Coldplay concert to go ahead in Malaysia amid opposition from conservative Muslims
A Coldplay concert is going ahead in Malaysia on Wednesday despite opposition from conservative Muslims in the country, but the band could face a “kill switch” that cuts off the show if they seriously offend cultural sensibilities.
Following outcry over a same-sex kiss between members of the 1975 at a Kuala Lumpur concert in July, earlier this month deputy communications and digital minister Teo Nie Ching introduced a ruling that concert organisers must have “a kill switch that will cut off electricity during any performance if there is any unwanted incident”.
Communications and digital minister Fahmi Fadzilit said use of the switch is “one of the things we have discussed with the organiser” of Coldplay’s Kuala Lumpur concert, but said he didn’t foresee problems. “The prime minister has also said the band is very supportive of Palestine. So, we are upbeat about the concert today,” he said.
Prime minister Anwar Ibrahim told the country’s parliament earlier this week: “Why should we stop a group that supports the Palestinian cause from performing?” He had been asked whether the concert was inappropriate during the conflict in Gaza.
Chris Martin recently told an audience in Japan: “We don’t believe in oppression, or occupation, terrorism or genocide … you can send [love and kindness] to Gaza and Israel, you can send it to the West Bank,” also naming Azerbaijan, Armenia, Ukraine, Russia, Iran, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2011, Coldplay promoted the charity single Freedom for Palestine on their Facebook page, and in 2019 collaborated with Palestinian band Le Trio Joubran on the song Arabesque, included on the album Everyday Life.
Conservative Muslims in Malaysia have opposed Coldplay’s concert due to the band’s support for the LGBTQ+ community. Ahmad Fadhli Shaari, information chief of Islamic party PAS, said in parliament: “This is not about whether they purely support the Palestinian cause or not but the issue of hedonism culture that they bring to our community.” In a post on social media in May, PAS called for the cancellation of the concert, saying the band encouraged “a culture of hedonism and perversion”, pairing the statement with a picture of Martin holding a rainbow flag.
Police forces and concert promoter Live Nation Malaysia have warned concertgoers not to behave provocatively, the latter asking them to be “mindful of local cultures and sensitivities”.
Last week, conservative Muslim demonstrators clashed with police outside Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, where Coldplay were performing. A banner reportedly read: “Reject, cancel and disband Coldplay concerts.” Indonesian politicians also opposed the concert, with Anwar Abbas of the Indonesian Ulema Council saying: “We know that Coldplay supports LGBT+, but now the question is, is the LGBT+ behaviour in line with … our constitution? There are six religions recognised in this country, and not one of them allows and tolerates LGBT+ practice.”
Both conservative Muslims and Malaysia’s LGBTQ+ community were critical of the kiss between the 1975’s Matty Healy and Ross MacDonald on stage in Kuala Lumpur in July. The entire Good Vibes festival was cut short following the swift cancellation of the 1975’s set, prompting the festival to began legal proceedings against the band.
Healy remains unrepentant, telling a crowd at a Texas concert in October that the kiss was a longstanding part of their stage show: “To eliminate any routine part of the show in an effort to appease the Malaysian authorities’ bigoted views of LGBTQ people would be a passive endorsement of those politics. As liberals are so fond of saying, ‘Silence causes violence, use your platform’, so we did that … If you truly believe that artists have a responsibility to uphold their liberal virtues by using their massive platforms, then those artists should be judged by the danger and inconvenience that they face for doing so, not by the rewards they receive for parroting consensus.”
Coldplay, meanwhile, continue their Music of the Spheres tour, which began in March 2022 and aims to reduce carbon emissions by 50% compared with their previous world tour. Excluding the current east Asian leg, it has grossed $668m so far, and will continue into 2024 with 37 dates across Europe and Oceania. There is a conspicuous gap in their European tour schedule over the weekend of the 2024 Glastonbury festival, leading fans to hope for a fifth headline set there.
Beaumont-Thomas, B. (n.d.). Coldplay concert to go ahead in Malaysia amid opposition from conservative Muslims. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2023/nov/22/coldplay-concert-to-go-ahead-in-malaysia-amid-opposition-from-conservative-muslims