Having arrested native rapper Namewee for releasing a music video that allegedly “insulted Islam,” Malaysian officials are demanding Interpol help find the Taiwanese rap group Jiu Yi Yi (911), who are also featured in the video.
“Investigation is on-going and we will get assistance from Interpol to find the three men to record their statements,” Malaysian officials announced in a press conference Wednesday, confirming that seven people had issued written statements to the Malaysian government over the situation. Namewee and 911 are sought by the law for having insulted Islam, a crime in Malaysia, in a leaked edit of the music video for their collaboration “Oh My God,” a song Namewee told reporters was intended to promote “religious harmony.”
Namewee, who has previously been arrested for sampling the Malaysian national anthem in a song and using profanity in public, is facing up to two years in prison for this music video. In a Facebook post, he explained why he turned himself over to authorities and objected to the offensive interpretation of his song. “I wrote ‘Oh My God’ to promote religious harmony,” he wrote in Mandarin. “With goodwill; the purpose is clear. If I didn’t do anything wrong, why leave? This is my homeland,” he said of Malaysia, adding, “please don’t harass my family.”
“We were shocked when we heard the news. We did not expect it to become a serious issue. We went to those places for music video shooting under the director’s instructions,” 911’s manager told a Malaysia outlet this week, noting that the final cut that appears on YouTube does not include “some inappropriate scenes.” “We don’t know who leaked it out. Perhaps we need to investigate this. We respect the local culture,” the manager added.
The final version of the video features the four rappers in various religious locations performing the song. In the song, all four lament various problems in their lives — one man complains that he is balding; another, that his girlfriend cheated on him with a man with a bigger “gun” — and turn to every religion in the book for guidance. The song repeatedly references Jesus and the Virgin Mary and features the lyric “flying high to Mecca/Oh, Allah, save me.”
Some scenes from the unedited cut surfacing on social media do show the men at a mosque, as well as some scenes where they are dressed as a Taoist, a Buddhist, Jesus, and what appears to be a Middle Eastern man holding an automatic weapon, rowing a boat on dry land and playing games at an arcade.
The members of 911 are currently in Taiwan, where the Chinese government has made inroads in cracking down on subversive rap music challenging the Communist Party there. Among the most prominent offenders is Chang Csun Yuk, whose songs with lyrics like “I don’t like Chinese girls” and “I don’t want to go to school,” as well as critiques of Chinese Communist bureaucracy. Unlike Malaysia, however, China has responded to the popularity of subversive rap by producing pro-communist rap music videos heralding President Xi Jinping.
The Taiwanese government has yet to make any statements regarding the potential extradition of the members of 911 for their participation in the video. While Beijing has been quick to punish subversive rappers, both the Chinese and Taiwanese governments have displayed little patience in dealing with Islamic blasphemy laws, as China is a Communist oligarchy and Taiwan is a democratic republic.