American rapper French Montana’s latest album cover featuring a queue of faceless niqabi women crossing their legs in red latex thigh-high boots has caused outrage amongst Muslim women.
Seen sitting between the veiled women, French Montana – whose real name is Karim Kharbouch – is accused of sexualising Muslim women by diluting the significance of the niqab and presenting women as sexual objects.
The rapper has hit back, saying the artwork for his album is “connecting with his roots” and “freeing Muslim women,” posted the image on Twitter.
You don’t have to change who you are
You can bring people into your own world pic.twitter.com/65SZfP5lSQ
— French Montana (@FrencHMonTanA) September 23, 2019
Prominent professors such as Khaled Beydoun and Veena Dubal also took to the social media platform to express their disappointment at the possibility of the 34-year-old celebrity of Moroccan origins, capitalising on damaging portrayals of Muslim women and failing to “honour his roots”.
No thank you to @FrencHMonTanA’s album cover. Do you have any idea what Muslim women deal with on a daily basis? And here you are oblivious to it all. Profiteering off of Muslim women is not ok. #FrenchMontana
— Ahlam Yassin, MA (@EducateWrite) September 26, 2019
Uhhhh not sure French Montana is “honoring” his roots so much as he is selling them. Also they’re not “his” “roots”—they’re women’s bodies.
French Montana Honors His Muslim Roots On New Album Cover | Power 105.1 FM https://t.co/zry2UhM6gy
— Veena Dubal (@veenadubal) September 26, 2019
Instead, French Montana has disgustingly sexualised and fetished Muslim women in a song about sex and drugs.
The idea of a hijab revolves around modesty. Thigh high red boots and hypersexualised images of niqabis only further perpetuates dangerous narratives
— 🦋مريم (@lil_asiangirl) September 25, 2019
Classing the image as “Islamophobic”, Beydoun said the image “capitalizes on damaging portrayals of Muslim women as faceless showpieces. The women are objectified, and serve the function of providing a provocative backdrop instead of being presented as real, autonomous human beings.”
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I like @FrenchMontana. He does great philanthropic work, his music slaps and he seems like an overall good dude. But this image for his upcoming album is Islamophobic. It capitalizes on damaging portrayals of Muslim women as faceless showpieces. The women are objectified, and serve the function of providing a provocative backdrop instead of being presented as real, autonomous human beings. I get that art should be provocative, but this provokes some of the worst Western stereotypes about #Islam and Muslim women. I could go on, but his being Arab or Muslim doesn’t excuse the problematic use of this image to sell records. Compare it to this ad for the #Showtime series, Homeland, which got considerable and well deserved criticism. What’s the real difference? French should know and do better.
Some focused on his Moroccan heritage, questioning how he can be disrespectful about the religion the country he was born and brought up in practices.
Big contradiction you say "you don't need to change who you are"
but in the photo, you change the hijab, jilbab, Niqaaab, into a fashion, Glamour and Sex symbol,
when it's a symbol of, Monotheism (Tawheed) Worship, Modesty and Religion
— STREETORDEEN.COM (@streetordeen) September 25, 2019
If an actual Niqabi dressed like this I wouldn't comment on it, but it's more the issue that a rapper is basically trying to cash in and sexualize niqabis for his album cover.
— not my real name (@ScooterSamara) September 25, 2019
french montana really tried to sexualize niqabi and hijabi women for his own benefit and is now mad we ain’t praising him for it?
— 🌻 (@rmsjoon) September 25, 2019
The controversial album cover also prompted Twitter users to point out that women who wear the niqab (face veil) are already a minority within the West and heavily stigmatised, saying a cover like this doesn’t help them be included in society.
So french Montana released a song with hijabis/niqabis sexualizing them completely. Coming from a man who claims being muslim how is that right. We go through enough choosing to cover, and now having a video with a niqabi wearing thigh high latex red boots isnt the image.
— Sabrina (@sabrinabokhari) September 24, 2019
— Rahma Rodaah (@RahmaRodaah) September 25, 2019
The French Montana music video is awful. It over sexualises Muslim women who wear hijab/niqab. The last thing a hijabi/niqabi wants is to be sexualised when wearing clothes that is supposed to stop the sexualisation. But yet again men find something to sexualise in covering up!!!
— 𝓮𝓿𝓪 wolfgang (@evaaforevaa) September 24, 2019
— TheNiqabProject (@NiqabThe) September 24, 2019
Others, however, disagreed, arguing that the niqab isn’t a religious symbol but rather a cultural practice which Montana is celebrating and normalising with his art.
idk why everyones pressed about french montanas new album concept like its LITERAL art and i applaud the fact that he is using his platform to represent hijabis and niqabi’s in a modern but still in a RIGHT WAY. i love that. so many of my irls need to stop crying.
— stream TRAMPOLINE (@drunkfallz) September 25, 2019
Hijab and niqab are part of arab culture not Islam. French Montana’s video is based on his culture and not on his religion. Get the facts right before you get triggered. Idiots.
— Aisha|عائشة (@Aisha_I_) September 28, 2019
French Montana emigrated to the US from Rabat, Morocco, at the age of 13 and has since become one of the biggest names in hip-hop. He has always been vocal about his Moroccan roots and Muslim upbringing, making it a focal point of his public image.
He has also become the first ambassador for the “I stand with Immigrants” campaign, which aims to encourage US citizens to “celebrate the monumental contributions that immigrants have made and continue to make every day.
His latest album, simply titled “MONTANA”, is expected to be released on 8 November.