- Saudi Arabian Prince Khalid bin Faisal has called for the arrest of a rapper and her production crew after she posted a music video praising women in Mecca to YouTube.
- The song, “Mecca Girls,” features singer Ayasel Slay rapping about how beautiful and strong women in Mecca are in comparison to other cities.
- Bin Faisal has denounced the video as offensive to “the customs and traditions of the people of Mecca.”
- The Saudi Arabian government has faced accusations of racism, with many saying that Ayasel’s arrest has only been ordered because she is of African descent and not part of the Arab ethnic group.
Ayasel Slay Posts “Mecca Girl”
The Saudi Arabian government is calling for the arrest of a singer after she posted a song called “Mecca Girl” to YouTube last week.
That music video features singer/rapper Ayasel Slay dancing in a coffee shop. In it, she raps about women in Mecca, praising them as the strongest and most beautiful in all of Saudi Arabia.
“A Mecca girl is all you need. Don’t upset her, she will hurt you,” she raps at one point.
Notably, Slay, who is reportedly of Eritrean descent, also specifically raps about the beauty of both light- and dark-skinned women, saying: “She’s white, shines like a lightbulb. She’s dark, her beauty stings.”
The end of the music video shows kids dancing and having fun. Like Ayasel, many of the children are black.
While the video has garnered praise from activists, it’s also been hit with heavy religious criticism for featuring Mecca. Though also filmed in Mecca, Saudi Arabia’s holiest city, “Mecca Girl” was not filmed at any religious site. Nonetheless, Muslims consider the entire area sacred.
The mention of Mecca was enough to prompt Prince Khalid bin Faisal, governor of the Mecca province, to call for Ayasel’s arrest, as well as the arrest of her production crew.
In a post to Twitter, he said the music video “offends the customs and traditions of the people of Mecca and contradicts the elevated identity and traditions of its sons.” He then used the hashtag “You_Are_Not_Mecca’s_Girls.”
Following bin Faisal’s call to arrest Ayasel, she reportedly deleted her YouTube channel, also deleting “Mecca Girl” in the process. Numerous copies of the music video have since been posted to YouTube.
Accusations of Racism by the Saudi Government
Though some have argued that Ayasel’s incorporation of Mecca into her song was the reason behind the Saudi government’s retaliation against her, others have said the government is targeting Ayasel specifically because she is black.
“The consequences are not equaling the crime, because there is no crime there,” Seattle-based Saudi activist Amani Al-Ahmadi told The Washington Post. “It’s obviously targeted against a woman who they feel doesn’t represent what Saudi and Mecca should be.”
“It was very modest in nature,” she added. “If anything, it was just talking about how strong women are in the city compared to others… If you changed that city to any other city, you wouldn’t even know the difference. If she wasn’t a woman of color, they wouldn’t have seen her as a minority to target.”
Critics have also pointed to a 2018 music video featuring rapper Leesa, who went viral for singing about the end to a ban that prevented women in Saudi Arabia from driving.
Like “Mecca Girl,” Leesa’s song featured overt messages of female empowerment.
“I don’t need anyone to take me/ I put the seat belt over my abaya,” she raps at one point.
Unlike Ayasel’s performance, Leesa’s was more well-received, with critics noting that ethnically, Leesa is Arab. On the other hand, Slay is of African descent—even if Mecca is her hometown.
Criticism against Ayasel has also made waves on social media, with many people using the “#You_Are_Not_Mecca’s_Girls” hashtag to attack Ayasel.
“Immediate deportation is the answer, in addition to holding every foreigner who claims to be from Mecca accountable,” one person said.
Others, however, doubled down that Ayasel’s arrest warrant wasn’t about race but the fact that she referenced Islam’s most holy city in a song.
Have nothing to do with race, she shouldn’t use the Holy city on in a song.— Mariam Robly (@MariamRobly) February 24, 2020
I don’t where you get ur invitation but there no racist based on ur skin color in Soudi Arabia , if there a racism it’s against a foreigner.
Not everything in Twitter is true.
By Tuesday, many people had taken the “#You_Are_Not_Mecca’s_Girls” hashtag and flooded it with support for Ayasel, and in turn, criticism of the government.
“Had it been an affluent, well connected, light skinned Saudi influencer who created the video it would have been used in MBS’s propaganda as a sign of progress and reform. Double standards & hypocrisy at its best,” one user said.
Had it been an affluent, well connected, light skinned Saudi influencer who created the video it would have been used in MBS’s propaganda as a sign of progress and reform. Double standards & hypocrisy at its best. #لستن_بنات_مكة— MS SΛFFΛΛ صفاء (@MsSaffaa) February 20, 2020
Some people also accused Saudi Arabia of hypocrisy, noting that the country has been trying to change its strict social codes by booking performances from major acts such as Nicki Minaj, BTS, and Liam Payne.
Notably, all of those acts faced their own criticism for agreeing to perform in the country, especially considering Saudi Arabia’s poor track record with women and LGBTQ+ groups. That backlash then prompted Minaj to drop her performance.
“Shout out to the Saudi government for inviting Nicki Minaj to perform in a bid to appear “modern” but banned and arrested an *actual* Black Saudi female rapper who created a banger about her hometown #AsayelSlay,” one user said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, it is unclear still unclear whether or not the Saudi Arabian government has taken any action against Ayasel.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Al Jazeera) (Mashable)
Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Paper Apple Daily Forced To Shut Down Under Government Pressure
Over the last week, Apple Daily has been dealing with the fallout of authorities raiding its offices, arresting its leadership, freezing most of its assets, and leaving it unable to pay employees.
End of Hong Kong Staple
Apple Daily, one of Hong Kong’s most popular papers, announced Wednesday that it would be shutting down starting Thursday.
The news is a major blow to journalism in the city, as Apple Daily was a prominent, independent news outlet that was willing to feature both pro-unification and pro-democracy editorials. It was also known for making its own headlines in its clashes with Beijing and Hong Kong authorities.
The series of events that led to its closure first began last week when over 500 police descended on Apple Daily’s offices to confiscate documents and arrest executives, as well as editors. Authorities also froze over $1,000,000 in assets.
Officials accused the paper of violating Article 28 of the controversial National Security law by advocating for foreign countries to interfere in Chinese affairs and impose sanctions on the mainland and Hong Kong governments. Authorities also arrested one of the paper’s journalists for writing pro-democracy editorials Wednesday morning.
After last week’s raid, Apple Daily said it would continue to publish papers, but following a week of struggling to pay staff and overcome the frozen assets, it was effectively forced to close its doors.
Lamenting the Loss
Around the world, governments and activists have lamented that the Chinese government managed to so quickly and effectively kill a paper and lessen the city’s journalistic landscape. Dominic Raab, the U.K.’s foreign minister, said, “The forced closure of Apple Daily by the Hong Kong authorities is a chilling blow to freedom of expression in Hong Kong.”
“It is crystal clear that the powers under the National Security Law are being used as a tool to curtail freedoms and punish dissent – rather than keep public order.”
The now-exiled in London, pro-democracy activist Nathan Law wrote on Twitter, “More than 1000 workers lost their jobs. A charity operated by Apple Daily that subsidizes underprivileged patients to pay for expensive patent drugs is also closed immediately. They lost all fundings. People lost more than a news channel that dares to speak differently.”
“The govt singlehanded created this tragedy. CCP does not tolerate truth and independent journalism. They crush our civil society, our proud tradition.”
After the paper ran its last video broadcast, Marco Cheung, one of the paper’s senior video reporters said during an interview in Hong Kong on Tuesday, “Is society changing too quickly or is it us that cannot keep up? Maybe we are used to a society with free speech and we have not adjusted yet.”
“We have not yet learned how we ought to survive if we want to stay in Hong Kong as journalists,” Cheung added.
A crowd of people went outside of Apple Daily’s offices on Wednesday to send off the paper, which has continued to remain popular despite the raid and saw its readership rise over the last week.
See what others are saying: (South China Morning Post) (The New York Times) (Reuters)
Filipino President Threatens To Jail Those Who Refuse To Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19
The leader’s remarks come after vaccine hesitancy studies indicated that nearly a third of Filipinos wouldn’t get vaccinated for COVID-19.
“Get Vaccinated or I Will Have You Jailed,” Duterte Warns
President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte threatened to enact some of the strictest COVID-19 measures in the world in a televised address Monday night.
“You choose, get vaccinated or I will have you jailed…. I’m telling you, those police jail cells are filthy and foul-smelling, police are lazy in cleaning,” Duterte warned citizens.
“You get vaccinated, otherwise I will order all the village heads to have a tally of all the people who refuse to get vaccinated,” the president added.
Duterte is known for making hyperbolic comments and Monday’s remarks have possibly proven to be no different.
Justice Minister Menardo Guevarra told reporters Tuesday morning that there are no laws compelling people to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Herminio Roque said vaccines still remain voluntary. Still, Roque noted that compulsory vaccinations were within the powers of the state if it chose to do so through legislation.
Frustration at Growing Crisis
Not all of Duterte’s stances were walked back by officials. His plans to halt in-person classes and enforce mandatory face coverings are still supported by Filipino officials and health experts. While Duterte’s comments come off as draconian, the president argues, “The first wave has really depleted the resources of [the] government. Another one would be disastrous for this country. That is why the stricter you are, the better.”
The Philippines is facing a massive health crisis and widespread vaccine hesitancy. One study from Social Weather Stations, a statistics company, indicated that while 51% of the country trusts the government’s evaluation of COVID-19 vaccines, a majority of people still wouldn’t get them. In May 2021, that same study asked Filipinos whether or not they would take a vaccine if it was approved by the FDA and given for free. A third of respondents said they were unsure, while another third flat out said they would refuse.
This hesitancy has led to low vaccination rates amid a large outbreak over the last two months that has left COVID-19 infection numbers high.
June has consistently seen roughly 7,000 new cases a day, a slight improvement from April and May, but still nearly six times as many daily infections as June 2020.
See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (The New York Times) (CNN)
Japan’s Government To Encourage 4-Day Workweek, Experts Doubt Implementation
Most Japanese companies that offer a four-day workweek don’t pay for the extra day off, which is a major point of concern for employees who don’t want to lose out on income.
Four Days of Pay for Four Days of Work
The government of Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide finalized its annual economic policy guidelines on Friday, which included a push for a four-day workweek option.
The initiative is already facing some pushback by employers, employees, and experts in the country. Some major concerns include how a four-day workweek would be implemented. At the 8.3% of Japanese companies that currently offer an extra day off, that day off is usually unpaid, according to the Ministry of Labor. For those that use it, it’s effectively a pay cut — a major concern for many employees who don’t want to lose out on income.
That pay cut could indicate why it’s rarely used. Yahoo Japan, for instance, offers it and only 100 out of 7000 employees take the extra day off, though a company spokesperson told Kyodo News, “It has been favorably received in general, with some employees saying that it became easier to match their days off with their children’s activities.”
There are also concerns that the extra day off, and the pay cut associated with it, will lead employees to seek part-time jobs to make up for the lost income. Those second jobs could mean that employees effectively have less time off than before and could result in a decrease in productivity, countering any alleged benefits of a four-day workweek.
Despite these concerns, the government thinks offering a four-day workweek would be a net benefit for Japan. It hopes that people will use the extra day to procure other skill sets that will help them gain work in emerging technologies and markets. In general, the government wants to promote “diversified working styles.”
Experts like Yamada Hisashi, vice chairman of the Japan Research Institute, think that any move towards a four-day workweek needs to be clearly spelled out to avoid issues such as pay cuts that motivate employees to stick to five days a week. He told Kyodo News that there were also complications for managers, saying, “Let’s say, if employees take second jobs, it would be difficult for managers to know how long they work in total and to evaluate equally those who take two days off a week and those who take three.”
“From the employees’ standpoint, they would not want to see their income from their main jobs decrease.”
Mixed Implementation With Tangible Benefits
Another criticism of the plan is that the extra day off doesn’t address other societal pressures that cause work-life imbalances. Japanese employees work fewer hours than their Australian, Canadian, Italian, and American counterparts, according to the Organization for the Economic Co-Operation and Development.
However, those numbers usually fail to reflect events such as dinner and drinks with superiors late into the night as often as multiple times a week in some of the most extreme cases. While these events are technically voluntary, societal pressures and traditions dictate that subordinates need to attend or face ostracization.
A four-day workweek has some evidence providing tangible benefits for employers, but whether that means employees get paid the same or receive a pay cut differs from company to company and is one of the things experts want the government to make clear.
In Japan, Microsoft’s local subsidiary experimented with a four-day workweek in 2019 and found a 40% boost in worker productivity. On top of increased productivity, the company also saved 58% on paper, and electricity consumption went down 23%.