Sri Lanka: The Akon Controversy

Akon performing in a concert. Image from Flickr by Celso Tavares via Funchal. Used under a Creative Commons License

Akon performing in a concert. Image from Flickr by Celso Tavares via Funchal. Used under a Creative Commons License

You might wonder what reactions can a music video cause? R&B singer-songwriter Akon's (born Aliaune Badara Akon Thiam) video Sexy Chick, which features a group of scantly clad women dancing at a pool party in front of a Buddha statue, caused much uproar in Sri Lanka. The statue in question is in the background for a few seconds and is out of focus and barely visible.

Akon was scheduled to visit Sri Lanka on a concert tour next month. A couple of days ago approximately 200 people gathered outside the office of Maharaja, the broadcaster sponsoring the concert, and hurled stones injuring four people and damaging the building.

Online news portal Perambara reports:

Online opposition to the concert which started in the form of Facebook groups, has now grown to almost 13,000 in numbers, and is being supported by forwarded emails and blog posts. The verbal opposition took a violent twist on March 22, when the offices of Capital Maharaja came under attack by a mob. Placards left behind at the scene indicated that the attack was triggered by the proposed Akon concert.

This did not stop there and according to a news report some Buddhist monks approached the Sri Lankan government urging not to allow Akon to perform in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government turned down Akorn's visa request citing his: “controversial video images, offensive song lyrics and strong protests coming from various cultural, religious groups and organizations in the country”.

Akon issued a statement saying that he was not aware of the statue and did not mean to offend.

This has become a hot topic in the Sri Lankan blogosphere.

Indrajit Samarajiva at finds the video annoying but criticizes the attacks:

If you want to defend Buddhism one might start by practicing it. Rather than chatting on Facebook or (allegedly) throwing stones, that involves a little sitting quietly by yourself.

Dee at A Collision of Ideas slams the death threat to Akon in Facebook and suggests:

Perhaps we need to be a little less angry, give it a chance and see what positives we can get out of it rather than killing him and embarrassing ourselves all together.

Kalana Senaratne at Groundviews names this the rise of Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism:

Surely, if one or two seconds caused such anger and hatred, things would have been much more serious if the entire music video featured a Buddha statue or a temple in it. More fundamentally, then, are these protesters who shout and scream and throw stones, including some monks, really ‘Buddhists’?

Perhaps as a nation, we have reached the stage where the kind of absurd protests that take place in the name Buddhism need to be critically analyzed. There is a great danger in not doing so, because obviously, the impression that is sent out by the silence of those who are disturbed by such protests is that of ‘acceptance’; acceptance of every barbaric thing done in the name of Buddhism, mostly by politicians who hide behind religions.

Going Global has this to say to the Akon haters in Sri Lanka:

All accusations these kill Akon groups level against him centre around a Buddha statue used in a video of his. Now i understand how that can be offensive; to have a couple of scantily clad ‘ho’s’ dancing around something you consider to be sacred, and if someone did that in a mosque I’d be pretty pissed off too.

But going berserk on the news that he is to perform in Sri Lanka and threatening to kill the guy is not going to help anyone. Least of all the Sri Lankans.

A Voice in Colombo asks “is it ok for producers of the music video, to use a Buddha statue in the backdrop of that video?” London, Lanka and Drums answers the question and wonders what God or Buddha would think about the matter.

The Puppeteer has this to say about the refusal of Akon's visa:

The Sri Lankan government seems to have developed a habit of refusing visas. Though this time around it might have been a precautionary measure, rather than an attempt to cover up their tracks.

However the blogger hopes that Akon will perform at a rescheduled date.


  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by magneda2, RuFreeman and Steven van de Berg, Sergiy. Sergiy said: Sri Lanka: The Akon Controversy: Akon performing in a concert. Image from Flickr by Celso Tavares via … #world #news […]

  • I wonder if we should start a category on Global Voices for Akon controversies:

  • That’s exactly what I thought when I read this post! Haha

  • Very interesting. This quote from your piece “Perhaps we need to be a little less angry, give it a chance and see what positives we can get out of it rather than killing him and embarrassing ourselves all together” reminds me of a statement made by ordained minister and former U.S. senator John Danforth in his book “Faith and Politics,” which i happened to be reading just last night. Here’s a direct quote from his book, which i believe doesn’t just apply to those of the Christian faith but all faiths for that matter: “The public display of religion is not God. We do not put God in our nation’s life by placing the Ten Commandments in courthouses, nor do we evict God by removing the Ten Commandments from public property. God is not portable.” The point he was trying to make was that folks, especially the Christian Rights group, have made such a big deal about not having the presence of God (Christian faith) in schools by the lack of public display of the faith yet most people from the Republican party associated with the Christian Rights group prefer generic prayers said in public settings that do not mention the name “Jesus Christ.” I am by no means saying it was right for Akon to do that, it was disrespectful and insensitive, but really, how many of these people can truly say they are committed followers of Buddhism?

  • And the last row took place at ‘Club Zen’? I take it that the ‘Buddha Bar’ franchise won’t be moving to Sri Lanka any time soon.

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