Madonna has mounted a strong defence of her devotion to the Kabbalah faith, saying: “It would be less controversial if I joined the Nazi party.”
She dismissed claims the religion is a cult and suggested people should be more tolerant.
Madonna and her husband Guy Ritchie have been ridiculed for their devotion to the Jewish-based religious group, which is in the headlines following the house arrest in Israel of one of its leading figures.
But in an interview in America she said it is “very strange that it’s so disturbing to people”, adding: “It’s not hurting anybody.” Madonna, 47, likened herself to Tom Cruise, whose devotion to Scientology has similarly alienated fans and drawn negative press. “If it makes Tom Cruise happy, I don’t care if he prays to turtles. And I don’t think anybody else should,” she said.
Madonna – who says she has given up acting but wants to direct films – believes people are negative about both belief systems because they have so little understanding. “‘What do you mean you study the Torah if you’re not Jewish?'” she asks rhetorically.
“‘What do you mean you pray to God and wear sexy clothes? We don’t understand this’. It frightens people. So they try to denigrate it or trivialise it so that it makes more sense.” She admitted she became angry when people accused Kabbalah of being a cult.
“We’re all in a cult,” she said. “In this cult we’re not encouraged to ask questions. And if we do ask questions, we aren’t going to get a straight answer. The world’s in the cult of celebrity. That’s the irony of it.”
Her statements came as it emerged that the guru who first drew her to Kabbalah had been placed under house arrest by a Tel Aviv court on suspicion of extorting more than ?28,000 from a terminally ill cancer patient.
Shaul Youdkevitch and a number of rabbis running the Israel Kabbalah Centre are accused of persuading Leah Zonis and her husband Boris to make what they called a “significant and painful donation” if she wanted to recover, and sold her bottles of “holy water” under the Kabbalah label at inflated prices.
Madonna last year visited Israel to attend a five-day spiritual retreat at a five-star Tel Aviv hotel. During the visit she made a midnight pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, one of Kabbalah’s spiritual leaders.
During the interview she also dismissed complaints about her transformation from a controversial pop star to an apparently conservative mother with a taste for horse riding.
“I am still asking the question ‘Why?’ Just because I’m a mother doesn’t mean I’m not still a rebel and that I don’t want to go in the face of convention and challenge the system,” she said.
She insists her pop career is still central to her character. “I’m not thinking of quitting,” she said. “I ain’t going nowhere.”