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Ramadan ads: Of armpits and morality

 | August 2, 2011

Local station 8TV has come out with Ramadan advertisements that appear to be condescending to a particular race.


PETALING JAYA: A local television station has come out with Ramadan advertisements that appear to be condescending to a particular race.

Released as public service announcements (PSA) on YouTube, the 8TV advertisements depict a socially-inept Chinese woman embarrassing others at a Ramadan Bazaar.

Each PSA then comes with a moral lesson, with the woman instantly changing her ways to suit the advertisement’s message.

In one episode, the woman dressed in a sleeveless singlet openly showed her armpits to passers-by while she fiddled with a bunch of bananas. The armpits, however, were censored.

“Wow, I feel like I’m the centre of attention! I love it! And I love you all!” she says, as people around her avert their eyes.

The video is then slapped with a message that says: “Do not wear tight and revealing clothes.”

A few seconds later, the woman is then seen clad in a baju kurung, with a complete change of attitude.

A message that says “Do wear appropriate attire” then shows up on the screen.

Another episode shows the same Chinese woman eating cakes straight out of a hawker’s table, with the accompanying message: “Do not be greedy and eat in public.”

A third PSA highlights the apparent lack of manners, with the Chinese woman caressing a female seller’s arms, humming as she says: “I love you, makcik.”

Proceeding to slap a Malay male hawker selling watermelons on the shoulder, she then loudly exclaims: “Pakcik, ada diskaun kah? (Uncle, do you have a discount?)”

When FMT called 8TV for comment, a spokesperson said that the station would respond within a matter of minutes.

However, FMT noticed that the PSAs were removed from YouTube less than 10 minutes later.

(The user who originally posted the videos was known by the nickname “SanRandhawa”.)

Queried in a later call about the videos’ disappearance, the same spokesperson said: “We’re not very sure. Sometimes we get complaints from Facebook telling us to take off the videos.”

The spokesperson then declined any further comment.

CEO: Don’t over-analyse

However, Media Prima chief operating office Ahmad Izham Omar tweeted later in the day that the TV station was retracting the Ramadan ads.

“Ok guys. We’re pulling out the ads. Thank you very much for your concern,” he said under his Twitter handle, AhmadIzhamOmar.

He said this after telling his Twitter followers not to “overanalyse” the controversial 8TV ads.

“Chill guys. Don’t overthink the ads. Its written, produced and directed by a multi-racial team. If you overanalyse, anything will be bad,” Ahmad tweeted.

PAS MP: Ads in bad taste

PAS’ Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad said that the three ads were done in “bad taste”.

“The ads have been done in bad taste. It is giving negative publicity to Muslims, and not enhancing the good will to Muslims,” he told FMT.

He added that Media Prima owed the public an apology over the matter.

He also referred to last year’s TV3 Hari Raya advertisement in September, which portrayed Santa Claus in a Muslim setting. After a public outcry, TV3 withdrew the clip.

Dzulkefly said the 8TV advertisements gave viewers the impression that Muslims were coercing non-Muslims into adhering to their practices.

He said that if non-Muslims wanted to follow Muslim principles, especially during Ramadan, they were free to or not to do so.

“If they want to give you that respect out of their good will, it’s their choice,” he said.

Umno Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan however advised the public to put the episode behind them, especially with Media Prima taking off the ads.

“A society which is able to laugh and poke fun at itself is a confident, open and matured society,” he said. He added that Malaysians had bigger things to worry about.

“Media Prima seems to have taken the ads off the air. I hope everyone will let it rest,” he said.

Wholly Umno-owned Media Prima controls the TV3, 8TV, ntv7 and TV9 television stations. It also owns the Fly FM, Hot FM and One FM radio network.

Facebook criticism

Meanwhile, 8TV has also come under fire from its fans, with many of them criticising the station’s released PSAs on its Facebook page.

One fan known as Azrul Mohd Khalib said that the station’s ads were tinged with racism.

“I am a Muslim who is also fasting. I see no need for these ridiculous ads which have a racist tone. This being a holy month too.”

“It is an insult to Muslims. But it is especially insulting to those who are non-Muslims,” he wrote, demanding (at the time) for 8TV to retract the ads.

Angie Teoh, another 8TV fan however, was convinced that the damage was already done.

“I was totally insulted by your so-called PSA ads. Your pulling the now doesn’t mean a thing.”

“It is not an overnight process to produce them and a decision was made to air them,” she said, calling for the company to make a public apology.

Another fan, Shamyl Othman was incensed with the ads, which he said trivialised the importance of the holy month of Ramadan.

“8TV, your Ramadan PSAs are dumb and insulting to both non-Muslims and Muslims. All three should be taken off the air.”

“Not only are they done in bad taste on so many levels, but they are totally irrelevant and trivialises the significance of Ramadan,” he said.


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