Nicki Minaj sparks debate by signing to perform in Saudi Arabia

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BILBAO, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 04:  Nicki Minaj performs on stage during the MTV EMAs 2018 on November 4, 2018 in Bilbao, Spain.  (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Nicki Minaj baffles fans by signing on for Saudi Arabia music festival (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Rapper Nicki Minaj has raised eyebrows by announcing she is to perform in Saudi Arabia.

The Super Bass singer - who is widely known for her provocative outfits and sexually explicit lyrics - is set to headline the Jeddah World Fest in the ultraconservative country on 18 July.

Upon hearing the news, one Twitter user wrote: "Imagine waking up from a three year coma and the first thing you hear is Nicki Minaj [is] opening a musical festival in Saudi Arabia... I'd honestly think I woke up in some parallel universe.”

"No one in Saudi Arabia googled Nicki Minaj, did they?" another joked.

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Other reactions were more serious, as they drew attention to the nation’s repressive views on gender. One Saudi woman voiced her disappointment in a video online, criticising the government for allowing artists like Minaj to perform when women attending the gig will be required to wear a full-length robe.

“She’s going to go and shake her ass and all her songs are indecent and about sex and shaking ass and then you tell me to wear the abaya,” she says. “What the hell?”

The video has since been deleted.

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University of London professor Arshin Adib-Moghaddam added: “At some stage it will be difficult for #SaudiArabia to mitigate the cultural gap between letting @NICKIMINAJ perform, and women having to seek the permission to travel from male relatives.”

“Might I suggest that letting women drive might be a better way of signalling to the world that Saudi Arabia is modernizing?” another tweeted.

Elsewhere, others accused Minaj of hypocrisy having signed on to perform in a country where homosexuality is illegal less than a week after she was seen at a gay pride event.

“You seen 'queer ally' Nicki minaj is doing a concert for Saudi royals? Only 3 days ago she was making her pink dollar at pride,” they explained. “Now she's off getting her homophobe dollar!”

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Minaj isn’t the first big name to be slammed for performing in Saudi Arabia. Back in January, Mariah Carey’s publicists had to defend the singer from activists who claimed, “the Saudi government is using entertainment to distract the people from human rights abuses because it can sense the anger among the public.”

They responded: “Mariah accepted the opportunity as a positive step towards the dissolution of gender segregation”

Jeddah World Fest will be broadcast globally by MTV. Other performers this year include DJ Steve Aoki and Liam Payne.