A Malaysian woman and her boyfriend are facing jail time after courting controversy with a viral video of a striptease stunt in a comedy club that authorities in the Muslim-majority country have deemed insulting to Islam.
In the video filmed on June 4, Siti Nuramira Abdullah, 26, claims to have memorised half the Koran — Islam’s holy text — while she undresses from her modest traditional attire to reveal a spaghetti-strap dress underneath.
Siti’s boyfriend, Alexander Navin Vijayachandran, 38, then uploaded the 54-second video at an open-mic session at Kuala Lumpur’s Crackhouse Comedy Club to the couple’s YouTube channel. The channel also featured other videos of Siti dressed in lingerie and offering sex tips.
The couple’s multiple social media platforms often promote their swinging lifestyle and share risqué content. Swinging, sometimes referred to as a lifestyle, refers to having multiple sexual partners or swapping sexual partners.
Siti and Vijayachandran were charged in court on Wednesday (July 13). Siti pleaded not guilty to a charge of causing disharmony and hatred, while Vijayachandran pleaded not guilty to charges of using social media to promote and upload insulting content.
The couple were granted bail of 20,000 ringgit (S$6,321) each, but remain in custody after failing to post that amount by the end of Wednesday.
Following the video, the comedy club that played host to the controversial skit has come under scrutiny, with detractors suggesting its owners agreed with the couple’s act. Others defended the club, saying there was no way the club’s owners would have anticipated the outrageousness of their act.
Local authorities have suspended the club’s license, but now face pressure to undo that decision. The club had immediately banned the couple from performing or even patronising the venue following the incident, and had filed a police report against them.
“The individual’s unilateral actions have brought disrepute to a fledgling yet thriving stand-up comedy fraternity in Malaysia,” the club said in a statement.
“In its eight years of existence, this type of incident has never once occurred at the Crackhouse Comedy Club,” it said. The club is the country’s longest-running platform for comedy shows. Stand-up comedy and open-mic sessions typically attract a niche, metropolitan clientele in Malaysia.
Vijayachandran had been previously charged with criminal intimidation for threatening to burn down Merdekarya, a live music venue, after he was banned for a similar stunt there.
He and Siti had claimed that Merdekarya’s bar, Bar B, was duping Muslims into eating pork and called for the authorities to investigate the venue.
Bar B is a play on babi, the Malay word for pig. Vijayachandran was fined 100 ringgit for threatening to burn down Merdekarya.
“Clearly, [the couple’s] agenda is to use the local art scene for the purpose of promoting their sex cult and if the venue does not allow or ban them, their plan is to use the authorities to close the venue,” said Merdekarya.
On Tuesday, some of the country’s leading stand-up comedians including Douglas Lim and Harith Iskandar co-signed a letter stating their support for Crackhouse Comedy Club.
The episode had caused “the club and the entire Malaysian stand-up comedy scene [to be] unduly dragged into the gutter”, the letter said.
Acquaintances speaking on anonymity said they were relieved to hear that the law had caught up with the couple, with some saying they had cut ties with Vijayachandran due to his erratic behaviour in recent years.
Neighbours say they have largely shunned the couple after they openly solicited swinging partners in the neighbourhood association’s WhatsApp group.
Others voiced concern over Siti’s well-being and raised questions over whether she was being “controlled” by her boyfriend. The couple were not immediately available for comment.