Erykah Badu banned from performing in Malaysia

PASADENA, CA - AUGUST 14: Singer Erykah Badu performs at the 33rd Annual UNCF An Evening Of Stars on August 14, 2011 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
Valerie Macon
Erykah Badu performs at the 33rd Annual UNCF An Evening Of Stars on Aug. 14, 2011, in Pasadena, Calif.

(CBS/AP) KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Singer Erykah Badu has been banned from performing in Malaysia after a photograph of her body art offended some Muslims.

More than 1,500 people had bought tickets to watch the Grammy-winning American singer at a Kuala Lumpur auditorium Wednesday, but Malaysia's information minister announced the cancellation of the show because a promotional photo of Badu with the Arabic word for Allah painted on her bare shoulders was "an insult to Islam."

"It's sad, because we traveled a long way," Badu told a news conference. "But I'm totally understanding of (the minister's) protection of the laws and its people. He doesn't want anything to happen. I'm good with that."

The photograph ignited criticism from some politicians and religious groups in Muslim-majority Malaysia after a newspaper published it Monday in a feature to promote Badu's show. The daily has since apologized for what it called an "oversight" that led to the photo's publication.

Badu, 41, said the photo was inspired by images from "The Holy Mountain," a 1973 surrealist movie by Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky.

"I think art is often misunderstood in the realm of religion, and it's OK," she said. "In America, it's a lot different. Art is also misunderstood but it is not such a harsh gesture to promote the names of God. I am learning and understanding about Islam in other countries more as we travel."

Malaysian Information Minister Rais Yatim said Tuesday that the controversy surrounding Badu's photo "could jeopardize national security and cause a negative impact to the government's image."

Public reaction to the concert ban has been divided. On Twitter, many Malaysians, including Muslims, accused the government of intolerance, but others praised authorities for being firm about defending religious principles.

Badu said she would "absolutely" welcome another chance to perform in Malaysia someday. She is scheduled to sing at a jazz festival this weekend in Jakarta, the capital of neighboring Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. Badu isn't the only artist who has been banned from performing in Malaysia. In 2009, Beyonce faced criticism prior to performing there.

Badu's most recent album, "New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh," arrived in 2010. She makes a guest appearance on the upcoming album by Rocket Juice and the Moon, a new group featuring Damon Albarn of Blur, bassist Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers and longtime Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen.