Akon falls foul of Lanka Buddhist monks

COLOMBO: US singer Akon will not be granted a visa to visit Sri Lanka for a sell-out concert after Buddhist monks and almost 12,000 people on social media site Facebook took offence at one of his videos.

A group of monks lobbied the government to stop the star’s planned visit because of a music video that featured women in bikinis dancing around a pool in front of a Buddha statue.

The offending video was for the R&B star’s “Sexy Bitch” hit, set on the Spanish party island of Ibiza.

Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said there was no application for a visa by Akon or his entourage, but the government had taken a decision not to allow him into the country to perform at the concert scheduled for April 24.

“He has not applied for a visa yet, but we will refuse him if he does ask for one,” a spokesman for the ministry said. Director General of Information Anusha Pelpita said Colombo took Buddhist sensitivities and other protests into account. The show was reported to have sold out with tickets priced at 25,000 rupees (217 dollars).

Thousands of Sri Lankans had also banded together to form a “We Hate AKON” group on Facebook, the social networking site, which counted 11,700 fans today.

“We hate Akon. Please stop insulting a religion. Save Buddhism,” said one posting.

Majority-Buddhist Sri Lanka projects itself as a secular country, but it is highly sensitive to the use of religious images for commercial purposes. Six years ago, Sri Lanka’s police and customs were ordered to seize albums from plush lounge bar and restaurant chain Buddha Bar which depicted the Buddha, as well as bikinis with Buddha motifs.

Authorities have already banned candles in the shape of the Buddha.

Akon, a Grammy Award-nominated star, recently announced a foray into Bollywood in India with a contribution to the soundtrack of “RA.One,” a sci-fi action film currently in production starring heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan.