12/17/2002 AT 11:00 AM EST
A Toyota advertisement featuring Brad Pitt has been banned in Malaysia because it is "an insult to Asians," according to published reports.
In an official sanction, the Malaysian government ordered the ads to be pulled because the sight of non-Asian faces such as the 39-year-old actor's would "plant a sense of inferiority among Asians," the county's deputy information minister Zainuddin Maidin tells the national news agency Bernama.
The widespread ads, hawking Toyota Altis cars, were featured on TV, billboards and in newspapers across Asia and were reportedly a favorite target of fans who swiped the posters off public walls and put them up in their own bedrooms. (The ad does not appear in the U.S.)
"Why must we use their faces in our advertisements?" Zainuddin says. "Aren't our own people handsome enough?"
He adds: "We barred the advertisement as it appeared as a humiliation against Asians."
There has been no comment from the Pitt camp.