Source AP ©

Malaysian newspaper publishes image of Jesus Christ with cigarette in his hand

A newspaper catering to Malaysia's ethnic Indians published a front-page apology Thursday after causing an outrage by printing an image of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette.

S.M. Periasamy, general manager of the Tamil-language Makkal Osai, said the daily published the controversial photo by mistake.

"The graphic artist, whom we have already suspended, didn't see the cigarette," Periasamy told The Associated Press. "It was a mistake."

He said the artist downloaded a picture of Jesus from the Internet for use along with a quote from the Bible on the paper's front page on Tuesday.

Malaysian newspaper publishes image of Jesus Christ with
Malaysian newspaper publishes image of Jesus Christ with
But the artist overlooked the fact that the picture had been altered to insert a cigarette in one hand and another object - a can or a book - in the other, he said.

Kuala Lumpur archbishop, Murphy Pakiam, who earlier criticized the picture as a "desecration," accepted the newspaper's apology.

However, the Malaysian Indian Congress, a party in Malaysia's ruling coalition, filed a police report and called on the government to close the paper, which has generally been critical of the MIC.

"It's a very serious issue. For certain things you can apologize, but for this kind of sensitive issue, the editor should be sacked and the paper closed," T. Mohan, a senior party official, told the AP.

Ethnic Indians comprise 10 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people, and are mostly Hindus with a sprinkling of Christians and Muslims.

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