Coldplay, Britney Spears, Foo Fighters, and now... Celine Dion. These are just a few of the big names who've given Malaysia a miss in their recent concert tours, opting to stop by neighbouring countries instead.
Last week, the Canadian diva announced that she will be embarking on a seven-city tour of Asia this year, which will see her performing in Tokyo, Macau, Singapore, Jakarta, Taipei, Manila, and Bangkok. Malaysia, which she last visited in 2008 for her 'Taking Chances World Tour', was noticeably missing from the line-up.
In addition to Celine Dion, several international artists - namely Katy Perry, Fall Out Boy, The Script, and Harry Styles - have also confirmed dates for the Asian leg of their concert tours sans Malaysia (at least, for the time being).
In a report by The Malaysian Insight, entertainment industry insiders revealed that international artistes are snubbing Malaysia due to the lack of sponsorships, which may have been driven by religious conservatism in Malaysia
Quoting a local artiste manager, The Malaysian Insight reported that event organisers and concert promoters in Malaysia are finding it increasingly difficult to secure monetary backing and, in turn, make profits. Unlike Thailand and Indonesia, companies selling alcohol and cigarettes are not too keen on providing sponsorship, citing the country's increasingly conservative stance towards Islam.
In addition, religious policing and bureaucratic red tape i.e. Malaysia's stringent regulations for international performers were also cited as key reasons.
This may be bad news to local event organisers and music fans, but a PAS representative has claimed that the decline of international artistes coming to Malaysia is "a success for Muslims in the country"
Cleric Riduan Mohamad Nor, who is also a PAS central committee member, wrote in Harakah Daily, "If religious conservatism is used as an excuse to explain the lack of sponsorship that is stopping famous artistes from holding concerts in Malaysia, then that is a success for Muslims in this country."
"This means that sponsors have realised that Malaysia is not as free-thinking or open-minded as other countries. Malaysia has a big reputation as an Islamic country. Some may consider this a negative development, but for the majority of Muslims in the country, it's a positive development," he added.
The cleric also claimed that the many protests against concerts as well as society's "hatred towards wild entertainment" have also discouraged organisers and sponsors from holding concerts in Malaysia
"Malaysians are very worried about the generation of young people who have wild morals and behaviour, likes to be entertained, dress up indecently, and who look up to wild and immoral Western artistes as their icons," he wrote.
"There have been many protests against concert organisers, leading to sponsors and organisers feeling reluctant to plan concerts here. They have been discouraged due to protests and society's hatred towards this type of despicable entertainment," he added.
"Let those who love entertainment and worship international celebrities claim their right to entertainment overseas. Go to any Southeast Asian country, but not in Malaysia."
Wrapping up his op-ed, Riduan urged Muslims to continue to be sensitive and care for the country, adding that "we might be despised by some, but it can save the people and the country."
It has been a turbulent past few years for organisers and promoters, with many having had their events cancelled at the very last minute due to political or religious concerns: