Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Thursday, 23 August 2007 14:42 UK

Anger at Malaysia 'Jesus cartoon'

By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Protest in Malaysia over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons - 10/02/06
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.

What the Muhammad cartoons portray
02 Jan 10 |  Middle East
Cartoon row highlights deep divisions
04 Feb 06 |  Middle East
Denmark row: The power of cartoons
03 Oct 06 |  Europe
Cartoon controversy: Global reaction
03 Feb 06 |  Europe
Pressure on multi-faith Malaysia
16 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Malaysia
05 Jun 07 |  Country profiles

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