The Star came under a lot of heat for the picture of Erykah Badu sporting body art offensive to Muslims in Star2 - the entertainment section of the paper. Three senior editors were summoned to the Home Ministry and the story did not end there.
Heads were destined to roll and they did. Star2 senior editor Lim Cheng Hoe and deputy editor for features Daryl Goh were suspended indefinitely. And to make sure the paper does not risk offending Islam again, associate editors Rozaid Rahman and Shah Dadameah were appointed to advise the daily on issues sensitive to Muslims.
I'm guessing that this was done to appease those who were baying for blood. But it appears that this decision has far from satisfied certain parties. Pas Youth are still not content, they want a dialogue with the paper to discuss the Badu issue and the coverage of Valentine's Day - because it also apparently rubs some Muslims up the wrong way.
In true Malaysian fashion this will all die down eventually. Maybe some other paper will rescue The Star from its plight, one of the Chinese dailies perhaps? Who are pros at hawking sensation. Do the top guns in Pas Youth know Mandarin I wonder? If they do, perhaps they won't be giving The Star such a bad time.
What irritates me with regards to this whole issue is that some people take offence because they have the luxury of doing so. Or perhaps it's all about gaining political mileage, being seen as the champions of Islam.
I do wonder if Badu or some other singer had done something that was deemed insulting to Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, would there have been such a hue and cry? If there was a petition from a group representing one of these religions to have a concert cancelled, would the government have swiftly acted upon it. Told the performer in question to go packing.......?
Is there some kind of unwritten consensus in this country that everyone has to be very careful not to insult Islam in any way because Muslims are the majority, but the same does not apply to the other religions?
Temples have been smashed, churches have fallen victim to arson attacks - you think the people of these two religions are okay with it? They quietly seethe but know for sure that they have no champion in the government.
A Lack of Understanding
Whether it is Islam, Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism - in today's world not many people truly understand religion. Their own and that of others. This lack of understanding gives way to disrespect in many instances. Sometimes it is unintentional - in the case of Badu. Sometimes people know but just don't care.
During my student days in Australia, my buddy and I once went shopping in downtown Sydney, we were surprised to find tight-fitting t-shirts and other clothes with the images of Hindu gods and goddesses printed on it. We even found a velvet satchel bag with Quranic verses on it.
I'm Hindu and my buddy is Christian, as Malaysians who were brought up to have a deep respect for religion and culture, we were a little disturbed yes, but not angry. I mean what to expect from people who don't have a strong religious tradition or even a wee bit of culture to begin with?
Did we think that the people who designed those apparel were disrespecting the two religions in question? Well I wouldn't give them credit for being that deep! I think they would have just as happily printed a picture of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary on those clothes. But not exotic enough I suppose.
That incident happened in 1998. But it appears things have progressed since then. Hindu deities have become so in demand that their images have also been printed on underwear and other skimpy clothes. It really does say something about the people who design these clothes, and even more of those who actually wear them!
People who do these things, insult themselves more than anyone else. So I definitely would not waste my time protesting or creating a Facebook group to condemn their doings. As a Hindu I believe in karma. You reap what you sow.
Closer to home, a few years ago, I went to the MPH Bookstore in Bangsar where I spotted a book with a picture of Lord Shiva and the divine ox Nandi on it, in the background was the snowy peaks of Mount Kailash. The book was a chic-lit about some woman travelling through India.
Now is that not kinda offensive? A non-religious book with a picture of a god and symbols sacred to Hinduism on it? If there was a chic-lit with the picture of the Kaaba on it, would MPH even be selling that book? Good Muslims would have launched a "Boycott MPH Campaign" for being anti-Islam.
Of Cowheads and such.......
I think most Malaysians should know that cows are sacred to Hinduism right? I mean if you don't, which planet are you living on honey....?? However Muslims are pretty big on eating beef. Cows to the slaughter on Hari-Raya Qurban etc.
No problem there, I don't expect them to start eating only mutton because there are Hindus in this country. But at the very least, they should practice some amount of basic sensitivity towards their fellow Malaysian Hindus.
There's this market in Setia Indah, Johor Baru which my mum frequents. There's this Malay butcher there who decorates his stall with bloody cowheads. Any day you go, the dude always has a couple of fresh bovine heads to um entice customers I suppose?
This to me is religious insensitivity. Setia Indah is in no way a pre-dominantly Malay neighbourhood. There's a good mix of Chinese, Indians and Malays. Like my mum, there are many other Indians who frequent that market too. You think they like it? I bet they don't, they just choose not to make a big deal about it.
As for that Malay butcher, I doubt he is unaware that cows are sacred to Indians. He probably just doesn't care. He is a Malay Muslim, he belongs to the majority race, Indians are a minority, so there you have it.
Well if you are a minority, does that make your religion any less sacred? To any non-Hindu reading this blog, let me give you an idea of the sacredness of the cow in Hindu religion. In most Hindu temples, the statue of the cow will face the main deity, be garlanded on special occasions and prayers are also conducted before it. So imagine what it would be like for any god fearing Hindu to have to look at a bloodied and butchered cowhead.
To wrap up, with regards to religion, the option is always there - whether to be offended or not, whether to make a big ruckus out of it. People who are true in their faith, understand that religion is all about peace. So when faced with the circumstances above, they turn away. It does not make them weak or meek in anyway. It shows that nothing can shake their faith, and that they are choosing the path of peace to that of aggression.