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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 February, 2004, 17:56 GMT
Malaysia bans 'Volkswagen' play
VW Beetle
Volkswagen proves too sensitive for Malaysian censors
A play that mentions the German car maker Volkswagen has been banned in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

'Election Day' had been performed in the city four years ago but this time it did not meet the approval of a new committee set up to vet all shows.

The committee can remove any reference to sensitive racial matters, religious beliefs, royalty, the law, public policy or anything considered vulgar.

Any mention of the real world or any person alive or dead is also forbidden.

It is the first time the committee has refused a performance a permit.

'Election Day', which follows three friends during Malaysia's 1999 polls, failed six of the committee's eight guidelines.

The script was returned to its director with the names of the car maker Volkswagen, a local chain of pharmacies and various Malaysian politicians all struck out.

One leading member of Malaysia's arts community told the BBC's correspondent in Kuala Lumpur, Jonathan Kent, that the only safe subject now left to write about was food.

As neighbouring Singapore tries to establish itself as the region's arts capital, Malaysia's official sponsorship of cultural events is largely confined to staging dances by models wearing traditional costumes.

Daredevil banned

Several high-profile American films have also been outlawed or censored on moral or religious grounds in the predominately Muslim country.

The award-winning film The Hours saw several scenes cut that depicted kissing between two women to protect the "interests of the country and people from bad influences and negative elements shown in films".

And the big screen adaptation of the comic book hero Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck, was also outlawed because of "excessive violence".

The cartoon Prince of Egypt, an animated epic about the life of Moses, was deemed "insensitive for religious reasons", while Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me featured too much sexual innuendo for Malaysian censors.

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