In one particular publicity photo, Badu sports temporary tattoos on her shoulders, one of which is the word “Allah” written in Arabic.
Some Muslim groups picked up on the image at the last minute and complained to the Information Ministry.
The committee decided that the photo “offended the religious sensitivities” of Muslims. Later, it was revealed that the photo appears on Badu’s website and that it was reproduced by a local English-language daily, The Star, only on Monday, two days before the concert was to take place.
The newspaper, which said that the printing of the photo was “inadvertent,” apologized to Muslim readers for the “oversight.” The Home Ministry demanded an explanation from the publishers and some Muslim activists asked that the paper’s operations be suspended.
Badu was not required to leave the country and could remain as a tourist, but she was barred from performing. The local organizer, Pineapple Concerts, tried to convince authorities to reverse the ban but was unsuccessful. The auditorium where Badu was set to perform holds 3,000 people. It was the first concert by a Western performer to be banned in Malaysia in recent years. Some recent performers were told to tone down any sexual suggestiveness but were still allowed to play.
Badu appeared to be resigned to the outcome.
“It’s sad,” she said, “because we traveled a long way. But I’m totally understanding of the protection of the laws and its people. I think art is often misunderstood in the realm of religion, and it’s OK … I am learning and understanding about Islam in other countries more as we travel.”