Akon saddened by Sri Lanka uproar

Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:22pm EDT
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By C. Bryson Hull

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Singer Akon on Wednesday said he was disheartened Sri Lanka planned to deny him a visa to perform on the Indian Ocean island nation, after Buddhists angered by a video he appeared in staged a violent protest.

Akon's international booking agents, American Talent Agency, said in a statement they had postponed the show until the safety of both the performers and fans could be guaranteed, but were working to secure a new date.

On Monday, hundreds of rock-throwing protesters attacked the headquarters of Sri Lanka's largest private broadcaster, which was the media sponsor of Akon's planned April concert in the Buddhist-majority nation. Four people were injured.

The protesters were apparently angered by the "Sexy Bitch" video by French DJ David Guetta featuring Akon, in which a statue of the Buddha on top of a building appears briefly in the background as dozens of scantily dressed women dance near a pool.

"I was not aware that the statue was even on the set of the video until now. I would never set out to offend or desecrate anyone's religion or religious beliefs," Akon said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the government said it would deny Akon a visa to enter the country as a result of the religious uproar.

"I myself am a spiritual man, so I can understand why they are offended, but violence is never the answer and I am disheartened," Akon said.

Sri Lanka's Buddhist clergy are hugely influential in ordinary life and politics, and in the past hardline Sinhalese nationalists have become violent against those they see as offending Buddhism.

In December 2004, a hand grenade attack at a concert by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan that killed two people and wounded 19 was blamed on Sinhalese nationalists angry the concert fell on the first anniversary of the death of a renowned Buddhist monk.

(Editing by Alex Richardson)