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MALAYSIA: Cartoon in major Malaysian paper sparks outrage

New cartoon published in Malaysian newspaper not well received by Muslim and non-Muslim audience

Straits Times
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

By Carolyn Hon

Kuala Lumpur --- It was a cartoon controversy of a different kind when the New Straits Times (NST) yesterday drew flak for publishing a cartoon that made light of the global storm caused by the Danish caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

The cartoon carried by the NST, a major mainstream newspaper, on Monday offended some Muslims who saw it as painting the community in a poor light for their strong reaction to the caricatures of The Prophet.

The NST cartoon so outraged three Muslim groups and the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), which has been leading street demonstrations against the Danish cartoons, that they lodged police reports yesterday against the newspaper.

The cartoon from a syndication agency depicted a cartoonist at work sitting next to a sign which read "Caricatures of Muhammad while you wait!."

It bore the caption "Kevin finally achieves his goal to be the most feared man in the world."

It was published under the title Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller in the comics section.

The NST has close ties with the Umno party.

PAS Youth chief Salahuddin Ayub said he lodged the police report because the party felt that the cartoon was insulting to Prophet Muhammad and Muslims.

He was disappointed that the paper chose to publish the cartoon even after Malaysia had condemned the publication of the Danish caricatures.

"Since last night, I have been receiving hundreds of text messages with a strong message condemning the cartoon. Many of the SMSes were from non-Muslims," he told The Straits Times.

He will give a statement to the police today to kick off the investigation.

The other groups that lodged reports were the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association, the Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress and the Peninsular Malay Students Federation.

It is not clear what sort of action, if any, could be taken.

It is not uncommon for opposition parties such as PAS to lodge police reports against the media over stories which they deem as seditious or defamatory.

None of the reports has resulted in any action so far.

The Straits Times understands that the NST also received many calls from readers complaining about the cartoon.

The newspaper, however, has declined to comment.

The cartoon comes at a sensitive time as Malaysia recently cracked down on two newspapers, the Sarawak Tribune and Guang Ming Daily, for carrying the original Danish caricatures.

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