Malaysia, the land of absurdity

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Graphic: freemalaysiatoday.com

In the eyes of the world, we are becoming the land of absurdity to be ridiculed and laughed at. Should we Malaysians suffer this shame and ridicule on account of some stupid stand taken by Jakim?

The franchise Auntie Anne’s application for halal certification did not succeed because of the menu item “pretzel dog”.

In a ridiculous explanation, Jakim’s halal division director, Sirajuddin Suhaimee, said this was because “the department’s assessment panel cannot approve the original name of the menu item as it refers to dogs”.

When Malaysiakini contacted Jakim on this matter, he said, “Yes, (because) the panel cannot approve the word dog as it refers to the canine animal.”

Section 3.7.4 of the Malaysian halal food guideline states: “Halal food and halal artificial flavour shall not be named or synonymously named after non-halal products such as ham, bak kut teh, bacon, beer, rum and others that might create confusion.”

All the products mentioned in the above guideline are not recent items that might “confuse” the Muslims. They have existed for many decades – some could even be at least a century old or more.

Who were the people who were confused all this while? Is there any evidence of such confusion? Are there any zombies walking around in Malaysia because of these words?

Ordinary Muslims know what is allowed and disallowed. Certain names don’t confuse them. They have been walking confidently in their faith without Jakim having to tell them what can be consumed and what must be ignored. They have more common sense than they are credited for by Jakim.

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We need to ask Jakim officials very seriously, “Are you indeed confused? If you are not, why do you think that others will be confused? Tell us who are the likely Muslims who can be confused.”

Not only non-Muslims are bewildered by Jakim’s ruling, even devout Muslims are equally confused with Jakim’s stand.

“No, people have known about hotdogs for a long time,” Pas youth chief Nik Abduh Nik Aziz said when asked if the word hot dog could confuse Muslims. Sensibly, he maintained, “what makes a food halal or haram are its ingredients, not its name.”

Nik Abduh also said he might go and eat at Auntie Anne’s. When it is not a problem for him, why is it a problem for Jakim?

To his credit, Umno supreme council member Nazri Abdul Aziz said even in Malay, people called the meal “hot dogs” and not “anjing panas” (literally, hot dog). He had a point when he said, “This is ridiculous. This is done by people who are ignoramus. They are not living in the real world.

“My Muslim-ness is not at all affected by eating hot dogs, In fact, I think I want to eat a hot dog now,” said Nazri.

It is ludicrous to suggest that the name “pretzel dog” be changed to “pretzel sausage”. What difference does it make? It is still the same stuff; the same ingredients are used to make it; it is made in the same manner. By converting “dog” to “sausage”, how does it become more palatable?

This incredulous notion of “Muslim-ness”, as expressed by Nazri, has gone beyond the pale – right into the realm of the ridiculous. Even ginger beer, the non-alcoholic drink, is today known as ginger ade! The manufacturer has been asked to remove the word ‘beer’ from ginger beer.

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Has Jakim heard the saying, “A rose by any other name still smells just as sweet!” What do they hope to achieve by being absurd?

Must we forego expressions like “dog in the manger”, “dog eat dog”, “going to the dogs”, “let sleeping dogs lie”, “top dog”, and “underdog” just because Jakim cannot stand the name “dog”?

Auntie Anne’s should forget about halal certification and save itself the money and the trouble. When Nik Abduh and Nazri have no trouble eating “hot dogs” at your premises without the halal certificate, you should not fear that you will not be patronised by other Muslims. There are many more sensible Muslims in Malaysia than what Jakim is aware of.

Don’t confuse your regular patrons by changing the name of your well-known hot dogs to something else!

Come to think of it, Jakim officials should not travel to holiday in Europe. There, they have magnificent cathedrals with prominent crosses displayed; they have wonderful life-like statues in many places; they have huge alcoholic advertisements all over the place; they sell hot dogs along the streets. Wouldn’t they be confused and lose their way and not return to Malaysia?

Jakim makes such a fuss over a small matter. What is their stand on corruption that is rampant and prevalent in the country? We witnessed boxes of money in the millions stacked away in Sabah. What has Jakim to say about this?

We get a lot of money from non-halal businesses. High taxes on liquor mean more income. We receive taxes from gambling saloons, from 4-D operators, from Toto that Jakim must view as haram money. Doesn’t this haram money contribute to the salaries of working people? Isn’t this money used for development? Will Jakim oppose this income for the government?

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Jakim needs to look at larger issues concerning justice, fairness, honesty and other enduring social values in the right perspective instead of picking on petty issues. Stop making a mountain out of a molehill!

P Ramakrishnan
Aliran executive committee member
21 October 2016

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Angeline Ong
Angeline Ong

Well said, Rama. The poor English Language teachers will have a hard time teaching idioms and proverbs with the word,”dog” in them. Egs dog-eared page of a book, raining cats and dogs, The dog and his reflection in Aesop’s fable, “The little dog laughed to see such fun” in the nursery rhyme, “Hey diddle, diddle”, etc., etc.
And do you notice our Malaysian calendar, with the Chinese signs of the Zodiac does not have the picture of a pig but just the word, “pig” in Chinese? Soon “dog” will follow suit. What is our country coming to?