Jennifer Lopez is in hot water for some cultural miscommunication at a concert

Late last month, Jennifer Lopez performed in Rabat, Morocco as part of the Mawazine World Rhythms International Music Festival. The concert was a lot like any other J.Lo performance — lots of dancing, skimpy outfits — and it was broadcast on national TV. But unlike other performances, this one has landed Lopez in some serious trouble with the Moroccan authorities.

An educational group in the country has filed a lawsuit against the world-famous artist, claiming that she, “disturbed public order and tarnished women’s honor and respect.” If found guilty, she could face a two year prison sentence should she return to Morocco.

“What was broadcast is unacceptable and goes against broadcasting law,” Minister of Communication Mustapha Khalfi tweeted on May 30, a day after Lopez’s performance. He’s been called on to resign from his position for even allowing the performance to air, and is looking into broadcasting ethics surrounding the TV event.

All of this might seem like a lot of controversy over what should have been a given when Jennifer Lopez was invited to perform. After all, she’s known for her dance moves and has never shied away from showing some skin. In fact, she’s performed in Morocco before without incident, so chances are she wasn’t expecting such an outcry.

But that doesn’t mean she’s off the hook or that Morocco is totally in the wrong. Morocco is a Muslim majority country, and although it’s a tourist destination with rich cultural diversity, it’s also a largely conservative country by our standards. While Jennifer Lopez performing in sequined skin-barring outfits might not be a big deal in the private space of a concert venue, putting it on TV opens up a whole other can of worms. In all reality, there should have been conversations about how to make sure a performance for TV would meet cultural norms without sacrificing Lopez’s artistic vision.

Plenty of stars have gotten into hot water for not paying attention to the nuances of countries they visit — such as Rihanna taking inappropriate photos at a mosque in Abu Dhabi. It’s always unfortunate when these kinds of stories break, and we hope that Jennifer Lopez and Morocco are able to come to an agreement over the offending performance. But this is also a great reminder that it’s always crucial to understand the cultures of countries in which we’re only visitors.

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