COLUMN: Did Rihanna Cross The Line?
The Pop Diva's Mosque Fashion Shoot Stirs Controversy
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 22:10
This past weekend, singer Rihanna was asked to leave the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi after posing for photos in front of the religious sanctuary. These photos appeared on @badgalriri’s Instagram page and show the songster wearing an all-black ensemble that stands in stark, striking contrast to the pure white of the Mosque and the clear blue sky. It is hard to argue that these photos aren’t beautiful—when they are removed from their religious context, at least. Fashion, music, photography, and religion are not often found in conversation, and it seems this is for good reason, as the reactions in the media have been passionate to say the least.
In these photos, Riri has covered up her locks, arms, and legs in full, and has topped her all-black ensemble with a gold and black tasseled necklace. She looks chic, simple, and far more toned down than we are used to seeing her (or than you might expect). She tops off her look with red nails, and bold red lips.
A total of 10 photos from this day were posted before she left the premises. The Daily News reported that she left without entering the mosque itself. According to a representative from the mosque, “she left without entering the mosque, after being asked to do so, due to the fact that she had taken some pictures that do not conform with the conditions and regulations put in place by the Centre’s management to regulate visits in a way that takes the status and sanctity of the mosque into consideration.”
Some reports argue that Riri’s outfit was of an appropriate nature, while others state that her bright red lips were overly provocative, or that her poses were the real problem that the mosque had with her presence. The most-commented-on picture does not appear overly provocative at first glance—the mosque is not even present in the photo. The picture shows Rihanna at the forefront, and a group of women in the background, one with her face turned staring at Rihanna. It is captioned, “‘B— stole my look,’” and is accompanied by 8,956 comments as of Monday night.
Her Instagram account has been buzzing with activity regarding the nature of the photos, and Rihanna’s intent in taking and posting these photos even after being asked to leave the mosque. Ultimately, religion and fashion have been clashing in a violent, not always respectful way on the songstress’ account. Reactions from her followers naturally range from articulate to insane, but this single fashion statement has called her thousands of followers into a discussion about religion.
Many of the people voicing their opinions on Rihanna’s page were likely commenting from a part of the world where sartorial choices and religious devotion are not so intrinsically tied. From this position, it can be difficult to discuss whether Rihanna was in the wrong or not. Fashion’s place in the Middle East has long been a highly contested issue, and though it is not the intent of this column to extend an opinion, especially on female fashion regulations in other religions, it is a reminder that the way we present ourselves is of significant importance.
Sometimes I color a bit when I tell people I write a fashion column. While others are writing about things like religion and war, discussions about gingham and peplum can feel a little trivial. But the significance of clothing cannot be over looked. It works as an identifier, a nod to privilege, a creator of jobs, the reason for sweatshops, a capitalist activity, a means of basic survival, and even a point of religious and cultural contention at times.
Sitting at a university in Chestnut Hill, Mass., it is interesting to take a moment to consider how fashion is involved in our culture right here on campus. What are the constraints on our choices, ethical, religious, cultural, or otherwise? Do we even think before we purchase, wear, or pose? It is worth investigating our choices more clearly, and discerning the reasons for clothing ourselves the way that we do. It is worth taking a moment to think about where our clothes come from, what they represent, and how others can interpret them.
In the end, Rihanna’s sartorial choices and poses were deemed unfitting for the mosque’s standards. Though she was donning something far more conservative than her fans are used to, she still managed to cause a stir, and it is doubtful that she will stop pushing the envelope anytime soon as the rest of her Instagram photos assure her loyal fans. As a performer, some amount of drama is expected in her wardrobe and costumes, but the question is still up for debate—did Rihanna finally go too far?