The singer cancelled her show in protest against the violations of women’s and gay rights. Young fans and enthusiasts vent their anger online. Saudi Arabia’s hardline right calls it good news. For the authorities, the concert was contrary to the country’s "customs and values".
Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The sudden cancellation of a concert by rapper Nicki Minaj in Saudi Arabia has triggered a fresh social media storm on Wednesday.
The Trinidad-and-Tobago-born US star said she pulled out of the 18 July Jeddah World Fest in a show of support for women's and gay rights in Saudi Arabia, where gays are persecuted and sometimes sentenced to death.
The announcement of the concert by the famous rapper in Saudi Arabia had sparked opposition from the country’s hardline right-wing extremists who back a strict application of Sharia (Islamic law) and are opposed to the country’s recent (and timid) attempts at openness.
"So sad, I was preparing to do a Michael Jackson dance at the party," one Twitter user wrote.
Organisers of the Jeddah Season cultural festival had said thousands of tickets were sold for the concert that includes performances by British musician Liam Payne and American DJ Steve Aoki.
Others are happy. One person wrote on Twitter: "Cancellation of the party is good news. Praise be to Allah."
Minaj is well-known for her provocative, profanity-laced lyrics and skin-baring music videos.
After initially agreeing to perform, she changed her mind saying she did not want to perform in a country where "women have no rights", but added that her decision was not intended to "disrespect" the Saudi government.
A few Saudi media outlets including the pro-government Okaz newspaper insisted that it was the kingdom that cancelled the concert as it went against local "customs and values".
Saudi entertainment authorities and the media ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
Saudi Arabia is ruled by an absolute Sunni monarchy, in accordance with the Wahhabi fundamentalist vision of Islam, which imposes a clear division between the sexes and relies on Sharia as the law of the land.
Social and legal reforms introduced in the last two years by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) include granting women the right to drive and to attend sporting events in separate sections in stadiums.
Reforms include the development of a local tourism sector and entertainment industry by investing billions, whilst conforming with a strict observance of Islamic customs and traditions.
However, the arrests of senior officials and entrepreneurs, the crackdown against activists and critics and, ultimately, the Khashoggi affair have cast a shadow over the real desire for change.