Rihanna Faced Accusations of Islamophobia After Her 2020 Savage X Fenty Show

Every year, Rihanna‘s Savage X Fenty lingerie show outdoes itself by bringing in diverse models from all over the world and showcasing the power of inclusion. This year’s festivities were a little different given the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was an entirely safe production thanks to Rih’s guidance.

Rihanna attending a charity event
Rihanna on the red carpet | Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty shows differ greatly from Victoria’s Secret’s

For many years, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was the Super Bowl event of the lingerie world. In 2018, the brand and the show came under fire after former executive Ed Razek said that Victoria’s Secret doesn’t hire trans or plus-size models because “the show is a fantasy.”

When Rihanna launched her Savage X Fenty brand, she did everything that Victoria’s Secret — and every other brand in the industry — wasn’t doing. Her casting for every campaign and the models she’s used for print and runway work come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, and genders.

Rihanna discussed this choice in a segment during this year’s show, and says it’s reflective of both her own personal world and the people she’s surrounded by as well as the world at large.

Rihanna attends the launch of her first visual autobiography, “Rihanna” | Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Rihanna faced criticism after this year’s Savage X Fenty show

The 2020 Savage X Fenty show drew praise for once again having an extremely inclusive cast, with trans models, plus-size models, drag queens, and more all stomping the runway in their sexiest Savage lingerie. But the brand and the show has since been criticized for one segment in particular.

At one point in the show, RuPaul’s Drag Race queens Shea Couleé and Gigi Goode served face as they walked toward the camera while an energetic electronic song played. The song is a 2017 track called “Doom” by London-based producer Coucou Chloe, and the vocals that the song samples are from a Muslim hadith.

Hadiths are regarded in Islam to be the direct sayings and teachings of the prophet Muhammad. The hadith recited in “Doom” discusses the end of time and the world as we know it. Many Muslims were upset with its usage in a lingerie show and felt it was disrespectful to the teachings of Islam and to the Muslim community around the world.

Alek Wek walks the runway for the 2019 Savage X Fenty | Craig Barritt/Getty Images

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Rihanna and Coucou Chloe both apologized

The backlash against the song choice began after the show’s premiere on Amazon Prime Video, and Coucou Chloe issued an apology on Twitter.

“I want to deeply apologize for the offense caused by the vocal samples used in my song ‘DOOM.’ The song was created using samples from baile funk tracks I found online. At the time, I was not aware that these samples used text from an Islamic hadith,” she said. “I take full responsibility for the fact I did not research these words properly and want to thank those of you who have taken the time to explain this to me. We have been in the process of having the song urgently removed from all streaming platforms.”

Rihanna shortly followed up with her own apology on her Instagram story, taking full responsibility for the song’s inclusion in the show.

“I’d like to thank the Muslim community for pointing out a huge oversight that was unintentionally offensive in our Savage X Fenty show. I would more importantly like to apologize to you for this honest, yet careless mistake,” Rih said. “We understand that we have hurt many of our Muslim brothers and sisters, and I’m incredibly disheartened by this!”

Rihanna continues by saying that this isn’t a matter that she takes lightly and that she won’t be making the same mistake again. “I do not play with any kind of disrespect toward God or any religion and therefore the use of the song in our project was completely irresponsible!” she said honestly. “Moving forward we will make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”