The backlash to Katy Perry’s Egyptian-inspired video for “Dark Horse” has created a perfect storm of controversy — and there’s no going back.
The Egyptian-themed clip features Perry as Cleopatra, sitting on a throne as suitors try to woo her — and it’s been applauded by Egyptologists for its historical accuracy. Yet it’s not accusations of cultural appropriation that are plaguing Perry in the wake of the video’s Feb. 20 release, but charges of blasphemy. An online petition launched on Change.org is demanding that YouTube remove the video because it shows one of Perry’s suitors wearing a pendant that is inscribed with “Allah” in Arabic script. More problematic still: Katy Patra is then seen burning the suitor — and his pendant.
The full text of the petition, which was started by 22-year-old Shazad Iqbal, reads:
At 01:15 into the video Dark Horse a man is shown being burned, whilst wearing a pendant (also burned) forming the word ‘Allah’, which is the arabic word for God. Such goes to show, that blasphemy is clearly conveyed in the video, since Katy Perry (who appears to be representing an opposition of God) engulfs the believer and the word God in flames.
This is the reason for lodging the petition so that people from different walks of life, different religions and from different parts of the world, agree that the video promotes blasphemy, using the name of God in an irrelevant and distasteful manner would be considered inappropriate by any religion. We hope that the video itself depicting such images is removed. Such acts are not condoned nor tolerated, we hope YouTube will remove the video.
So far, more than 57,000 people have added their names to the petition.
Perry has yet to respond, though it’s probable that her use of the pendant was an oversight. But it’s not the first time she’s found herself at the center of controversy. Late last year, Perry was criticized for her geisha-themed performance at the American Music Awards after some viewers found it offensive. Funnily enough, several Egyptologists told TIME’s Lily Rothman that Perry actually nailed many of her references to ancient Egypt in “Dark Horse.” The video’s director, Mathew Cullen, also told TIME that they put effort into researching Ancient Egypt.
Perhaps next time, they’ll think to do the same for Arabic.