Saudi Arabian officials are calling for the arrest of a young Saudi rapper, Asayel Slay. The calls for her arrest come from a song and video called “Girl of Mecca”, in which Slay praises her hometown and the women that come from the city. The Saudi government is not a fan.
In the video, Slay calls women from Mecca “powerful and beautiful”. All of the women in the video are dressed very conservatively, and Slay herself is wearing a hijab. There are no obscenities or other aspects that could potentially be deemed inappropriate. It’s simply a young woman celebrating women from Mecca.
Although the video is seemingly innocent, Khaled al-Faisal, the governor of Mecca, issued an order that Slay, and others involved with producing the video, be investigated and punished, according to this tweet and Google Translate.
Disturbingly, YouTube removed the original video and suspended Slay’s account. Other accounts have since reposted the video, but there is no trace of Slay’s original.
Reactions on social media have been deeply, deeply mixed. Some voiced support for the song and its artist, while others voiced their disapproval, sometimes with blatant racism over the singer’s African heritage.
Critics of the video cited Mecca’s status as a sacred place in the Islamic religion as a reason for the video’s inappropriateness. People went as far as to say that Slay’s presumed African roots meant she is not truly a girl of Mecca.
The outrage was palpable reading through comments on Twitter. For an American woman, it was a little terrifying to read through.
That’s not to say that all the comments were negative. Supporters of Slay and the song pointed out the double standard. Some outspoken users claim that because the singer is a woman and Black, the government is prejudiced against her.
Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Problem
This is certainly possible, if not probable, given Saudi Arabia’s past issues with women, and human rights in general.
The country is supposedly trying to revamp its image. The government announced in 2018 that they would reform some restrictive policies in the nation. Things do not seem to have improved much since then. Some activists believe it’s gotten worse.
This is the exact kind of issue that caused a widespread backlash in late 2019, when various celebrities and influencers flew to Saudi Arabia to promote the MDL Beast Festival.
Celebrities and influencers took paychecks to promote the festival, meant to help improve how the west views the country. They did so despite various highly-publicized human rights abuses that are only a Google search away. Human rights abuses just like putting a young woman in jail over a song celebrating women from Mecca.