The Cable

‘Despacito’ Is Too Sexy for Malaysia, Says Minister

State-owned outlets are prohibited from broadcasting the steamy Latin hit.

CORAL GABLES, FL - APRIL 27:  Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee perform onstage at the Billboard Latin Music Awards at Watsco Center on April 27, 2017 in Coral Gables, Florida.  (Photo by Sergi Alexander/Getty Images)
CORAL GABLES, FL - APRIL 27: Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee perform onstage at the Billboard Latin Music Awards at Watsco Center on April 27, 2017 in Coral Gables, Florida. (Photo by Sergi Alexander/Getty Images)

Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi’s smash hit “Despacito” has taken the world by storm in the past six months. It’s been streamed more than 4.6 billion times since the March release of its popular remix, making it the most-streamed song of all time and the most popular Spanish-language song in history.

Despacito, a Spanish word meaning “slowly,” refers to a style of seduction.

But Muslim-majority Malaysia — or at least its government — has had enough of the song’s catchy Latin beat and steamy lyrics.

Malaysian Communications Minister Salleh Said Keruak announced on July 19 that the song was banned, according to Reuters.

“Despacito will not be aired by the government-owned broadcast stations because we received public complaints,” the minister told AFP.

Malaysia has developed an increasingly strict media censorship regime to combat government criticism and enshrine conservative social mores. Rules promulgated in 2015 forbid films which “mock, belittle, criticise the government and the country’s national sensitivities” or “tarnish the government’s image.” Depictions of women wearing revealing clothing are also subject to restrictions.

The Southeast Asian nation has a unique dual justice system which respects both secular and religious law. Sharia, or Islamic legal codes, apply only to Muslims and relate primarily to marriage, inheritance, and other family matters. The “Despacito” ban results from Malaysia’s strict censorship rather than religious law.

But the impetus to keep Fonsi’s sexy dance moves and “slow” seduction out of the minds of Malaysian youngsters comes in large part from the country’s conservative Islamic groups.

“I see this as a serious matter as the song is being sung by young people without knowing the real meaning of the words,” said Atriza Umar, a representative of Amanah, the women’s wing of a local Islamist party.

Malaysians desperate for “Despacito” can still enjoy the song on privately-owned outlets, however. The ban only extends to state-owned channels.

And since Foreign Policy is not a Malaysian state-owned outlet, feel free to check out the “Despacito” music video below:

Sergi Alexander/Getty Images

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is a contributing writer at Foreign Policy. @BethanyAllenEbr

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