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Southeast Asia, explained

Malaysia: Erykah Badu banned for "Allah" body art

Concert shut down after newspaper publishes incendiary temporary tattoo photo
Erykah badu allah 2012 02 28Enlarge
Neo-soul singer Erykah Badu as she appears on her Web site's home page. (Screengrab)

Posting artsy, quasi-racy photos and defiling Allah's name are two of the more effective means of shutting down your own concert in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Soul singer Erykah Badu did both. At the same time. That's why her upcoming performance in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, has been cancelled by authorities.

See the circular symbols below Badu's shoulders?

Both contain the word for God in Arabic script. That is "an insult to Islam and a very serious offense," Malaysia's information minister told the Associated Press.

I suspect that the photo, which leads her official Web site, would never have crossed authorities' eyes if English-language daily The Malaysia Star hadn't reprinted the image.

Even non-Arabic Muslims often recognize the Arabic spelling of their faith's most sacred word, so it's a bit surprising that the photo slipped by the paper's editors. Now, according to the My Sinchew outlet, the newspaper is now in trouble as well.

According to a government statement published by the AP, the Badu "Allah" photo "could jeopardize national security" in Malaysia.