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Timah decision a toast to common sense

All that was required was for the political leadership to muster the courage to explain to the people that Timah had no religious connotations

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Common sense finally prevails, particularly among those who picked a bone with the maker of the Timah whisky recently.

The government has reportedly agreed to allow Winepak Corporation to maintain its whisky’s brand name, with the provision that an explanation be made on the label that the name Timah comes from the Malay words bijih timah – not that many Malaysians do not know the Malay term for tin ore.

We would assume that the cabinet, including its Pas ministers who quibbled over the name, took a collective decision to leave the spirit alone once and for all.

Malaysians, including voters in Malacca, who will be going to the polls today [20 November], can now heave a sigh of relief now that the brouhaha is over.

They can focus their attention on more pressing issues such as the Pandora Papers and Budget 2022, the latter considered by some as unfair towards non-Malays and the Bornean states.

Incidentally, the timing of the government’s decision on this Timah matter appears curious for some people, especially those who are mindful of the highly competitive Malacca state election, which involves parties eyeing non-Muslim votes.

To recap, the Timah whisky issue was initially raised by certain MPs in the opposition, certain quarters in the Muslim community, and the ruling Perikatan Nasional pact, despite attempts to caution them that it was petty.

Given this backdrop, it is therefore inappropriate and unfair for anyone to only place the blame on opposition politicians for having created the brouhaha.

It is argued that the name Timah has got nothing to do with Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah, nor does the label carry a photo of a supposedly bearded Muslim wearing a skull cap.

The skull cap is also worn by followers of other religions, such as the Jews, while anyone who has the natural capacity to grow a beard may not necessarily be a Muslim.

Just to make sure that those who initially opposed the name are on the same page, people who drink Timah would not, by any stretch of the imagination, be drinking any kind of woman, let alone a Muslim woman.

It would have been a costly affair had the maker been compelled to change the brand after it had spent a lot of money on marketing and publicity, and especially after winning international recognition.

Besides, names of goods and places may have a deep history in which the people concerned take pride.

If we may take another example – the town of Menggatal near Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. It is said the town’s name is derived from the English language used during the British colonial era, which was a combination of mango and town (because of the abundance of mangoes in the area). Town was later reduced to tal by the native Dusuns there.

Surely, the name Menggatal should not be changed just because it connotes being randy to some with a high level of imagination and perhaps some form of itchiness.

Anyway, this episode goes to show that the pettiness of the Timah matter does not merit the combined effort and energy of four cabinet members, who got themselves involved in a meeting with the whisky representatives to persuade the latter to change the brand name.

All that was required was for the political leadership to muster the courage to explain to the people that Timah had no religious connotations – unlike what certain quarters had alleged.

As rightly pointed out by Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said, society needs to be educated to think in a more logical way, and that is the only way to move forward as a nation.

If there were attempts to politically capitalise on this non-issue, whatever brownie points accrued from it were far outweighed by the bad publicity and ridicule generated here and overseas, as well as the divisive politics that society had to endure.

Let’s hope that the spirit of Timah will no longer be tampered with in politics. – 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.

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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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Ravinder Singh
20 Nov 2021 9.06pm

The government kneels before the racists and bigots not only in matters like “Timah” but also in the cases of preachers belittling other faiths and incidents like racism in schools. And yet the same government talks of racial unity and Keluarga Malaysia. Racial unity and Keluarga Malaysia will never be achieved so long as the government does not act against ORANG KITA who create racial tensions. It is not pledges, slogans, organised functions and the like that create national unity, but what goes on in society at ground level each day.

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