August 29, 2016: A Malaysian court has sent controversial hip-hop artist and filmmaker Namewee to jail for four days while police investigate claims that his latest music video insults Islam.
Johor native Namewee, 33, whose real name is Wee Meng Chee, was detained Monday after landing at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 3:30 a.m. from Taipei and taken to Penang island, where the music video was filmed.
At midmorning, a court in George Town remanded him to custody for four days so that police could question him under Section 295 of the Malaysian Penal Code, which bars defiling houses of worship and insulting religion. Section 295 permits punishment of two years in prison, a fine, or both.
George Town police chief Mior Faridalathrash Wahid confirmed that the arrest and remand would enable police to investigate a controversial music video that Namewee released in July.
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The four-minute video “Oh My God!” was written, produced and directed by Namewee, and features the Malaysian singer alongside the three-member Taiwanese band Nine-One-One.
The mash-up of religious traditions appears to poke fun at invoking the powers that be to overcome problems from a receding hairline to a straying girlfriend. The singers invoke Allah, Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and the Buddhist chant “Namo Amitabha,” among other terms.
Scenes from what looks like Chinese comedy movies are interspersed with footage of the four men singing and dancing in front of places of worship.
The original version released in July featured Buddhist and Taoist temples, a mosque and a church, but that version is no longer available online, according to reports. A second version uploaded on Aug. 20 omits the mosque footage.
Following the release of the original video, multiple parties filed police reports accusing the filmmaker of insulting Islam, including the chairman of the Tanjung Bungah Floating Mosque, one of Penang’s top attractions, according to reports.
In a post to his Facebook page on Monday, Namewee said that the video was meant to promote inter-religious harmony.
He said he did not believe he had done anything wrong and made the decision to return to Malaysia from overseas to face any charges against him.
“If I didn’t do anything wrong, why do I need to run and hide? Malaysia is my home, my country,” he said in a Mandarin-language statement.
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In an earlier Facebook post, Namewee said he had shown his respect for Islam by becoming the first ethnic Chinese singer in history to sing nasyid – poetry with Islamic themes.
His 2015 song “Uncle Lim” is a duet with nasyid singer Yasin Suleimen.
“This is a nasyid song sung in Mandarin in the hip-hop style. Stop your slander and accusations that I insulted Islam,” he wrote on Facebook.
Namewee made waves in 2007 during his student days in Taiwan, when he posted a rap arrangement of the Malaysian national anthem “Negaraku” – and was accused of having insulted the country, the police, ethnic Malays and the Muslim call to prayer.
He was investigated by police for sedition when he returned home in 2008 and later apologized for the video, Channel News Asia reported. (BenarNews)
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