Malaysian rapper probed over ‘insulting Islam’ in lunar new year dog video

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A rapper in Muslim-majority Malaysia is under police investigation for allegedly insulting Islam with a Lunar New Year video that features dancers wearing dog masks and performing suggestive moves, reports said Monday.

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.

The video, which marks 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.

National police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun reportedly said 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".

Namewee, who is reported to be abroad, faces up to a year in jail if found guilty.

In a YouTube video, 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 reports saying I insulted Islam are not true," he said. "We did not film the music video at any place of worship. It was done in an open area."

The probe was launched after complaints from Muslim groups and public criticism from the deputy prime minister over the video, which has more than 700,000 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, but the Year of the Dog has proved sensitive.

Some shops have avoided displaying canine imagery in their decorations for fear of causing offense.

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

Malaysia generally practices 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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