KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 29 ― Malay rights groups are demanding the authorities investigate Malaysian artist Vincent Leong over a series of allegedly insulting portraits of the country’s royalty and political leaders.
The groups claim that the paintings, entitled “Kenapamu, Malaysia?” and exhibited last week at Art Stage Singapore, had insulted Malaysia’s royal institution and in effect Islam, as the religion falls under the purview of the Malay rulers, reported Sinar Harian.
“The royal institution will become meaningless and at the end, Islam will have no place in this country... that is the objective behind the insult,” Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) information chief Mohd Haziz Abd Rahman was quoted as saying.
Mohd Haziz added that the title of the art works is also a “provocation” as the artist is questioning the need for the Malay royalty, which the former claims will encourage the public to disrespect the institution.
The paintings, which were put up for display at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Center in Singapore from January 22 to 25, allegedly depicted Malaysian royalty and politicians showing their backs.
The paintings were arranged in the way official pictures of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Raja Permaisuri Agong, the prime minister and other senior politicians are typically displayed in government offices.
Selangor Perkasa chief Abu Bakar Yahya also accused Leong of attempting to “destroy the royal institution”.
“The paintings are aimed at belittling the Federal Constitution and to humiliate the country.
“The people must know what is the real meaning and the objective of the painting, and why was it displayed for public viewing, particularly why was it exhibited overseas,” Abu Bakar said on Perkasa's Facebook fan page.
Following the backlash, Sinar Harian reported that Leong is being watched closely by the police.
In 2013, painter Anurendra Jegadeva was accused of insulting Islam over his “I is for Idiot” painting, which was at display at an exhibition held to mark the 50th Malaysia Day, organised by the National Visual Arts Gallery.
Anurendra, popularly known as J. Anu, had then explained that the painting was meant to depict a certain moment in world history when everything “seemed upside down and inside out”, denying any malicious, evil, or mischievous intent to insult or belittle Islam.