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M.I.A. On Her Super Bowl Middle Finger: ‘It’s Godly, OK?’

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(Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

(Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

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By Scott T. Sterling

Pop provocateur M.I.A. is currently on a whirlwind press tour, with her fourth studio album, Matangi, hitting retailers today (Nov. 5). Though she’s clearly promoting the new album, those recent interviews have seen M.I.A. fielding questions about the middle finger heard around the world, i.e. the controversial moment when she appeared to flip off the camera (and subsequently, the nearly 168 million people watching) while performing with Madonna during the halftime show of Super Bowl XLVI.

The fallout from the gesture has been intense, with the National Football League going on to file a $1.5 million lawsuit against M.I.A. “for allegedly breaching her performance contract and tarnishing its goodwill and reputation.”

M.I.A. has not taken kindly to the lawsuit, firing back at the NFL with a scathing video statement where she called out the League for hypocrisy and what she called “a massive display of powerful corporation dick-shaking.”

Now M.I.A. has returned with a new explanation for the middle finger, claiming that not only was it not meant to be offensive, but actually a religious gesture known as the Matangi mudra, with Matangi being not just the name of her new album, but the Hindu goddess of music and learning.

“Well, you know gang signs — in America you have gang signs, and people throw up initials and stuff like that,” the English-Sri Lankan artist explained to NPR. “Well, 5,000 years ago, there was thing called a mudra, which is your sitting position when you do yoga or you’re meditating or praying or whatever. And you have different ones based on what you’re meditating over. There’s not a lot of them that are named after gods and goddesses, but the middle finger is specifically named Matangi — the Matangi mudra.

“It’s cultural! In my country, it’s godly. OK?” M.I.A. insisted when pressed that the finger could have had another meaning than just a religious gesture.

“Of course the NFL is not believing that, because the NFL does not believe in any other culture outside of the NFL,” the singer retorted when asked if the National Football League is believing her new explanation. “But it’s true; you can Wikipedia it. You can just say ‘Matangi’ and ‘mudra,’ and you’ll see it’s the middle finger.”

(A quick Google image search of “Matangi mudra” does turn up a hand gesture involving clasped hands with both middle fingers extended, not quite the single finger M.I.A. waved at the Super Bowl cameras).

While the lawsuit rages on (“it’s the FCC going after NBC, NBC going after the NFL, and NFL going after M.I.A.,” she surmised in a recent radio interview), the singer has just a few U.S. tour dates scheduled for the rest of the year so far — an appearance at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest (Nov. 9) and a pair of club dates in Los Angeles (Nov. 11 & 12).

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