Saudi officials have ordered the arrest of a female rapper who appeared in a music video for her song Bint Mecca, or Girl from Mecca, stating that it is offensive to the customs and traditions of the holy city.
In the video, a Saudi woman identified as Ayasel Slay raps about her pride in being from Mecca, home to the holiest site in Islam, the Kaaba.
The video was uploaded to Ayasel’s YouTube channel – which has since been removed – last week and featured her rapping in a cafe with a group of smiling children as her backup dancers.
“A Mecca girl is all you need/Don’t upset her, she will hurt you,” sang Ayasel, describing how a woman from Mecca exceeded all other Saudi women in beauty and strength.
“With her, you can complete the Sunna [get married]/Your life with her will become Paradise,” she asserts proudly.
On Thursday, Mecca regional authorities said in a Tweet that the governor had issued orders that Ayasel and the video production team be prosecuted.
“Prince Khalid bin Faisal of Mecca has ordered the arrest of those responsible for the Bint Mecca rap song, which offends the customs and traditions of the people of Mecca and contradicts the identity and traditions of its esteemed population,” the tweet said.
The song has attracted strong reactions from social media, with racial undertones used in the hashtag #You_Are_Not_Mecca’s_Girls directed at Ayasel’s African origins.
“Enough of this depravity,” one user said, referring to the video. “I hope the punishment for this African woman will be imprisonment then deporting her back to her country.”
“Immediate deportation is the answer, in addition to holding every foreigner who claims to be from Mecca accountable,” one user said.
“Including all Somalis living here,” another replied in agreement.
Others spoke out against these comments.
“If anything needs to be deported, it is your racism, your arrogance, and your deep reverence for yourselves,” one Twitter user retorted.
“The singer is young and has maybe realised her mistake, as Mecca is a holy place and has revered status,” Twitter user Nouf al-Qahtani said. “But don’t let your comments fall to racist levels … racism is a disease in society.”
“[Some] Saudis are saying that the singer is black and can’t be from Mecca, as if Mecca is known for its blond-haired and blue-eyed women,” another social user commented sarcastically.
Comments also pointed out what they said was hypocrisy and double standards on the part of Saudi authorities and their reaction to the rap video.
“What a contrasting situation … [the government] invites singers and dancers to the country and no one objected but this girl did this song and now everyone is against her?” social media user Sultan al-Hamedi asked.
It is not the first time a Saudi female rapper has released a video. In June 2018, a rapper by the name of Leesa A dropped a video where she celebrated the country’s lifting of a ban that prohibited women from driving. The video went viral but, unlike Asayel Slay’s song, was well received.
Saudi Arabia has in recent years implemented a series of social and economic reforms, championed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), including giving women the right to drive and opening up the conservative kingdom for entertainment and tourism.
The reforms have, however, been accompanied by a deepening crackdown on government critics, including the detention of high-profile women’s rights activists including Loujain al-Halthloul, and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents at country’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Amnesty International has described Saudi Arabia’s human rights record as “abysmal”, adding the nation is in the “grip of a sweeping crackdown against critics of the government”.