A Malaysian newspaper has apologised for publishing a front-page image of Jesus smoking a cigarette and holding what appeared to be a can of beer.
The Tamil-language newspaper said the publication of the photograph was an unintentional mistake by a graphic artist, who downloaded the photo from the Internet to illustrate an article on quotations by great leaders.
"We apologise for the grave mistake. We also want to apologise if we have hurt anyone’s feelings," the newspaper, Makkal Osai, said in its 21 August edition.
S.M. Periasamy, the newspaper’s general manager, said the graphic artist did not notice the cigarette or beer can in the photograph that he used to illustrate a quotation, said to be taken from the Bible, about repentance and heaven.
The manager said the newspaper had written a letter of apology to Kuala Lumpur’s Roman Catholic archbishop Murphy Pakiam, who had earlier denounced the picture as a "desecration".
The newspaper had also explained the mistake to the Malaysian government.
"At no time did we mean to downgrade any religion," Periasamy told local reporters.
The New Straits Times newspaper, a national daily, quoted Archbishop Pakiam as saying the image was upsetting to Catholics but that he now considered the matter closed.
Last year, Malaysia slapped a blanket ban on circulating or even possessing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad after the government closed a local newspaper for printing the same caricatures that enraged many in the Islamic world when they were published in a Danish newspaper.
Reports indicate that on 24 August Malaysia’s government ordered Makkal Osai immediately to halt publication for a month as punishment for printing the offending image of Jesus.
Religion is a sensitive issue in Malaysia, where 60 percent of the country’s 27 million people are Muslims, with the rest being mostly Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.
(c) Ecumenical News International
Photo : WORLD NEWS