Malaysian rapper held for 'insulting' Islam

The rapper said that the domed building visible in the background was the prime minister's office, not a mosque

Afp February 22, 2018
Malaysian rapper Wee Meng Chee, whose stage name is Namewee, is pictured leaving a courtroom in Penang, Malaysia August 25, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LAMPUR: A rapper in Muslim majority Malaysia was arrested on Thursday for allegedly insulting Islam with a Lunar New Year video that features dancers wearing dog masks and performing suggestive moves.

The video features controversial rapper Wee Meng Chee, known by his stage name Namewee, sitting on a chair in front of a domed building and mimicking barks of canines from around the world.

Several black clad dancers wearing masks of dogs an animal considered unclean in Islam gyrate around him, with two of them mimicking a sex move.

The video, to mark the start of the Year of the Dog currently being celebrated across Asia, generated accusations that it was filmed in front of a mosque in the administrative capital Putrajaya.

Police said at the weekend a probe had been launched into the artist  who is from the country's ethnic Chinese minority for hurting religious feelings and "transmitting offensive communications".

On Thursday Namewee posted a picture of himself on Facebook arriving at national police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to give a statement, and several hours later a message on his official page on the site announced "Namewee has been officially arrested."

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"Let's pray and hope that Namewee will be released tomorrow," it read.

He faces up to a year in jail if found guilty.

In a YouTube video posted several days ago, the rapper denied having insulted Islam and said that the domed building visible in the background was the prime minister's office, not a mosque.

The probe was launched after complaints from Muslim groups and public criticism from the deputy prime minister over the video, which has more than 950,000 views on YouTube since being released on February 10.

Lunar New Year is a major celebration in Malaysia, where a quarter of the population are from the Chinese diaspora.

Namewee has repeatedly been at the centre of controversy. In 2016, he was detained for several days for allegedly insulting Islam over a video partly filmed inside a mosque.

Malaysia generally practises a moderate form of Islam but religious tensions have escalated in recent years, with concerns growing over a rise in conservative Islamic attitudes.


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