Deeyah is forced to hire bodyguards for UK tour after death threats from religious extremists
A Muslim pop singer has been forced to hire bodyguards to protect her during a visit to Britain next month after she received a string of death threats from religious extremists.
US-based Deeyah is due in London next month to promote a new single and video, released tomorrow. But the track “What Will It Be?” has already outraged hardline Islamists here as it promotes women’s rights.
Her performances with a clutch of male dancers and revealing outfits have also deeply offended many Muslims. In one scene in her latest video, the singer drops a burqa covering her body to reveal a bikini.
That has attracted vitriol from some quarters. The 28-year-old singer claims that in the past she has been spat upon in the street and told that her family would be in danger if she did not tone down her work. The situation is now so bad that Deeyah feels she cannot visit Britain without protection. “I can no longer walk around without specially assigned bodyguards,” she told The Independent on Sunday. “I would be lying if I said abuse from religious fanatics didn’t upset or scare me.”
Deeyah was originally a singer of classical Indian music and lived in the UK until just over a year ago. But she claims to have been shocked by the reaction to her shift to pop music accompanied by raunchy videos.
“I had no plan to court controversy or anger people in my community. I wanted to make people think and confront my own fears as a Muslim woman,” she said. Soon, though, she was dubbed “the Muslim Madonna”. And then came hate mail and abuse from extremists.
“I have been on the verge of a breakdown. Middle-aged men have spat at me in the street and I have had people phone me and tell me they were going to cut me up into pieces. I became this figure of hate simply because of what I do and wear.”
Despite moving to Atlanta last year, a UK-based campaign against her has continued. Her website has been plagued by aggressive bloggers, and threatening calls pour in. Despite this, Deeyah, who was born in Norway of Iranian and Pakistani parentage, remains keen to return to Britain. “I miss London,” she said, adding that she wanted to inspire British Muslim women.
“I receive letters and emails from women saying I am doing a good job. Putting my life at risk no longer bothers me. That so many women – Muslim women included – are abused by people in their own religion and communities does.”