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Mel Gibson's The Passion comes to Malaysia - but only for Christians

Censors in Malaysia have approved Mel Gibson's controversial movie "The Passion of the Christ" for screening, but the government says only Christians will be allowed to watch it.

To ensure the government's restrictive policy is adhered to, tickets can only be bought at Christian churches.

Islam forbids the representation of animals and humans, including sacred figures. Its holy book, the Qu'ran, considers Jesus a prophet, not the crucified Son of God, and for this reason does not in principle allow his depiction.

Speaking to a Kuala Lumpur newspaper, Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing, the Jesuit-trained bishop of Melaka-Johor, praised the Prime Minister's decision but expressed his displeasure over the Home Ministry's religious restrictions.

"I am perplexed and disappointed by the decision," he said. "If the Malaysian government is honest and serious about promoting racial and religious tolerance amongst its citizenry, it must adopt an open approach to the beliefs, values and cultures of all people of goodwill."

"We must not exaggerate our differences negatively," he added. Instead, "we should underline our similarities and the film The Passion of the Christ could be a wonderful jumping-off point for inter-religious dialogue to enhance mutual understanding and acceptance of each other."

Bishop Tan called upon the Home Ministry to reconsider the "Christians-only" restriction saying that "it would put Malaysia in a bad light in the vibrant, globalised universe that is increasingly looking for positive common ground."

"The Passion of the Christ" for Christians-only viewing ( 26/7/04)

Mel Gibson's The Passion comes to Malaysia - but only for Christians (Ecumenical News International 26/7/04)

27 Jul 2004