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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 August 2007, 07:22 GMT 08:22 UK
Malaysia closes Jesus row paper
Malaysia has shut down a newspaper for a month after it published a picture of Jesus holding a cigarette and what appears to be a can of beer.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi himself stepped in to admonish the editors of Makkal Osai, a Tamil-language paper.

The country's publishing laws allow politicians to close any publication without judicial approval.

Christians who complained about the picture say they are bemused as they had accepted the paper's apology.

Sensing perhaps that it has to be even-handed between all of Malaysia's many faiths, the government moved quickly to punish Makkal Osai, the BBC's Jonathan Kent reports from Kuala Lumpur.

Makkal Osai had already said sorry, explaining that a graphics editor had inadvertently downloaded the picture from the internet.

It apparently shows Jesus smoking and drinking and appeared with the paper's daily spiritual message on its front page with the caption "if someone repents for his mistakes, then heaven awaits him".

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Murphy Pakiam, expressed surprise at the paper's closure, saying that Christians believe in reconciliation and that the paper had indeed appeared to have sincerely repented of its mistake.

However, others, notably the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), a predominantly ethnic Tamil Hindu political party, were not appeased.

Perhaps coincidentally, Makkal Osai has been critical of the MIC, which owns a rival paper, our correspondent notes.

Anger at Malaysia 'Jesus cartoon'
23 Aug 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Malaysia
05 Jun 07 |  Country profiles

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