Justin Timberlake boasted about "bringing sexy back" in his recent hit, but he shouldn't try that in Malaysia.
Some of the world's top pop stars are holding concerts in Muslim-majority Malaysia this year, but they're facing growing pressure to keep skimpy outfits and steamy dance moves off the stage amid protests by conservative Islamic critics who believe liberal Western performances can corrupt youths, event organizers said Wednesday.
Gwen Stefani made what she called "a major sacrifice" by donning clothes that revealed little skin at a Kuala Lumpur performance Tuesday, after Muslim students and political activists called for her concert to be scrapped because of her sexy reputation.
Promoters have announced that R&B superstar Beyonce, who is also known for a sultry image, is scheduled to perform on Nov. 1, amid efforts to lure other big names such as Timberlake, Kylie Minogue and Aerosmith to this Southeast Asian country in the Visit Malaysia Year 2007.
"We've informed Beyonce's management about this issue of clothes, but it takes some of the fun out of it," said Razlan Ahmad Razali, chairman of Pineapple Concerts, which is organizing Beyonce's planned concert.
"Beyonce won't be able to do the kind of show here that she does elsewhere," Razlan told The Associated Press. "She's a fashion icon, and we know that she often wears miniskirts and clothes that expose her navel during her performances. It's a pity to restrict her, because her costumes are all tasteful and glamorous."
Grammy-winning hip-hop star Kanye West faced a different problem when he came to Kuala Lumpur in April because government officials said he should not perform one of his biggest hits, "Jesus Walks," due to religious sensitivities surrounding the title, Razlan said.
Malaysia's government guidelines for public performances require a female artist to cover up from the top of her chest to her knees, including her shoulders. Performers may not hug or kiss, and their clothes must not have obscene or drug-related images or messages.
A Pussycat Dolls concert last year caused its Malaysian organizers to be fined 10,000 ringgit (US$2,857; EUR2,100) after the U.S. girl group was accused of flouting decency regulations.
Such concerns have made Malaysia less appealing to some stars. A concert promoter, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the hassle about clothes was one of the reasons that sultry U.S. pop diva Christina Aguilera skipped Malaysia during a recent Asian tour that included neighboring Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.
The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, the country's biggest political opposition group, which accused Stefani of promoting promiscuity and corrupting youths, says it will probably protest further if Beyonce, Timberlake or Minogue perform here.
"Even with Gwen Stefani, we're not satisfied just because she covered up at the concert," said party official Kamarulzaman Mohamed. "Outside, she still wears sexy clothes and influences teenagers who idolize her. It's bad to have immoral artists visiting Malaysia."