Malaysian rapper accused of insulting Islam released on bail

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Malaysian rapper, who had been held in police custody for four days over a music video he produced that allegedly insulted Islam, was released on bail on Thursday, while the country's attorney-general decides whether to press charges. Wee Meng Chee, an ethnic Chinese and non-Muslim, is alleged to have shot part of the video in a mosque in the state of Penang and to have used the words "Allah" and "Mecca". The 33-year-old artist, whose stage name is Namewee, did not speak to the media after a magistrate's court ordered his release. Race and religion are sensitive issues in Malaysia's multi-ethnic society. The country's ethnic Malay majority are Muslim, while the Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities are mainly Buddhist, Christian or Hindu. The rapper had 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, after police acted on a complaint lodged by the committee of the mosque that allegedly appeared in the video. Mior Faridalathrash Wahid, a district police chief in Penang, told journalists that they are now awaiting instructions on whether to press charges against the rapper or drop the case. "We have referred the case to the prosecution director (for Penang state) and later to the Attorney-General's Chambers in Putrajaya for further directives," Mior told reporters. Groups representing other religions and members of the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities have also criticised the rapper, who has courted controversy before. In 2007, while studying in Taiwan, he posted a video titled "Negarakuku" - a play words, blending the title of Malaysia's national anthem, Negaraku, and the Hokkien-dialect word for penis. He was investigated by police for sedition when he returned home a year later. He apologised for the video. The ruling coalition's loss of support from Chinese voters has made Prime Minister Najib Razak more mindful of sentiment among his own Malay vote-bank, and the state has pursued cases against insults to religion more vigorously in recent 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. And last year, an amendment to the colonial era Sedition Act made "insulting or ridiculing" any religion a criminal offence. (Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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