Sri Lanka denies Akon visa for ‘defaming Buddhism’

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 24 March 2010, 01:39 GMT]
Sri Lanka has refused US rap star Akon a visa for a planned concert next month, following Sinhala protests that a music video of his was offensive to Buddhists. Stone throwing extremists on Monday protested outside a media network sponsoring the concert. Sri Lanka’s decision comes after the powerful Buddhist clergy expressed its displeasure. In the music video, shot around a pool party with a number of swimsuit wearing women, the statue of Buddha is occasionally seen on the pool house’s roof. Akon has denied intent to cause offense and protested the violence against the TV station.

Rap star Akon
Rap star Akon
The statue only appears momentarily a few times in the background in the several minutes-long video for the song ‘Sexy Bitch’ (also released as ‘Sexy Chick’).

But Sri Lanka’s clergy is decisively influential in Sinhala politics.

"The government has taken into consideration the sensibilities of the Buddhists who have been offended by one of his videos which showed scantily clad women dancing in front of a Buddha statue," Sri Lanka’s Director General of Information Anusha Pelpita told AFP.

Reuters quoted Palpita as saying the main allegation against Akon was that he was "defaming Buddhism in his music videos."

Colombo decided to stop the Grammy Award-nominated star's concert planned for April 24 despite hopes from the official Tourism Promotion Bureau that his visit would attract more holidaymakers to the island, AFP reported.

Scene from Akon’s video, with the Buddha statue on the roof in the background.
Scene from Akon’s video, with the Buddha statue on the roof in the background.
On Monday hundreds of people stormed the head offices of the Maharaja Broadcasting and Television (MBC/MTV) Network, a sponsor of Akon's planned April concert. Four employees were injured and windows and parked cars were smashed, a Reuters report added.

Senegalese-American rap star Akon, known as one of the most successful and versatile R&B singers today, expressed surprise at the clamour.

“I was not aware that the statue was even on the set of the video until now. I would never set out to offend or desecrate anyone’s religion or religious beliefs,” he said in a statement.

“I myself am a spiritual man, so I can understand why they are offended, but violence is never the answer and I am disheartened to hear about what happened [Monday] in Sri Lanka,” he said of the protests outside Maharaja’s offices.

 

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