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Why Are People Mad At BTS’ RM For Sharing A Frank Ocean Song?

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

You don’t get to be among the most popular and influential people on Earth without courting a few controversies and BTS and its members are no strangers to their share of Internet outrage. The most recent member to face the wrath of anonymous users on the Internet is the leader RM, or Kim Namjoon.

Why are people angry at RM from BTS now?

Fans and online followers of RM are well-aware of the rapper’s habit to share some song recommendations on his Stories. The artist regularly promotes fellow rappers and singers on his Stories, often introducing lesser-known performers to his legions of fans. On Wednesday, RM shared a screenshot of himself listening to Frank Ocean’s ‘Bad Religion’. While many fans responded positively to the recommendation, many took offence.

In case you didn’t know, the song, which is a part of Ocean’s critically acclaimed 2012 album Channel Orange, is one of his most controversial songs as it’s considered to be Islamophobic (more on that ahead). Soon #RMApologiseToMuslims started trending on X (Twitter, for those of you who’re living under a rock) and many people began criticising the BTS leader for promoting a song that was hurtful to the religious sentiments of Muslims across the world.

Is Frank Ocean’s ‘Bad Religion’ Islamophobic?

The controversy around ‘Bad Religion’ is not anything new. The song was groundbreaking for a lot of reasons, one of the major ones being that this was one of the few instances where a mainstream hip-hop artist openly talked about homosexuality in a raw and honest way. At the time of the release, Ocean had explained that the song was about unrequited love and dealing with the pain of rejection. He sings, “It’s a, it’s a bad religion. To be in love with someone. Who could never love you. Oh, oh, oh, only bad, only bad religion. Could have me feeling the way I do.”

The song begins with Ocean baring his heart to a taxi driver who advises him to turn to religion to deal with the pain he’s feeling, to which he responds singing, “And you say ‘Allahu Akbar’. I told him, ‘Don’t curse me.’ ‘Bo Bo, you need prayer’. I guess it couldn’t hurt me. If it brings me to my knees, it’s a bad religion.”

The inclusion of the phrase ‘Allahu Akbar’, which translates to ‘God is great’ in Arabic and is a common phrase used by Muslims worldwide, led to many people believing that Ocean is criticising Islam in the song.

However, one interpretation of the song is that Ocean is talking about how difficult it is to align your religious beliefs with your sexuality. Especially in the current atmosphere, where even today there’s so much hate being perpetuated in the name of religion against the LGBTQ+ community. Ocean, who came out as bisexual in 2012, did clarify that the song is about his personal experience and should be taken that way.

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Over the years, the lyrics have also held a special place in the hearts of young queer people across the world who have to go through the struggle of aligning their religious beliefs with their sexuality. The line, “I guess it couldn’t hurt me. If it brings me to my knees, it’s a bad religion,” has been interpreted by many theorists to be about Ocean’s disdain towards many religions’ attitude towards homosexuality and how it dictates who you can love and who you cannot.

Should RM apologise for his recommendation?

As the leader of BTS, RM has been a strong advocate of self love, equality and standing up for what you believe in. The rapper has used platforms like the UN General Assembly and the White House to spread this message to the world.

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In the past, he has also been criticised for writing misogynistic lyrics in his raps and the songs for BTS, of which he had taken full responsibility for and apologised to his fans publicly on several occasions. He also took the initiative to consult a Women’s Studies professor about what he did wrong while writing the lyrics and how he can improve in the future. This just goes on to show that he is aware of the responsibility he holds as an influential celebrity and is not afraid to own up to his mistakes

When it comes to this case, the song is open to interpretation. Like any good piece of art, it’s complex and subjective. RM sharing the song on his Instagram Stories should not be taken without context.

Till now, the rapper hasn’t addressed the controversy around this and till then, allegations and speculations should be kept to a minimum. What do you think?