– week of 20th March –
“K Muthusamy was born from a place of frustration and pain, and creating it was part of the healing process.”
This is what rapper Subhas Nair said, when he was on trial this week on 4 charges of allegedly attempting to cause “ill-will” between different racial and religious groups. This week, we followed his trial and summarised the arguments made by the Prosecution, as well as Subhas’ reasons for making each of his posts.
Subhas’s charges included:
- Releasing a parody music video of Iggy Azalea’s “Fuck It Up” with his sister, Preeti Nair (Preetipls), titled, “K. Muthusamy” in response to brownface ads put out by Mediacorp, which had the line “Chinese people always out here fucking it up”
- Posting on Instagram saying, “If two Malay Muslims made a video promoting Islam and saying the kinds of hateful things these Chinese Christians said, ISD would have been at the door before they even hit ‘upload'”
- Posting on Instagram saying that “calling out racism and Chinese privilege” equaled a two-year conditional warning and “smear campaign in the media”, while “actually conspiring to murder an Indian man” a conditional warning of a year and the question “you’re having a baby soon right? Boy or girl” from the media, followed by, “Do you actually think a brown person would get asked these type of questions? This place is just not for us”
- Displaying a cartoon drawing of the post which is the subject of his 3rd charge during an indoor stage performance
K. Muthusamy video
Subhas maintained that the 2019 video was meant to be satirical. He also clarified that the phrase did not mean that Chinese people are fucked up, rather it meant that they made a racial mistake, and that it wasn’t the first time they’ve done so. He said he specified that it was Chinese people who often make these mistakes, as he wanted to be specific about the kind of racism he was seeing.
He stated that the video also mentioned, “not all Chinese people are racist”, to drive home the point that the video was meant to specifically call out Chinese people who were racist, and that not all racist people are Chinese. He also mentioned that it would have been a “lazy reading” if Chinese people took only offence away from the video.
Comments on ISD’s attitudes towards Malay Muslims vs. Chinese Christians
Subhas’s comments that were the subject of the trial were in reference to a video which contained comments linking the LGBTQ+ community to Satan. Subhas claimed that the video in question was “hate speech” since it was causing harm to an entire community and added that it was important to “admonish” all forms of hate speech, no matter how small the community was. He hoped that the authorities would take swift action against anyone who proliferated such hate speech.
In response, the Prosecution said that Subhas was giving inconsistent evidence in his police statement, and on the stand about his intentions behind the post.
Comments on media portrayals of Brown people vs. Chinese people
These comments were in response to a media interview of Chan Jia Xing, who was one of seven Chinese individuals originally charged with murdering an Indian man at Orchard Towers.
He also said that he felt like the media vilified him and his sister when reporting on the K Muthusamy video, as they didn’t provide any context in their articles and the headlines “prejudiced” readers against them, whereas, when reporting about Chan Jia Xing, the media chose to showcase their “humanity” instead, a privilege not afforded to him or his sister.
Image used during indoor stage performance
Subhas maintained that he used the image, which was a cartoon representation of his Instagram post, which was the subject of police investigations, as IMDA had told the Substation (venue of the performance) that re-publication of the post was not allowed. When IMDA was asked whether illustrations of the post were allowed instead, there was no reply, and he proceeded to use the illustration as part of his performance.
The prosecution had opened by stating that any “reasonable person” would have known that the video and social media comments made by Subhas would have created “ill-will” between racial and religious groups in Singapore.
Subhas responded at different points during his evidence that it was not his intention to promote ill-will between racial or religious groups in Singapore. He had, instead, intended to call out racism and hate speech as well as biases that he saw in the media about how different racial groups are portrayed.
During the trial, the Prosecution mentioned that responses to racism must be “temperate and dignified”. However, it must be remembered that racism itself strips away the dignity of its victims.