No: The Malaysian authorities had a negative perception of the group’s image and music. Their album The World Needs A Hero was removed from record store shelves after the government branded their imagery inappropriate. Their label, Sanctuary Records, was also banned from shipping copies of Megadeth’s album into Malaysia.

Reason:The government pointed out that the band’s mascot Vic Rattlehead as unsuitable and told the members that they would be detained if they performed in Malaysia.

Avril Lavigne (2008)

avril | Rojak Daily

Who Said No: The Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry said it was unbecoming for Malaysian culture. The government’s decision came after the youth wing of a fundamentalist opposition party, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, called for the show to be shut down.

Reason: The Islamic opposition slammed the show for being “too sexy”. Her sexiness was said to might have promoted the wrong values on the eve of Malaysia’s Independence Day.

Beyonce (2007 and 2009)

beyonce | Rojak Daily

Who Said No: Technically, Beyoncé released a statement saying that she was postponing her show in Malaysia due to the performance being targeted by an Islamic party. The organisers denied that the move was linked to threats of protests by Muslim groups.

Reason: Twice, Beyoncé cancelled her concert in Malaysia amidst fears of protests by conservative Muslim groups. "We are not against entertainment, but it's the way she performs - her gyrating moves on stage and her sexy outfits. It will erode the moral values of our young people," PAS youth Chief Nasruddin Hassan Tantawi told AFP.

Namjoo (2011)

namjoo | Rojak Daily

Who Said No: The 34-year-old Iranian singer-songwriter whose music mixes classical Iranian music with more modern pop and jazz melodies was scheduled to perform in 2011 but Malaysian Culture Minister Rais Yatim announced that the concert had been cancelled.

Reason:The singer-songwriter’s music seemingly did not mesh with Malaysia’s religious and cultural beliefs. There were thousands of Iranians who pre-arranged accommodation to attend this concert and some even spent a few thousand ringgit to fly over.

Erykah Badu (2012)


Who Said No: Malaysia’s government opposed her performance due to controversial religious matters.

Reason: The injunction was due to a promotional photo showing an Arabic word deemed sacred which was disrespectfully tattooed across her bare shoulders. Badu explained that she thinks art is “often misunderstood in the realm of religion, and it’s okay…I am learning and understanding about Islam in other countries more as we travel.”

Kesha (2013)

kesha 2 | Rojak Daily

Who Said No: The pop singer’s concert was cancelled after it was denied a permit by the Malaysian authorities. The show was part of Kesha’s ill-fated Warrior tour and was organized by experienced local Malaysian promoter Livescape. Although Kesha had tried to fit the rules set by the authorities they still warned her that she will be imprisoned if she disobeyed the rules.

Reason: The Ministry of Communications and Multimedia mentioned in a statement that it had rejected the application for the concert on grounds that it “touches on religious sensitivities and cultural values of Malaysians.”

Earlier this year itself, political activist Eddy Casmady led protests against two EDM festivals, causing both events to be cancelled at the very last minute.

There are many others that have had run-ins with the Malaysian authorities or faced religious protests including Linkin Park, Mariah Carey, Pussycat Dolls, The Black Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani, Adam Lambert and even South Korea’s Wonder Girls.

pussycat dolls | Rojak Daily

LOL Events Sdn Bhd CEO Rizal Kamal, held the Russell Peters live in KL Almost Famous World Tour last year revealed that he felt that people in Malaysia need entertainment and events because it shows the world that we are a emerging and open-minded country and that these guidelines would impact the business and Malaysia as a whole.

What are your thoughts on the guidelines implemented by JAKIM? Are you for it or are you against it?

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