KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia? Malaysia'sgovernment ordered a Tamil-language daily to immediately halt publication for a month as punishment for printing an image of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette, an official with the newspaper said.
Contrast this with how erotic depiction of Hindu gods and goddesses are considered works of art. And the ?artist? is glorified for his performance!
S.M. Periasamy, general manager of Makkal Osai, which caters to Malaysia'sethnic Indian minority, said his office received the directive by fax from the Internal Security Ministry.
?Of course, we are shocked by this. My entire staff are all in tears. They will lose a month of income,? Periasamy said, adding that the newspaper would abide by the order but plans to appeal the suspension.
Ministry officials in this Muslim-majority nation could not immediately be reached for comment.
The newspaper had said it published the photo by mistake and carried a front-page apology next day.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that the picture was hurtful and an insult to Christians. Kuala Lumpur archbishop, Murphy
Pakiam, criticised the picture as a ?desecration,? but later accepted the newspaper'sapology.
Ethnic Indians comprise 10 per cent of Malaysia's26 million people, and are mostly Hindus with a sprinkling of Christians and Muslims. Chinese, who
follow Christianity and Buddhism, make up 25 per cent, while Malay Muslims comprise 60 per cent.
Malaysia'snewspapers operate under government licenses that bar them from publishing potentially provocative material on religion, race and other topics.
Periasamy said a graphic artist?who has since been suspended?downloaded a picture of Jesus from the Internet for use along with a quote from the Bible on the paper'sfront page. But the artist overlooked the fact that the picture had been altered to insert a cigarette in one hand and another object?a can or a book ? in the other, he said.
The Malaysian Indian Congress, a party in Malaysia'sruling coalition, had called on the government to close the paper, which is generally critical of the MIC.
Makkal Osai is one of two Tamil-language newspapers catering to Malaysia'slargely Tamil-speaking ethnic Indians. The other newspaper is aligned with the MIC. (FOC)