Public radio stations in Malaysia have banned the record-breaking hit single “Despacito” over concerns that its lyrical content is not compatible with the Islamic faith, officials have confirmed.
Broadcasts of the song by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi and rapper Daddy Yankee – which has become the most streamed song of all time with almost three billion hits on YouTube, and has reached number one in over 30 countries worldwide – led to a series of complaints about its sexualized lyrics, despite the song being sung entirely in Spanish (Americans may be more familiar with a remixed version of the song featuring English-language lyrics, which featured Canadian singer Justin Bieber).
In the song, the singer attempts to seduce a woman who the lyrics suggest is married through references to removing a ring by describing with graphic metaphors the benefits of agreeing to romantically engage him.
“The song was filled with numerous sexual references and innuendos and thus wholly inappropriate to be aired by our national media outlets for our general public, especially children,” Salleh Said Keruak told AFP news agency. “‘Despacito’ will not be aired by the government-owned broadcast stations because we received public complaints. The lyrics are not suitable to be heard.”
Keruak added that although the ban only applies to public broadcasters, other privately-owned radio stations should be “encouraged” to “practice self-censorship.”
Meanwhile, Atriza Umar, the Chairwoman of Malaysia’s opposition Islamic party, Parti Amanah Negara, compared the song to “porn,” adding that it could negatively affect the nation’s youth.
“I regret that these problematic songs are not censored by the ministries,” she said. “I urge the authorities to ban this song and other songs that contain sexy and violent lyrics which are not suitable in accordance with Islam and our eastern culture.”
The decision was quickly derided on Twitter as a defeat for freedom of speech, with users pointing out that it would only attract more interest in the song and that a majority of people would not even understand the lyrics.
Malaysia banning despacito because the lyrics are obscene when 90% of the people here don't even understand the lyrics. Lol.
— Beng (@Shafiqbeng) July 20, 2017
So Malaysia banned the song "Despacito" – kind of sad for free speech, kind of jealous they never have to hear it again… #shutupbieber
— Phylicia Clifton (@Phylonious) July 21, 2017
I heard that Despacito was banned in Malaysia due to inappropriate lyrics. No better way to generate interest, so well done, authorities.
— Heidi Tee (@SneidiTee) July 21, 2017
Pointless really. There are so many songs that fit the same category as "Despacito" that aren't banned. Sounds like a knee-jerk reaction.
— Jazli Aziz (@JazliAziz) July 20, 2017
It is not the first time that authorities Malaysia has censored content deemed contrary to their Islamic values. Approximately 60 percent of Malaysians identify as Muslim. The government has recently made controversial attempts to promote Islamic Law, particularly with regard to blasphemy.
In August last year, Malaysian authorities demanded that Interpol aide their investigations into Taiwanese rap group Jiu Yi Yi, who they accused of “insulting Islam” with the song “Oh My God,” which featured positive mentions of Allah.
This year, Walt Disney Pictures were also forced to postpone the release of Beauty and the Beast in Malaysia after authorities edited out a “gay scene” in the film.
“We have approved it but there is a minor cut involving a gay moment. It is only one short scene but it is inappropriate because many children will be watching this movie,” Abdul Hamid told the Associated Press at the time.