There have been calls to investigate a tattoo exhibition after photographs of semi-naked participants sparked outrage in Malaysia.

Participants from 35 countries came over the weekend to the Tattoo Malaysia Expo in the country's capital Kuala Lumpur, to show off their inked bodies.

But officials in the deeply conservative Muslim country said the exhibition violated their standards after photos of semi-naked, heavily tattooed participants were shared online.

The three-day festival, which started on Friday, was supported by the country's Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, according to the show's organiser on its website.

But an investigation has been launched after the country's government said this year's event violated their standards for the first time since it was launched in 2015.

A tattoo expo in Malaysia is under fire from religious authorities after pictures of semi-naked models went viral
A tattoo expo in Malaysia is under fire from religious authorities after pictures of semi-naked models went viral

Yesterday, a photograph of semi-nude modelling at the event went viral among Malaysians on social media.

Authorities have vowed "firm action" against organisers.

Pictures in Malaysian media blurred the genitals of men and women in the show.

"It's impossible for the ministry to approve any application for events that have obscene elements such as this because it is not Malaysian culture, what more when the majority of Malaysians are Muslim," said Mohamaddin Ketapi, the country's minister of tourism, arts, and culture in a statement.

"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 went on: "I understand that it was a closed-door event but it had breached the norms of morality, and I have instructed the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau to investigate the matter.

"Organising an international event is good for the national tourism industry but not this way, it does not reflect the real Malaysia which is full of manners and morals," he said in a statement.

Authorities said they hadn't given approval for what they called "half-naked parades", and said previous international tattoo shows held in the country didn't include any nudity.

The event saw participants from 35 countries attend the three-day festival in Kuala Lumpur
The event saw participants from 35 countries attend the three-day festival in Kuala Lumpur

Event organiser Carlos Benny Majakil hasn't commented yet on the news.

Authorities in Malaysia, where Muslims make up about 60% of the country's 32m population, have enforced strict religious laws over many aspects of the country.

Last month, a religious court in the country sentenced five men to jail, caning, and fines for attempting gay sex.

While in September last year, two women were caned for "attempting lesbian sex" in the country's eastern state of Terengganu.