Malaysian police on Thursday arrested well-known graphic artist and activist Fahmi Reza, after he appeared to ridicule the country’s monarchs with a satirical painting depicting Mojo Jojo, a villainous character in popular 1990s cartoon The Powerpuff Girls , in traditional royal attire. Fahmi was detained at 4.20pm after being summoned to the Malaysian police headquarters for questioning, according to his lawyer Rajsurian Pillai. “Within just 15 hours, the police had opened an investigation under the Sedition Act and the ‘hurt my feelings’ act, because of my satirical ape graphic that I uploaded last night,” Fahmi said on Wednesday in a statement, referring to Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. Under Section 233(a) of the act, it is an offence to produce and transmit anything that is “obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character” with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person, and is often used by the government to silence critics. Fahmi Reza’s creation was a response to a sultan’s recent art purchase, which itself was a satirical work depicting lawmakers on both sides of Malaysia’s parliament as monkeys, apes and frogs. The painting, whose creator was undisclosed, alluded to the chaos of the Malaysian debating chamber and the trend of politicians hopping from one party to another in recent years, earning them a “frog” moniker. It echoed a famous piece by elusive British artist Banksy, who painted a scene of Britain’s House of Commons being filled by chimpanzees and orangutans, in his 2009 piece titled Devolved Parliament . The artwork went viral in Malaysia on Tuesday after the office of the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, said on his Facebook page that he had bought it after it caught his attention. The sultan is one of Malaysia’s nine traditional Malay rulers who take turns every five years to be the country’s king. The office shared a photo of the sultan posing with the artwork, which will be hung in his private study. “One day His Majesty wishes to auction this artwork and the proceeds will be channelled towards charity,” it said. Malaysian artist’s arrest for ‘insulting’ queen sparks backlash The sultan’s new painting sparked a range of views on social media. Many Malaysians perceived the artwork as a validation of their discontent towards the country’s elected assemblymen, whose incessant infighting since the 2018 election has led to three prime ministers in two years. Some have even called for the painting to be hung in the parliament’s lobby or the National Museum “I wonder what the MPs feel with this painting. If they still won’t change, then they are clearly the same as depicted in the painting,” said Twitter user Mohd Shubhi. But others were concerned over what could be construed as political meddling by royal members, who must remain impartial in politics based on the Westminster system Malaysia inherited from the British. “Regardless of how bad our elected politicians are, at least we are free to criticise and mock them,” said political analyst Harris Zainul from the Institute Of Strategic & International Studies in Kuala Lumpur. He questioned how the royals would feel if the table was turned against them, with someone painting the nine rulers as lizards, for example. Fahmi, who was just last year arrested for allegedly insulting the country’s queen – at a time she had been under fire over a social media faux pas – weighed in on the sultan’s purchase by saying whoever dealt a public insult should be able to handle criticism as well. “If we can accept and not censor satirical artwork that ‘makes a monkey’ out of others, we also should accept and not censor any artwork that ‘makes a monkey’ out of us,” said Fahmi in a post across his social media profiles. Fahmi, 44, has over the years built a reputation for his irreverence towards the establishment. He has a large following on Twitter, where he frequently posts works that lampoon the country’s political figures. In 2018, he was jailed for a month and fined 30,000 ringgit (US$7,000) for publishing a caricature of then-Prime Minister Najib Razak looking like a clown, with a judge ruling that he had breached the Communication and Multimedia Act.