Magazine faces censure over semi-nude model draped in Malaysian flag

August 31, 2005

Kuala Lumpur - A Malaysian men's magazine may be censured for a cover featuring a seminude female model draped in the national flag that has sparked an uproar among Muslims, a senior official said Monday.

The pictures in the August edition of Sensasi Lelaki, or Men's Sensation, is an insult to the national flag and disrespectful to the country as it prepares to mark National Day on Wednesday, said Deputy Internal Minister Noh Omar.

The magazine will be asked to give an explanation for its move before the government decides whether to take further action including revoking its publication permit, Noh said.

"The publisher is insensitive to the status and integrity of the national flag... the parties concerned should give valid reasons for publishing the picture," Noh was quoted as saying by the national Bernama news agency.

Noh and his aides were not immediately reachable for comments. The magazine was still on sale in newsstands.

The coverpage and centerfold of the magazine show 23-year-old air stewardess Aida Khurniah wrapped in the national flag, posing sexily with her thighs and part of her chest exposed, but the shots are relatively tame by Western standards.

In an article accompanying the pictures titled "Lighting the Fire of Patriotism," she urged Malaysians to fly the national flag ahead of National Day.

"I think the fire of patriotism has long fizzled out in the souls of our people... don't let it stay that way," she was quoted as saying.

Skimpy attire is frowned upon in this predominantly Muslim nation that bans publications featuring nudity and what authorities deem pornographic.

The Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress over the weekend lodged a police complaint against the magazine, saying the "obscene" pictures had tarnished the country's image.

Malaysia will mark its National Day on August 31, the date it won independence from Britain 48 years ago. The government is pushing its citizens to fly the flag, known as "Jalur Gemilang" or Stripes of Glory, to show their love for the country.

"Perhaps the (magazine) just did not know the significance of the national flag or they are too enthusiastic about celebrating National Day," Noh said.


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