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Anger at Malaysia 'Jesus cartoon'

Contributed by Anonymous on Thursday, August 23 @ 10:57:45 CDT

By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur  Thursday, 23 August 2007

Malaysia saw protests over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons
A Malaysian newspaper is facing calls to shut down after it published an image of Jesus holding a cigarette and what appeared to be a can of beer.

Malaysia's Muslim-led government closed two publications last year for carrying controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Now some members of Malaysia's minority religions say they want the same treatment over this latest incident.

Religion is a famously sensitive subject in Malaysia.

So when Tamil-language newspaper, Makkal Osai, published a picture on its front page apparently showing Jesus smoking and drinking it was bound to cause offence.

Christian groups said that although the Jesus of the Bible was a compassionate figure - who turned water into wine, shared a flagon with his disciples at the Last Supper and mixed with tax collectors and prostitutes - action should still be taken.

The paper has since issued an apology, explaining that a graphics editor had mistakenly taken the image from the internet. Most of Malaysia's churches appear to have been appeased.

Not so though the Malaysian Indian Congress, an ethnic Tamil political party in the governing coalition, most of whose members are Hindu.

A senior party official has demanded that Makkal Osai's editor be sacked and the paper closed.

Interestingly, Makkal Osai has been very critical of the Malaysian Indian Congress, which owns a rival Tamil-language newspaper.

Non-Muslims are also waiting to see how the government responds, given that it took tough action over the publication of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

Malaysian Paper Apology for Jesus Image

The Associated Press
Thursday, August 23, 2007; 8:08 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- A newspaper catering to Malaysia's ethnic Indians published a front-page apology Thursday for printing an image of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi criticized the action as hurtful and an insult to Christians, and called on people not to play with religion, the national news agency Bernama reported.
"If the Christians get to know about it, it will create problems," Abdullah was quoted as saying. "I remind them again to stop doing this."

S.M. Periasamy, general manager of the Tamil-language daily Makkal Osai, told The Associated Press that the newspaper published the image by mistake.

"The graphic artist, whom we have already suspended, didn't see the cigarette," Periasamy said. "It was a mistake."

He said the artist downloaded an image of Jesus from the Internet for use along with a quote from the Bible on the paper's front page Tuesday. But the artist overlooked the fact that the image had been, with a cigarette in one hand and another object _ a can or a book _ in the other, he said.

Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Murphy Pakiam, who earlier criticized the image as a "desecration," accepted the newspaper's apology. In an e-mail to Periasamy, the archbishop's office said Pakiam now "considers the matter closed."

However, the Malaysian Indian Congress, a party in Malaysia's ruling coalition, filed a police report and called on the government to close the paper, which has generally been critical of the MIC.

"It's a very serious issue. For certain things you can apologize, but for this kind of sensitive issue, the editor should be sacked and the paper closed," senior party official T. Mohan told the AP.

Makkal Osai is one of two newspapers catering to Malaysia's largely Tamil-speaking ethnic Indians. The other is aligned to the MIC.

Ethnic Indians comprise 10 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people, and are mostly Hindus with a sprinkling of Christians and Muslims; Chinese, who follow Christianity and Buddhism, 25 percent; Malay Muslims, 60 percent.



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