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Supporters at the Karbala stadium during the meeting between Lebanon and Iraq, July 30, 2019. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP

A Lebanese violinist sparked controversy by playing the Iraqi national anthem on Tuesday, July 30, with her head and arms uncovered on the lawn of Kerbala stadium, a holy Shiite city in southern Iraq.

To open the Lebanon-Iraq match, which gathered several tens of thousands of supporters on Tuesday night, the Ministry of Youth and Sports had asked a Lebanese company specializing in events to organize a musical introduction. During this ceremony, a violinist presented his head and arms on the lawn of Kerbala stadium and played the Iraqi national anthem.

Wow. In #Iraq, this woman is getting slammed by religious conservatives for playing National Anthem on violin at West Asia Championship Opening in Karbalaa.

I do not know her name but she plays beautifully: pic.twitter.com/jEQj5dHLnc

Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 1, 2019

Complaint by the state body in charge of Shiite religious property

The state body in charge of Shiite religious property (Waqf) announced on Thursday August 1 that it had complained, while politicians and Internet users were fiercely opposed to the performance of this musician, accompanied by three dancers, dressed in long dresses covering all their body. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for " an urgent inquiry " into " a shocking violation of the sanctity of Kerbala, " a town 100 km south of Baghdad.

In Kerbala, where women are almost all veiled and where, on several occasions, prefectoral orders against " indecency " have raised fears of civil society, Governor Nassif al-Khattabi issued a statement denouncing an " error " .

He claims to have received " criticisms of some passages of the opening ceremony that have violated the sanctity of Kerbala " and referred to the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Iraqi Football Federation. The latter has assured no connection with the organization of this musical interlude in the holy city where Shiites from around the world come to recollect in millions at the mausoleum of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

Kerbala, place of pilgrimage

Every year, in Kerbala, the pilgrimage of Arbain brought together millions of faithful coming mainly from Iraq and Iran, according to the authorities. It commemorates the death of the third imam of Shia Muslims, Imam Hussein, who died in "martyrdom" in 680 during the battle of Karbala against the Umayyad Caliph Yazid. The Arbain had gathered 14 million people in 2017.

In March 2018, Fifa authorized the holding of matches counting for international competitions on Iraqi soil. On April 10, the first official football match between the Baghdad team and the Beirut team in Kerbala took place. It was the first match played in Iraq and counting for an international competition for more than twenty years.

Kerbala is currently hosting - with Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan - matches of the West Asian Cup. The competition brings together teams from Palestine, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and Kuwait.