Led by Vogue Arabia in the province of Al Ula, 300 kilometers from the holy city of Madinah, the photo session featured famous models such as Kate Moss.
Rabat – Several Muslim internet users have expressed anger regarding a recent Vogue Arabia photoshoot of female models that took place in the region of Madinah in Saudi Arabia, one of the holiest places in the Muslim world.
The shoot took place in the province of Al Ula, 300 kilometers from the holy city of Madinah. The session captured famous models such as Kate Moss, Candice Swanepoel, and Alek Wek.
The images are part of the fall 2020 campaign for Lebanese-born designer Eli Mizrahi’s luxury fashion label, Monot. Vogue Arabia featured the campaign on July 8, and the backlash ensued.
Muslims often opt to visit Madinah before conducting the ritual Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca. It is the site where the Islamic prophet Muhammad is buried.
Controversy among Muslim netizens
Given the religious importance the area carries for Muslims, some internet users considered the act to be inappropriate and unworthy of the area’s holiness.
حملة تصوير عارضات منحطات لمجلة أجنبية في العلا بالمدينة المنورة تهز أركان كل مؤمن وتحزن القلب والله.
أين مشايخ وعلماء السلطان؟
هذا هو خراب المدينة
وإنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون! https://t.co/RYzwEY7gH0
— سُمَيّة (@somaia_kamal) July 10, 2020
“A campaign of photographing decadent models of a foreign magazine in Al-Ula, Madinah, shakes the pillars of every believer and makes the heart of every muslim grief … This is the ruin of Madinah,” wrote one Twitter user.
Meanwhile, others compared the photoshoot and Turkey’s recent decision to convert the Hagia Sophia Museum into a mosque, remarking on the significant contrast between the two nations in preserving the sanctity of places of worship.
— Mohammad_Toba (@mohammad_toba) July 10, 2020
“A wonderful paradox. The Adhan [call for prayer] are raised in the Hagia Sophia, while naked prostitutes are being filmed in the cleanest land on the face of earth …”
بينما تسجن السعوديات مثل #لجين_الهذلول بسبب المطالبة بحقوق مثل قيادة السيارة ويفرض علىهن ارتداء زي محدد بموجب قانون الذوق العام يُسمح لعارضات الأزياء أن يرتدين ملابس شبه عارية في مدينة رسول الله https://t.co/lMSPzUgqZs
— حياة اليماني 🦌 (@HaYatElYaMaNi) July 10, 2020
Another tweet reflected the paradox of the situation, given that Saudi Arabia forces women to comply with a strict dress code, based on religion.
“While Saudi women, such as #Lujain_Hathloul, are imprisoned for demanding rights such as driving and requiring them to wear a specific costume … models are allowed to wear semi-nude clothes in the city of the messenger of God.”
Commenting on the photoshoot, designer Mizrahi told Vogue: “Looking at the landscape, it is a self-reflection symbolizing what you can do …”
Why do a Vogue photoshoot near Madinah?
In a March 2020 interview on the matter, Mizrahi said, “When I saw Maraya (the mirror), I was completely in awe … it symbolized self-reflection and alter ego, and in that moment I knew that was the place I wanted to shoot my campaign. I also felt a strong connection to the Arab culture because of my own Lebanese background.”
Allowing Vogue magazine to conduct photoshoots of foreign models in Saudi Arabia follows the kingdom’s publicized campaign of easing restrictions facing women, led by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS).
Since MBS took control of the country in 2017, given his father’s health incapacity, Saudi Arabia has known a wave of changes in terms of liberties, such as the opening of cinemas and nightclubs, and allowing women to drive.