Abu Dhabi // Superstar singer Rihanna was asked to leave the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque after posing for a series of pictures that staff said did not ‘conform to conditions’ put in place to protect the sanctuary of the religious momument.
Dressed in an all-black outfit that covered her arms, legs and hair, the Umbrella singer is seen pouting and lying down in the courtyard in the shots, which appeared on her Instagram account. The Bajan star visited the mosque before her Abu Dhabi concert and posed for the photographs which some have deemed “disrespectful” at a place of worship.
A statement issued by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre said: “The Centre strives to ensure that visitors enter the mosque in a decent fashion, and refrain from behaving in any way that is inconsistent with the sanctity of this religious place. In the event of behaviour that violates the moral codes of access to the mosque, or other visit regulations – such as taking inappropriate pictures, posing in ways that are improper in the context of sacred place, talking loudly, or eating – the violators are directed in a polite manner that reflects the civilisational and tolerant attributes of Islam. Usually, the visitors are appreciative of that.
“Here, the Centre refers to a recent incident, involving a singer who came for a private visit to the mosque, at a gate that is not reserved for visitors, without prior coordination with the Centre’s management and without identifying herself.
“She was directed by visitor services to proceed to the visitors’ main gate and take the guided tour, according to procedure. She left without entering the mosque, after being asked to do so, due to the fact that she had taken some pictures that do not conform with the conditions and regulations put in place by the Centre’s management to regulate visits in a way that takes the status and sanctity of the mosque into consideration.”
“While the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre always welcomes visitors and tourists from all around the world, it also calls on everyone to adhere to the moral codes of access to the mosque and to its visit regulations, which the Centre always makes sure are clear to all its visitors throughout the day.”
The images attracted condemnation and praise from fans.
One Twitter user, @NNTSHA_NAT, wrote: “I love Rihanna but then posing so seductively in front of the mosque is so disrespectful.”
Another tweeter, @Ahmedcarter, wrote: “Rihanna pics at Sheikh Zayed mosque are disrespectful to the place of worship.”
@BinttAlthee tweeted: “Rihanna modelling in the Sheikh Zayed mosque is just plain wrong. Who let her in?”
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest in the country and a popular tourist attraction that welcomes millions of visitors each year.
The mosque is open to non-Muslims but the body in charge, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre, ask visitors to respect religious sensitivities.
This includes women wearing an abaya and shayla, which Rihanna did not do.
“Rihanna may look gorgeous and all but she’s covering her head out of fashion not out of respect for the mosque,” wrote @NAUF_z.
But many fans backed the star, who visited the mosque on Saturday ahead of her gig at du Arena on Yas Island.
“I don’t see how Rihanna posing adjacent to a mosque in Abu Dhabi is disrespectful. If anything she’s showing respect by supporting the hijab,” wrote @mila_iggy.
Twitter user @TheDimeRamla619 also found nothing wrong with the photographs, tweeting: “I have nothing against Rihanna, I mean the mosque in Abu Dhabi is a tourist place so therefore I don’t see nothing wrong.”
User @NurulxxNisyaa wrote: “I totally respect Rihanna, though it’s not her religion she still wear a hijab to the mosque.”
Rihanna is not the first western performer to upset locals during a visit. Rapper Snoop Dogg, now called by Snoop Lion, was criticised for wearing a kandura.