A singer has apologised for belly dancing in front of a mosque in Tatarstan, one of Russia’s largest Muslim regions, after criticism from religious leaders.
Rezeda Ganiullina filmed a music video in front of the White Mosque in the town of Bolgar, performing her song My Soul while clad in a bejewelled, midriff-baring outfit. That didn’t please the Mufti of Tatarstan, Kamil-khazrat Samigullin. «A mosque is not a place for dancing,» he’s quoted as saying on the local Evening Kazan website, adding that Bolgar is particularly significant as «the Islamic traditions of the Tatars originate from there».
An imam at another mosque described the dance as a «desecration of the house of Allah» and called for the video to be removed, while the region’s deputy mufti Rustam Batrov said: «Unfortunately, some representatives of Tatar pop culture have heads full of confusion. They do not understand what a mosque is and Islam in general.»
On Thursday, Ms Ganiullina apologised on her VKontakte account, but began in defiant style: «Everyone perceives the situation depending on the level of their depravity… If this clip has insulted someone’s feelings, I apologise. This is my stage image.» The singer says she’s Muslim and respects religious leaders, but notes: «A belly dance performed perfectly… isn’t a striptease, it’s a work of art.»
Russia’s Investigations Committee has started «a preliminary investigation» into the video, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta. That’s prompted some national media to draw parallels with the band Pussy Riot, imprisoned after performing a protest song in a Moscow cathedral. Despite the comparisons, Ms Ganiullina appears to have chosen the mosque simply as a picturesque backdrop, rather than to make a political statement.
It seems the controversy is mainly confined to religious leaders, as most people commenting on YouTube are enthusiastic about the video. On Evening Kazan, one person says: «Disrespect for any religion is unacceptable in a civilised society», noting the angry response that some had to John Lennon claiming The Beatles were more popular than Jesus. But another writes: «A beautiful girl, a beautiful song, a beautiful dance! One shouldn’t draw any parallels with Pussy Riot — these are different actions, as far apart as heaven and earth!»