Celebrated American rapper and business mogul Shawn Carter, popularly known by his stage name Jay Z, has used his stardom to promote Kenya’s tourism industry by donning a T-shirt promoting the magical island of Lamu. Jay Z was spotted wearing the Kenyan-inspired design while leaving a California restaurant on Tuesday, March 31st. The T-shirt was designed by a Kenyan, Zeddie Lukoye of Blkburd Genes, a local company which has been on a mission to educate people around the world about history, nature, and current affairs.
The move, however, has elicited anger and prompted the Riyadha Mosque’s management, under its Secretary General Abubakar Badawy, to write a letter to Mr Lukoye compelling him to come out publicly and apologize.
“We don’t consider this an honor, nor a privilege, for the historical mosque and its Founder Habib Swaleh for its imagery to be portrayed in such a way. Bars and clubs are an affront to the spiritual respect and dignity of the mosque, its founder, to the congregation, and the general Muslim community within and outside Lamu. We therefore politely request you to show respect for the mosque by removing our Mosque’s portrait on the shirt, to show us that you really do respect the people of Lamu and the Mosque.”, stated Mr Badawy in the letter.
The chairman of the Coast Interfaith Council of Clerics (CICC), Mohamed Abdulkadir said it was illogical for the Mr Lukoye to associate a religious symbol like that of Riyadha Mosque with worldly things. He wrote: “He should understand that what he did was wrong not only for Riyadha Mosque but Islam in general. You cannot associate a religious minaret with worldly things. You print a T-Shirt with a logo that might end up in clubs and bars. Let him apologize.”
Founded in the late 19th century, the Riyadha mosque in Lamu is the oldest, and one of the most influential Islamic teaching institutions in the Swahili world. Does this move by the designer shine a light on African culture and tourism? Or do you think religious heritages shouldn’t be associated with “worldly things”? Your opinion below.