Dangerous icing on the cake

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In a land where people can run amok over race and religion, it is crucial to be on the side of caution when you say certain things or sell some products.

That’s how, for instance, DAP veteran leader Lim Kit Siang found himself caught in the eye of a storm when his imagination went too far.

He wrongly thought it might be possible to think of a non-Malay prime minister even in the very distant future. There’s a limit to being imaginative, for curiosity does kill the cat in Malaysia.

Similarly, it is also important that thoughts expressed in public should not be vague or ambiguous to the extent that they can be misconstrued or worse, cause confusion, especially among those in Malaysia who are used to taking things literally.

The recent brouhaha over Christmas greetings on cakes is a case in point. It caused much commotion to the extent that the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for religious affairs, Mohd Na’im Mokhtar, had to step up to the plate.He directed Jakim, the Islamic development department, to clear the air as soon as possible and made sure they walked the talk.

It all started with a cake house that reportedly refused to entertain the wishes of its customers, that is, to write celebratory festive greetings, particularly Christmas wishes, on cakes. The establishment was accused of being discriminatory.

The shop manager allegedly made the decision to abide by Jakim’s rules. In other words, he tried to avoid having his halal certificate voided.

He has since offered apologies for what he considered his misinterpretation of halal certification requirements. Contrary to his understanding, it is indeed permissible to put Christmas greetings on cakes.

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It is also a relief to know that he as well as other cake-makers who hold halal certification can now place cakes emblazoned with Christmas greetings in full public view.

This follows Jakim’s recent decision to rescind its 2020 directive that cakes bearing festive greetings were not allowed to be displayed.

Maintaining the old ruling would have left a bad taste in the mouth of Christians. They certainly can now have their cake and eat it too.

Nonetheless, one must be careful when handling cakes that might exhibit many layered meanings, which can be too much for the simple-minded to stomach.

The verbal diarrhoea triggered by misreadings may not be pleasant to witness.

Past incidents involving sellers of edible products should be instructive to present-day food vendors, as far as dealings with Jakim are concerned.

In 2016 franchised chain Auntie Anne’s got its halal certification application rejected because it had – good heavens – a ‘dog’ on its menu, in reference to its famous Pretzel Dog.

A dog may be a man’s or woman’s best friend, but to devour the chummy canine?

So, to avoid confusion as well as not to spook ethnic Malay-Muslims, the food item morphed into something kosher and chewable – “Pretzel Sausage”.

Another case involved the A&W fast-food chain. In 2012 it could not obtain a halal logo because it served Coney Dog and its famous root beer, both of which would present a monumental obstacle for certain Muslims to overcome.

The first product swiftly transformed into “Chicken Coney” while the second shrank to mere “RB”.

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With the issues above in mind, it is perhaps prudent to be politically correct even when you are deeply disturbed by recent occurrences.

You could be more dignified and less offensive by saying the country has gone to the sausages. – The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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