KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysian authorities remanded a rapper in custody for four days on Monday over a music video he produced that allegedly insulted Islam.
Wee Meng Chee, who goes by the stage name Namewee, is facing a police investigation over the alleged use of footage said to depict a mosque in the state of Penang and of the words "Allah" and "Mecca" in the video.
The 33-year-old is being investigated for "injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class," a police chief in Penang, Mior Faridalathrash Wahid, told reporters after the court granted the remand order.
Namewee did not have a lawyer in court and he did not make a plea at the hearing or comment to reporters.[ad number=“1”]
The offense carries a penalty of up to two years in jail, a fine, or both.
Namewee directed and produced the music video titled "Oh My God!" in a mixture of Mandarin and Hokkien Chinese dialects, for a Taiwan band. He was detained on Sunday on arrival from Taiwan at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
It is not the first time the Malaysian has courted controversy.[ad number=“2”]
He was widely accused of mocking the country when, as a student in Taiwan in 2007, he posted a video titled "Negarakuku" - a play on the title of the national anthem, Negaraku, and the Hokkien-language word for penis.
He was investigated by police for sedition when he returned home a year later. He apologised for the video.
Malaysia is sensitive about communal relations in a society made up of majority ethnic Malays, who are Muslim, and sizeable ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian minorities, many of whom are Buddhist, Christian or Hindu.[ad number=“3”]
State action against perceived insults or challenges to the religious status quo has been on the rise over the past few years.
In 2014, Malaysia's highest court upheld a ruling barring a Christian publication from using the word "Allah" for Malay-speaking congregants, effectively denying use of the word to non-Muslims.
An amendment to the colonial era Sedition Act last year also made any act of "insulting or ridiculing" any religion a criminal offence.