Malaysia's police chief has warned the public not to link Nanyang Siang Pau's publication of a controversial cartoon to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in France.
The Chinese daily landed itself in hot water after publishing a drawing depicting Islamic opposition party leader Abdul Hadi Awang and Parliament Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia as monkeys sitting in a tree named Act 355, a law governing the country's syariah court powers.
With race and religion being sensitive topics in multiracial Malaysia, the drawing in a minority-race publication has caused some tension.
"So don't do anything or publish drawings or writing that can cause exasperation in the community. We have to be careful with these things," police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters.
Don't do anything or publish drawings or writing that can cause exasperation in the community. We have to be careful with these things.
POLICE CHIEF KHALID ABU BAKAR, on preserving peace in a multi-religious nation.
NOT THE SAME
Malaysia is not France, KL is not Paris and Nanyang Siang Pau is not Charlie Hebdo.The political cultures of the two countries are also vastly contrasting and different.
MR YANG RAZALI KASSIM, senior fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, on comparing Malaysia with France.
Datuk Seri Hadi, leader of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), had tabled a private member's Bill in Parliament last week, seeking to enable syariah courts to mete out harsher punishments. The proposal has been criticised by non-Muslims and ethnic minority political parties.
Nanyang Siang Pau issued a public apology on Monday and removed the offending cartoon from its website, but this did little to placate PAS members, who staged a protest outside the newspaper's office on Tuesday. Riled up, Penang PAS state commissioner Muhammad Fauzi Yusof warned the media against publishing offensive content.
"If this cartoon is circulated worldwide, it would only anger the Muslim world again," said Mr Fauzi, according to news site Free Malaysia Today. "If you remember, there was a French newspaper that published a caricature that angered the whole Muslim world".
In 2015, two terrorists attacked the Paris office of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, leaving 12 dead. The publication is known for printing cartoons featuring Prophet Muhammad, an act deemed blasphemous by many Muslims worldwide.
While religious issues remain a delicate topic, analysts say the current dissatisfaction by Malaysia's conservatives over a cartoon is unlikely to escalate into violence.
"Malaysia is not France, KL is not Paris and Nanyang Siang Pau is not Charlie Hebdo," said Mr Yang Razali Kassim, a senior fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. "The political cultures of the two countries are also vastly contrasting and different."
The Chinese paper received a show-cause letter from the Home Ministry on Tuesday, and has until today to respond. The daily's management declined to comment on its next course of action.
Lawyer Chan May May, who represented another Chinese daily, Sin Chew, in 1987, when it was suspended, said: "If Nanyang can explain itself, it can be let off, though I'm sure it will end up with a slap on the wrist. But it won't be as tragic as having its licence revoked."
The last time a publication ran afoul of the authorities over religious content was in 2008, when a Catholic newspaper was barred from publishing the word "Allah" in its Malay language supplement.
In 2015, the Home Ministry suspended The Edge Financial Daily and The Edge Weekly over reports on scandal-hit fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad. In 2013, weekly paper The Heat was suspended for almost six weeks following a report on the lavish spending by the Prime Minister's family.