For Katy Perry, there is going back, after all. The singer’s video for “Dark Horse,” a collaboration with Juicy J where she asks whether “you dare to do this,” no longer shows a pendant that some Muslims criticized as blasphemous. Sometimes you will dare to disturb the universe, but then you’ll realize you’ve changed your mind.
According to a Change.org petition with more than 65,000 signatures, Perry incinerates a prospective suitor who wears a necklace with the Arabic word for God on it. The petitioner, U.K. resident Shazad Iqbal, calls the video “blasphemy,” adding that “using the name of God in an irrelevant and distasteful manner would be considered inappropriate by any religion.” (Great point! Just ask Pussy Riot.)
The offending jewelry, which appears and is engulfed in flames around the 1:15 mark, is now missing from the video on YouTube. At the time of this post, at least, you could still see it in the Vevo version, which is how we got the before-and-after image above. There’s no mention of the change from Perry’s Twitter account, but Iqbal has claimed victory on Change.org, writing that “we couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support.”
Frankly, the presence of the Arabic script for God didn’t make much sense in the first place if the clip is supposed to take place during the time of ancient Egypt, but then we don’t look to music videos for historical accuracy, do we? Perry has already been called out for cultural appropriation and perpetuating stereotypes over her Geisha-themed American Music Awards performance late last year, and other pop stars such as Rihanna have been known to indulge in what SPIN’s Devon Maloney called “nü-Orientalism.”
But one place most pop culture normally doesn’t go in recent years is any place that could potentially be perceived as blasphemous against Islam. The most famous example is South Park, which showed the prophet Muhammad in a 2001 episode but was blocked by Comedy Central from doing so in 2010, after cartoons showing the prophet in Denmark a few years earlier sparked violent demonstrations. In a much, much smaller-scale example from the music world, Swedish pop oddballs the Tough Alliance used a sample of the Muslim call to prayer on their 2007 album A New Chance, and the cover originally included Arab script, but both have since been removed from new copies of the record.
It looks like Perry wasn’t ready for a perfect storm.