|Government's Film Censorship Board decision is perplexing|
Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ has been approved for Christian audiences – only.
The Ministry of Home Affairs revealed the restriction in response to a question by opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Teresa Kok in parliament on Tuesday.
"Does it mean that the government is going to implement a policy where movies concerning … Buddhism and Buddha could only be watched by Buddhists and movies related to Hinduism can only be watched by Hindus?" Kok asked.
More than half of Malaysia's population of 25 million are Muslims, but there are large number of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists among the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.
Describing the move as "retrogressive", Kok noted that movies about religious figures had been screened in Malaysian cinemas previously.
She cited a few examples, such as Jesus of Nazareth a few decades ago, and more recently Little Buddha starring Keanu Reeves and Seven Years in Tibet with Brad Pitt.
"Let the people of Malaysia enjoy the freedom to watch any movie of their choice. The government should stop practicing unnecessary censorship and treating the people like children," she said.
Malaysia has strict censorship laws and has in the past been quick to ban or cut films deemed sensitive, including Schindler's List, The Hours and animated musical Prince of Egypt.
A total of 1582 foreign films had been banned between 2000 and May 2004, the home ministry said in a written reply to Kok.
The Mel Gibson film has been criticised for alleged anti-Semitism - which Gibson denies - and violence, but has been a box office success.
Other Islamic countries have been divided about the film: Iran, Oman and Qatar have approved it while Bahrain has banned it. - Agencies
Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"