PETALING JAYA, Oct 28 — Popular K-pop group NCT U is courting controversy after featuring an Islamic shrine and a religious text in one of their recent live shows.
The boyband came under fire after performing their single Make A Wish (Birthday Song) last weekend on the Korean music show Inkigayo, which used images of the Imam Husayn Shrine and a line from an Islamic prayer text on the stage’s backdrop.
The Imam Husayn Shrine is a mosque located in Karbala, Iraq where Prophet Muhammad’s grandson and the third imam of Shia Islam, Husayn ibn Ali, was laid to rest.
It is considered a sacred religious site for Shia Muslims, with many making pilgrimages to Karbala each year to observe the anniversary of Husayn’s martyrdom.
Fans and critics of NCT U have argued that it was wrong of the band to use religious imagery as mere “decorations” when Shia Muslims are regularly targeted by sectarian violence in various Islamic countries.
“It's beyond disrespectful to use such text in the performance. Please stop using our religion for your concepts or aesthetic purposes, this is not okay,” wrote one Twitter user.
“I am a Sunni and it pains me to see this! Nobody's belief should be used as an aesthetic,” said another.
these banners and words are more than just decorations. us shia’s get ostracized and hunted down every year during muharram for mourning and yet our words and duaa’s used for mourning are used as decoration in a country where it’s ppl know nothing of shia’s and our struggles. https://t.co/TTywBJQw1W— ً (@iivres) October 25, 2020
Because no one is talking about this, if you still don't know, nct today displayed a sentence from a prayer Muslim Shias use, as a part of their stage background and for aesthetic purposes, what happened today at the performance is beyond disrespectful for all Muslims to be clear pic.twitter.com/zwoEs72NFj— næ ✸ (@aotpatriotic) October 25, 2020
NCT U has been hit with accusations of cultural and religious appropriation since the release of the music video for Make A Wish (Birthday Song), which featured clothing and set designs inspired by Middle Eastern and Indian imagery.
Other live performances of the song have also been criticised after members sported turbans and made mudras, or ritual gestures from Dharmic religions including Hinduism and Buddhism.
dejun and taeyong did mudras. as an indian i just want to say, yes it is disrespectful and i will not defend my favs for it. pic.twitter.com/c5if6PUT3s— ashlynn¹²⁷ loves T1419!! (@mysticalpolaro) October 22, 2020
Several NCT U fans have kickstarted email campaigns to demand that TV network SBS remove the offensive Inkigayo performance from online platforms.
NCT U debuted back in 2016 as a subunit of NCT, a 23-member boyband under SM Entertainment that is currently promoting their sophomore album NCT Resonance Pt. 1.