The Malaysian government has agreed to let Muslims attend a concert by U.S. hip-hop stars Black Eyed Peas, reversing an earlier ban imposed because the show is sponsored by an alcoholic beverage company, officials said Wednesday.
Ticket sales opened to Muslims on Wednesday for the Sept. 25 show, backed by Irish beer giant Guinness, said Bonor Seen, marketing manager for organizer Artiste World Entertainment.
A Culture Ministry official, who declined to be named citing ministry policy, said the ban was lifted late last week and a letter was sent to the organizer.
She did not give further details or say why the government lifted the ban, which had caused an outcry in the Muslim-majority nation.
The protest reflects growing conflicts between moderate and conservative Muslims, including many occupying positions of power in the government and judiciary, in a country that has long been considered a moderate society in the Islamic world.
Government regulations forbid alcohol companies from organizing public concerts. But this one - part of worldwide celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of Guinness' flagship brewery in Dublin - was allowed in order to boost tourism, although with the initial condition that Muslims would be kept away.
The controversy is the latest over alcohol in Malaysia, where 60 percent of the 28 million people are Muslims who are governed by Islamic Shariah laws. Ethnic Chinese, Indians and other non-Muslims are governed by civil laws and can buy and drink alcohol.
Although Islamic laws forbid the consumption of alcohol, it is considered a punishable offense only in three of Malaysia's 13 states. A Muslim woman who drank beer in public in one of those states was sentenced to caning by an Islamic court in July, a punishment that also upset many moderate Muslims. Authorities later agreed to review the penalty.
Uncertainty over the Black Eyed Peas concert was not a first for Galaxy, the parent company of Artiste World Entertainment.
Last year the government threatened to put off a Galaxy-organized concert by Canadian pop-rock star Avril Lavigne though in the end it went ahead.
Shows by Lavigne and other artists such as Gwen Stefani have faced protests by conservative Muslims over immodest clothing, forcing the artists to don attire that revealed little skin. While Lavigne and Stefani performed, other artists have shunned Malaysia.
The Black Eyed Peas have topped Billboard's Hot 100 singles charts for the past 20 consecutive weeks, the most ever by an act.
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