Kuala Lumpur: A popular Malaysian rapper and film director has been arrested over a music video which allegedly disrespects Islam, the national news agency said.
Namewee, whose real name is Wee Meng Chee, was arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport where he was returning from overseas, the Bernama agency said late Sunday.
The word “Allah” and sounds of the Islamic call to prayer were said to be used in the four-minute Mandarin music video, titled “Oh My God.”
The video featured footage of Namewee and other singers, dressed in outfits representing various cultures and religions, performing inside a mosque and a church as well as at Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist temples.
Malaysia generally practises a moderate brand of Islam. But religious tensions have simmered in recent years, with Muslim moderates and followers of other religions expressing concern at a steady rise of 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 on Youtube over the weekend.
Namewee, who is also popular in Taiwan, is no stranger to controversy and has ruffled political and religious feathers on several occasions 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.
In the introduction to the video, which shows a Malaysian flag in the background, Namewee dedicated the song to “all Malaysians, especially the government.”