KUALA LUMPUR — Muslim-majority Malaysia slapped a one-month ban on a local daily for commissioning an offensive caricature of Jesus Christ clutching a cigarette and can of beer.
"[Daily] Makkal Osai has contravened a permit condition… of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984," said the Internal Security Ministry in a statement cited by Bernama news agency on Friday, August 24.
It said that the Tamil-language daily violated the act banning the publication of articles or pictures that could disturb public security, harmony or morality in the country.
The daily published the blasphemous caricature on Tuesday, drawing angry reaction from both Muslim and Christian leaders in Malaysia.
The caricature was commissioned on the front page with a caption quoting Christ as saying: "If someone repents for his mistakes, then heaven awaits them."
Later, the daily's editor apologized for publishing the lampooning caricature.
"We are sorry for the mistake, but it was a very honest one," S.M. Periasamy told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
He said the paper had apologized for Murphy Pakiam, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, and he had accepted their apology.
He said that he had also explained the mistake to the government.
Muslims believe in Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) as one of the great Prophets of God and hold him in high esteem.
Playing With Religions
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi denounced the publication of the Jesus cartoon.
He said that the commission of such drawings threaten public harmony in the multi-ethnic country.
"If the Christians get to know about it, it will create problems," he said, calling for not playing with religions.
"I remind them again to stop doing this."
Abdullah said that satirizing religions would trigger angry reactions from the faithful.
In September 2005, Denmark's mass-circulation daily Jyllands-Posten commissioned and printed 12 cartoons including portrayals of a man the newspaper called Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), wearing a bomb-shaped turban and another showing him as a knife-wielding nomad flanked by shrouded women.
The blasphemous cartoons were later reprinted by European newspapers on claims of freedom of expression, straining Muslim-West ties and triggering massive and sometimes violent demonstrations across the Muslim world.
Muslim Malays make up nearly 60 percent of Malaysia’s 26 million population.
Ethnic Chinese and Indians - most of them Buddhists, Hindus and Christians - make up about 35 percent. The rest are indigenous people and Eurasians.