KUALA LUMPUR: Around 100 members of the youth wing of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and Muslim groups protested outside the office of Chinese daily Nanyang Siang Pau on Tuesday (Apr 11) over a monkey cartoon it recently published.
Titled "Monkey Act", the cartoon is said to have depicted PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and Parliament speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia as monkeys sitting on the "Act 355" tree, as a group of monkeys fight under it.
The issue containing the cartoon went to print on Apr 8, two days after Hadi Awang presented a controversial bill to strengthen sharia or Islamic courts in Malaysia.
Nanyang Siang Pau has since pulled the cartoon from enanyang.my and issued an apology to the duo. However, their supporters still handed over a memo of protest on Tuesday and want the Home Ministry to take stern action against the newspaper.
In a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, PAS youth wing vice chairman Khairil Nizam Khirudin reiterated that Nanyang was being "rude, immoral and unethical". He also said it "did not respect the sensitivities of Muslims in Malaysia".
PAS' proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 seek to increase the limits for punishments that can be imposed on Muslims for certain crimes including premarital sex and adultery, alcohol consumption and apostasy.
Muslim-majority but multi-ethnic Malaysia practises a dual-track legal system for certain crimes. The proposed tweaks to the Act have come under fire from non-Malay and non-Muslim parties across the political divide who argue they go against the spirit of the federal constitution and could lead to unequal treatment between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Dr S Subramaniam, president of the Malaysian Indian Congress party - a member of the ruling coalition - has also said his party is concerned about the possibility of these amendments applying to non-Muslims in the future.
However, the amendments have nothing to do with non-Muslims, insist PAS and Prime Minister Najib Razak's party UMNO, which is seen to be forging closer ties with PAS ahead of a general election due by 2018.
GOVERNMENT ISSUES SHOW-CAUSE LETTER
According to a report by The Star, Malaysia's Home Ministry has issued a show-cause letter to Nanyang Siang Pau.
Chief Secretary Alwi Ibrahim was quoted as saying in a statement on Tuesday: "The editor has been given three days to reply to the show-cause letter, and any further action would be taken in accordance with the regulations."
He added that the caricature could spark public unrest.
"It can cause hate among people of different races and religion. To make matters worse, it appears like it is mocking Parliament and Islam as the Syaria Courts," said Alwi.