Police detained Malaysian artist Namewee upon his return from being abroad on 21 August 2016 at the Kuala Lampur airport and are investigating him after groups filed reports that his latest music video “insulted Islam”, reported The Star Online on 22 August 2016.
“Malaysian authorities must release Namewee and drop all charges against him,” said Freemuse Executive Director Ole Reitov. “Differences and debates over the meaning of artistic expression is essential to any open democratic society. The protest from some communities over a music video can never justify detention.”
Namewee was transported to Penang where a court issued the order on 22 August 2016 to detain the artist for four days and undertake an investigation under Section 259 of the penal code: “injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class”. If charged and convicted, the artist could face a potential prison term of up to two years, a fine or both.
The investigation follows after 20 non-governmental organisations filed police reports that Namewee’s video for song ‘Oh My God’, which he performed with Taiwanese trio Jiu Yi Yi (Nine One One), “insults Islam”.
On 2 August 2016, Penang police chief Abdul Ghafar Rajab said that Namewee and three foreigners were wanted in connection to the video and that Namewee would be arrested upon his return to Malaysia.
BBC reported that the artist posted a statement on his Facebook page on 21 August 2016, responding to people who asked why he would return to Malaysia if he knew he would be arrested, stating: “If I’ve not done any wrong, why should I run and hide?”
Different video versions
In late July 2016, a version of the video was released online that featured the four artists as costumed characters representing four major faiths present in Malaysia – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam – who holiday in Penang together, including scenes filmed inside and near various places of worship. One scene that was particularly offensive to groups was a scene where Namewee and Taiwanese trio Jiu Yi Yi (Nine One One) were dancing and rapping inside a mosque.
At the time, Namewee released a video response to the controversy explaining that he had permission to film in all locations and was respectful of worshippers. He also said the intention of the video was to “to promote religious harmony”.
Further, he stated that the version that appeared online at the time was not the completed video and that a hacker had put the unfinished version online without any permission. He also said that he and the Taiwanese movie company he was hired by were in the process of removing “sensitive scenes”.
The unofficial video was taken down days after.
Meanwhile, on 20 August 2016, a day before his return to Malaysia, Namewee released the official version of the video on his official YouTube page. The new, official video is a much different affair that has none of the costumed characters holidaying and goofing off together, and no longer has any scenes filmed inside or near mosques.
Instead, the video now features scenes from a movie it’s promoting, interspersed with the artist and Taiwanese group performing near and inside temples and churches in regular clothing.
» Official ‘Oh My God’ video:
» Namewee’s video response posted on 2 August 2016:
Photo: Screen grab from official video posted on Namewee’s official YouTube page
» BBC – 22 August 2016:
Malaysian singer Namewee held for ‘insulting Islam’
» The Malay Mail Online – 22 August 2016:
Rapper Namewee remanded four days in Penang over ‘Oh My God’ music video
» The Star Online – 22 August 2016:
Namewee remanded for four days
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