KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian court Monday remanded a rap artist in custody for a music video entitled “Oh my God” which allegedly insults Islam because it was partly filmed in a mosque.
Namewee, whose real name is Wee Meng Chee, will be held for four days, a Penang district police chief, Mior Faridalathrash Wahid, told AFP.
He said the rapper was being investigated for defiling a place of worship with the intention of insulting a religion.
The rapper, who is also a film director, could face up to two years in jail, a fine, or both penalties if convicted, according to local media.
The word “Allah” and sounds of the Islamic call to prayer were said to have been used in the four-minute Mandarin-language music video.
The video featured footage of Namewee and other singers, dressed in outfits representing various cultures and religions, performing inside a Penang mosque and a church as well as Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist temples.
Namewee was arrested at Kuala Lumpur International Airport while returning from overseas late Sunday.
Amnesty International on Monday criticised the arrest, calling it a “another sign of the increasing repression by the Malaysian authorities against government critics including artists”.
“Amnesty International calls for Namewee to be released immediately and unconditionally if he is being detained purely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression,” said a regional deputy director Josef Roy Benedict.
“The organisation also calls on the government to repeal or review all laws that unduly restrict the right to freedom of expression.”
Malaysia generally practises a moderate brand of Islam. But Muslim moderates and followers of other religions have expressed concern at a steady rise in conservative Islamic attitudes.
Earlier this year cinema posters and a billboard advertisement for a Hong Kong blockbuster film were modified to erase a half-man, half-pig character. Pork and its by-products are forbidden under the religion.
In July several groups filed police reports claiming Namewee’s music video had insulted Islam.
In response he posted a YouTube video explaining that he had no intention of insulting any religion and that the song was written to “promote harmony”.
The original music video is no longer available online but an edited version without footage of the mosque scenes was uploaded to YouTube over the weekend.
Namewee has ruffled political and religious feathers several times over the years.
He first hit the headlines in 2007 when he posted a video that featured him rapping to Malaysia’s national anthem using allegedly seditious lyrics. – AFP