Man getting a tattoo

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Pictures from the Tattoo Malaysia Expo have gone viral online

A Malaysian minister has called a tattoo exhibition “obscene” and ordered an investigation after pictures of half-naked men and women went viral.

The minister for tourism, arts and culture said that while a permit was issued, there was no green light for any form of nudity at the event.

In recent years, there has been increased debate about Islamic conservatism in Malaysian public life.

The Tattoo Malaysia Expo drew participants from some 35 countries.

It was held over the weekend in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The show has taken place since 2015, but only this year drew criticism from the government, which announced “firm action” against the organisers.

“It is impossible for the ministry to approve of any programme that contains obscenity such as this,” Tourism Minister Mohammadin Ketapi said in a statement.

Pictures showed heavily-tattooed participants in semi-nude poses. Malaysian media blurred some of the images.

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Mr Ketapi said the show “was not Malaysian culture…when the majority of Malaysians are Muslim”.

“We will wait for the full investigation report and will not hesitate to take legal action if they are found to have been in violation of set conditions,” he added.

Around 60% of Malaysia’s 32 million people are Muslim, and critics say the country has been moving towards more religious conservatism.

A religious court this year sentenced five men to jail, caning and fines for attempting gay sex.

In 2018, two women were caned for lesbian sex in the conservative state of Terengganu.

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