Malaysian government: No ban on Bollywood films despite Muslim concerns

Posted: Friday, February 23, 2001

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- The Malaysian government won't ban Indian-made movies as urged by Muslim clerics but plans stricter censorship on ''negative influences,'' newspapers reported.

''We cannot simply stop the screening of Bollywood films, but we can censor all things which could lead to negative influences before they are aired,'' Information Minister Khalil Yaakob told the New Straits Times newspaper.

Indian movies are hugely popular in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation. But entertainment is heavily censored in Malaysia, where a review board orders films cut to remove sex, profanities and anything else authorities deem unwholesome.

Malaysia's Conference of Muftis, an influential group of Muslim leaders, said last week that Indian movies offended Malay values and urged the government to limit television airtime allotted to them.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in turn accused foreign countries of a cultural invasion of Malaysia through the Internet, movies and music CDs, and said the imports had caused an increase in violent crime. But Mahathir was quoted by Monday's Malay-language Utusan Malaysia daily newspaper as saying the government needed to study the effects of Indian movies before taking any action.

Hindi movies are a hit in Malaysia, not just among the more than 2 million ethnic Indians who live here, but also with other ethnic groups who make up the 22 million population, especially the Malay Muslim majority.

The Indian film industry -- nicknamed Bollywood after its main production center in Bombay -- is the world's largest, churning out nearly 800 movies a year in a variety of languages.

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