A three day “Inkfest’ in Malaysia called The Tattoo Malaysia Expo held in the capital Kuala Lumpur ended on Sunday. The next day, Malaysian officials were quick to criticize the exhibition as “porn”, unsuitable for the Muslim-majority country.

The officials took issue with images of half-naked men and women from the event showing off their tattoos. Some of the images went viral on social media. The event was attended by people from many countries and some circulated photos online that showed people with extensive tattoos on their arms, legs, back, and buttocks.

A previous exhibition held on the Malaysian part of Borneo island did not showcase any nudity and Malaysian officials may have thought that the Kuala Lumpur event would feature the same level of skin exposure.

The exposed backs and buttocks caused the authorities to say they had not given any approval for what they termed "half-naked parades". The tourism minister, Mohammadin Ketapi, initially supported the event but changed his mind after seeing the images. He warned that the government could take legal action against the organizers and ordered a probe.

He added in a statement that the pictures did not reflect the Southeast Asian nation's "polite and decent" culture and said, “It is impossible for the ministry to approve of any program that contains porn such as this. This is not Malaysian culture; the majority of the population are Muslims."

Merriam-Webster defines pornography (or porn) as; the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement. In less modest western countries, where popular culture and music are rife with overtly sexual images and innuendos, the “bar” for what is deemed pornographic is much lower than what Muslim cultures define as porn.  

Al-Mawrid's English-Arabic dictionary translates the word "Fuhsha" as anything shameful and all scholars agree that the word includes pornography under its umbrellas of shameful acts. Porn is a big taboo for followers of Islam.

The culture war over what is and what is not porn will continue as will tattoo exhibitions featuring body art that some will consider obscene. Western culture views the issue as more of a personal decision as to what porn is while in some Muslim countries, the government wants to make that decision for its citizenry.

In Malaysia, 60 percent of the country's 32 million people are Muslim, but critics fear a traditionally tolerant brand of Islam is being eroded by a creeping religious conservatism.

Malaysian government officials tend to be conservative, and rights groups say minority groups, ranging from Shiite Muslims to gays, are facing growing pressure from authorities to conform to the majority Sunni Muslim views.