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Malaysia Muslim censors black out pictures of pigs

Photographs taken on pig farm get the censors' thumbs-down

<p>Picture: Wall Street Journal</p>

Picture: Wall Street Journal

  • Jason Ng for Wall Street Journal
  • Malaysia
  • March 5, 2014
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Censors in Malaysia sometimes feel there are things people just shouldn’t see. Nudity is one of them. Pigs, it appears, is another.

Readers of the International New York Times sold in Muslim-majority Malaysia found on Wednesday that the faces of piglets appearing in a front page photograph had been covered with black blocks. A second photograph of the animals on page 19, which accompanied a story about growing demand for pigs raised outdoors, received similar treatment.

The move has sparked a wave of criticism online and deepened concerns about religious sensitivities amid a recent increase in tensions between Muslims and Christians.

“Just like cats, pigs also have rights to be photographed and show off their cuteness,” Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, an activist with the Lawyers for Liberty group, wrote on Twitter.

KHL Printing Co Sdn Bhd, the company that prints the overseas edition of The New York Times in Malaysia, as well as the Wall Street Journal, declined to comment on the censorship, citing a confidentiality agreement with their client. They directed questions back to the International New York Times.

A spokeswoman with the International New York Times said the company was unaware of the censorship before the newspaper was printed. “We are discussing the matter with our printing contacts in the region,” she said.

The International New York Times is distributed as part of a pullout in The Malaysian Reserve business daily. Syed Mohd Fazilla Hussain, the chief executive officer of The Malaysian Reserve, declined to comment.

The Home Ministry, which grants the publication permits all local newspapers must obtain, denies ordering the photographs to be censored.

“The printer understands the sensitivity of our culture and they did it on their own initiative,” an official with the Home Ministry said.

Censorship is not unheard of in Malaysian newspapers. It might even have caused less of an uproar were it not for recent religious flare ups that have heightened tensions between Muslim and Christians and raised concerns about growing Islamization in a country often viewed as a model of moderate Islam.

Pigs are deemed unclean in Islam and followers of the faith are strictly forbidden from consuming pork. Physical contact with the animal, even if accidental, requires a lengthy ritual cleansing ceremony. Muslims make up about 61% of the population of 28 million people in Malaysia.

Full Story: Pigs Lose Face In Malaysia

Source: Wall Street Journal

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