Malaysian newspaper asked to shut down after publishing controversial picture


The Malaysian newspaper Makkal Osai is facing calls to shut down after it published an image of Jesus holding a cigarette and what appears to be a can of beer on its front page.

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, reported the BBC.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi criticized the action as hurtful and an insult to Christians. He called on people not to play with religion, the national news agency Bernama reported.

The paper has issued an apology, explaining that a graphics editor had mistakenly taken the image from the Internet.

Most of Malaysia's religious groups appear to have been appeased, including the Catholics.

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

However, the Malaysian Indian Congress called on the government to close the paper. The congress is an ethnic Tamil political party in the governing coalition with mostly Hindu members. A BBC report notes that Makkal Osai has been very critical of the Malaysian Indian Congress, which owns a rival Tamil-language newspaper.

"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 Associated Press.

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