Kazakh MP moves to censure Borat star

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The Independent Online

An MP from Kazakhstan has demanded that action be taken against the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen because his fictional Kazakh character Borat still causes his countrymen to suffer "pain in their hearts".

More than four years have passed since Mr Baron Cohen's film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, was released. The film portrayed the Central Asian state as a bigoted backwater where people drink horse urine and chase Jews through the streets, and where the age of consent "has been raised to eight years old".

After initial anger over the film, there appeared to have been an acceptance among Kazakh officials that it was counterproductive to rail against Borat.

Foreign ministry aides would even make the film in meetings with foreign journalists, to prove that they were in on the joke. But a recent drunken incident in Exeter shows that the British comedian's fictional buffoon still has the power to make people angry and upset in the Central Asian nation.       

Last month, a 20-year-old Kazakh student at Exeter University attacked two men on a drunken night out. Almat Samirov said he went "crazy" when he overheard comments about Borat and drunkenly assaulted the two men, throwing one on the ground and proceeding to kick him, in an incident that was captured on CCTV. He admitted assault and threatening behaviour and was sentenced to 200 hours community service and fined £750.

Bekbolat Tleukhan, a member of the Kazakh parliament, said this week that it was Mr Baron Cohen's Borat character that was to blame. "[The film] has left a negative stain on our country," said Mr Tleukhan. "Our students abroad are hurting in their hearts and they are opposed to the fact that their country is shown in a bad light – I ask that measures be taken." He did not specify exactly what measures he felt were appropriate.

Mr Tleukhan has shown before that he regards Kazakh national pride as a sensitive subject.

When in 2007 a Kazakh newspaper published a picture of the country's long-standing president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, wearing only his Speedos, the MP was outraged.

"Think of the times of Ablai Khan," said Mr Tleukhan at the time, referring to an 18th century Kazakh monarch. "A person was buried alive for letting the khan's hat fall on the ground. Now we have the publication of a picture of a naked president. You must not trample upon a state emblem.

"You must not step on the flag. And you must not show the Kazakh president naked."