Saudi officials have reportedly called for the arrest of rapper Ayasel Slay after she uploaded a music video for her feminist anthem “Girl from Mecca” on YouTube. The video shows Ayasel in sunglasses hanging out in a café with a group of children dancing in the background. The lyrics reflect her pride in being a woman from Mecca, home to the holiest site in Islam, where millions flock every year.
“A Mecca girl is all you need/Don’t upset her, she will hurt you,” Ayasel raps in reference to women from Mecca exceeding “all other Saudi women in beauty and strength,” according to Al Jazeera. “With her, you can complete the Sunna [get married]/Your life with her will become Paradise.”
It’s exceedingly common for rappers to pay homage to their neighborhoods, hometowns, and home states in their music. But Saudi officials reportedly don’t see Ayasel’s song as a tribute to her roots. According to The Washington Post, authorities called for her arrest, claiming the song “constituted an act of blasphemy against Islam’s holiest city.”
The outlet reports that Prince Khalid bin Faisal, the governor of Mecca province, said on Twitter that the video “offends the customs and traditions of the people of Mecca and contradicts the elevated identity and traditions of its sons.”
Since then, Ayasel has deleted her official channel and taken down the video.
As Al Jazeera points out, she isn’t the first female rapper from Saudi Arabia to release a music video: In June 2018, rapper Leesa A uploaded a YouTube clip of her rapping behind the wheel of a Hyundai right after the decades-old ban on women driving was lifted.
“I don’t need anyone to take me… Drivers’ license with me,” she says in the video, which remains on YouTube and has racked up nearly 8 million views.
Critics were quick to point out this hypocrisy following the call for Ayasel’s arrest. Twitter users also condemned the inherently racist backlash to the song online, which included calls for the rapper to be deported for her African heritage.
“How do you explain call to arrest Black Saudi woman rapper & misogynoir thrown at her in the country that invited Nicki Minaj to perform? Nicki cancelled citing concerns for women & LGBTQ people & this is a reminder of Mohamed Bin Salman’s hollow reforms,” writer Mona Eltahawy said on Twitter. “It’s important to condemn the Saudi regime’s hypocrisy as well as the anti-Black racism and misogyny that the rapper Ayasel Slay has been subjected to by some of her fellow Saudis.”
Saudi activist Amani Al-Ahmadi told the Post: “The consequences are not equaling the crime, because there is no crime there. It’s obviously targeted against a woman who they feel doesn’t represent what Saudi and Mecca should be.”