In the world of pop culture, even seemingly innocuous actions can trigger widespread controversies. Recently, Kim Nam Joon, popularly known as RM and the leader of the internationally acclaimed K-pop boy band BTS, has come under fire for a seemingly innocent social media post that has sparked allegations of Islamophobia. The incident has ignited a heated debate among fans and the public, leading to calls for an apology from the artist.
The incident began when RM shared a snapshot from his Spotify playlist on his Instagram Story. The snapshot revealed that he was listening to the song “Bad Religion” by Frank Ocean. While this might appear as a harmless gesture, the song’s lyrics contain elements that have been deemed offensive and Islamophobic by a significant portion of the audience.
The backlash against RM’s post was swift and fervent. Fans of the K-pop idol, as well as internet users at large, took to platforms like Twitter to express their disappointment and concern. The hashtag ‘#RMapologizetoMuslims’ quickly gained traction on social media, reflecting the widespread sentiment that the artist’s action perpetuated harmful stereotypes and narratives surrounding Islamophobia.
The song “Bad Religion” is a track from Frank Ocean’s debut studio album titled “Channel Orange,” released in 2012. The song revolves around the theme of unrequited love and likens the experience to the notion of a “bad religion.” The lyrics draw parallels between one-sided love and religious devotion, invoking powerful imagery that might resonate with various audiences.
As a Muslim , I'm a BTS army since 4 years and I love BTS more than you can imagine. But this is totally unacceptable. No one can disrespect our Islam . This is the first time I'm hurt by BTS but I do know they can't hurt anyone . Everyone makes mistakes. Rm apologise to Muslims pic.twitter.com/RX4HJJURf8
— Alyza🇵🇰 (@Alminxjimin) August 16, 2023
However, what particularly sparked outrage among the Muslim community were the lyrics that referenced an Arabic phrase commonly used in praise or remembrance of God: “Allahu Akbar.” This phrase, translating to “Allah is the greatest,” holds deep significance in Islamic culture and is frequently used in reverential contexts. In the song, Frank Ocean uses the phrase in a way that some Muslims perceive as inappropriate and potentially offensive.
The lines “He said ‘Allahu Akbar’; I told him ‘Don’t curse me'” have raised concerns among listeners who believe that the phrase was used flippantly, in a manner that trivializes its sacred nature. While the song has been in existence for over a decade, it has only recently sparked significant controversy due to the growing awareness and sensitivities surrounding cultural and religious inclusivity.
Amidst the fervent discussions and debates, members of the BTS Army—BTS’s dedicated fan base—are expressing a range of emotions. While many are dismayed and hurt by RM’s actions, some are offering the artist the benefit of the doubt, acknowledging his past engagement in philanthropy and advocacy efforts, such as his role as a UNICEF advocate.
As the controversy unfolds, it is crucial to engage in nuanced discussions about cultural sensitivity, religious respect, and the impact of actions in the digital age. The incident surrounding RM’s social media post serves as a reminder that public figures hold a significant responsibility in promoting inclusivity and understanding, both on and offline.
The incident involving BTS leader RM’s alleged Islamophobic social media post has ignited conversations about cultural awareness and respect. Fans’ demands for an apology reflect the growing recognition of the power public figures wield in shaping societal perceptions. As discussions continue, it is hoped that lessons of cultural sensitivity and acceptance will prevail.