Malaysia’s government ordered a Tamil-language daily to immediately halt publication for a month Friday as punishment for printing an image of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette, an official with the newspaper said.
S.M. Periasamy, general manager of Makkal Osai, which caters to Malaysia’s ethnic Indian minority, said his office received the directive by fax from the Internal Security Ministry.
“Of course we are shocked by this. My entire staff are all in tears. They will lose a month of income,” Periasamy said, adding that the newspaper would abide by the order but plans to appeal the suspension.
Ministry officials in this Muslim-majority nation could not immediately be reached for comment.
The newspaper had said it published the photo by mistake Tuesday and carried a front-page apology Thursday.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Thursday that the picture was hurtful and an insult to Christians. Kuala Lumpur archbishop, Murphy Pakiam, criticized the picture as a “desecration,” but later accepted the newspaper’s apology.