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M.I.A faces backlash over Afropunk headliner slot

The festival is under pressure to cancel the rapper’s appearance following her controversial comments on Black Lives Matter

M.I.A has been criticised for accepting a headlining slot at London’s upcoming Afropunk festival, following controversial comments she made on the Black Lives Matter movement.

The “Borders” rapper, who is known for her outspoken views on the refugee crisis, divided fans back in April when she publicly criticised political activism in America. “It's interesting that in America the problem you're allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter,” she told ES Magazine. “Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters? That's a more interesting question.”

M.I.A – real name Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam – was eventually forced to clarify her comments on Twitter; telling followers that it wasn’t initially meant to be an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement. “I'm not Muslim,” she added. “My question was, on American platforms what do they allow you to stand up for in 2016?”

Unfortunately, though, it seems like many are still unhappy with the rapper’s explanation. After being announced as a headliner at Afropunk last Wednesday (a festival dedicated to promoting “education, political awareness and self-empowerment”), she has been hit with waves of heavy criticism over her “anti-black” views. In more extreme cases, some attendees have even been threatening to boycott the festival until the rapper is removed from the lineup.

“Disgusting,” one reddit user wrote. “(This is) a slap in the face to black people everywhere. After what she said she shouldn't be getting any kind of business from any pro-black venues, and she she shouldn't be a headlining act regardless. Was Afropunk sold to a white company recently or something?”

After hearing news of the backlash, M.I.A released a series of tweets defending the decision. “It's not the first time my words have been twisted,” she wrote. “Accusing me of racism is no better then being accused of terrorism – yet the number of people killed by Americans stamped wars continue.” See below:

The rapper went further in a series of deleted tweets, revealing that the festival paid her “less than any” she’d done in the past. “Afropunk owner is mixed black and Israeli,” she went on. “To pull Afropunk festival to a statement ‘black people should play black festivals’ denies the only power music had in the to unite peeps.”

“Ultimately by not understanding my original statement and seeing it as anti anything actually protects the very system your fighting (sic),” she added.

Afropunk festival has declined to comment on the situation, though organisers state that they will “address fans in their own time”.

UPDATE: M.I.A has now officially pulled out of the festival, adding on Twitter that she has been told to “stay in her lane.”