If there were to be another Golden Age of Islam, it most certainly cannot be revived in Malaysia, not with the number of sensitive Muslims around.
What a pity! Malaysian Muslims will not be allowed to participate in advancing the arts, astronomy, architecture, engineering, maritime matters, medicine, mathematics, the sciences, and much more.
On Aug 10, it was reported that two statues of women with wings were ordered to be removed from the MBI Desaku Park, in Padang Meha, Kulim, in Kedah. In the end, 20 statues are to be removed after local residents complained they offended Muslim sensitivities.
What constitutes a sensitive Muslim? Is there a manual which details the statues which are offensive and those which are not?
The entrance to my home is guarded by the Monkey God and a stone Shi (Imperial lion). A carving of the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin, sits in the drawing room beside a Neptune’s head made of wood. Among the ferns are stone Buddhas. In the guest room are several Bratz heads, left by the children of visiting friends. The carved artefacts are mostly works of art, but I do not pray to them, nor do these disturb my “Muslim sensitivity”.
What is it about the statue of a woman with wings, or an angel, that caused offence to the locals? Following complaints, the Kulim district office found it necessary to remove them, because these statues were deemed “inappropriate” and “God-like”. How does one define “God-like”?
Despite the theme park being sited on private land, the developers of the park, ECK Sdn Bhd, caved in to the demands, and have until the end of September to remove the 20 offending statues from the park. The park features several other statues and carvings of various sizes, including characters from Spiderman, Snow White, Optimus Prime and Transformers.
In 2015, a children’s playground in Penang, became the target of conservative Muslims, who objected to a children’s ride which looked like a pig.
What about Legoland, in Johor, or the Lost World of Tambun, outside Ipoh? Are their statues less offensive? Or do Muslims from Johor and Perak, have thicker skins and lower sensitivity than their Kedah cousins?
Do Kedah Muslims limit their trips overseas to Disneyland Paris, where there are several statues which they will find offensive? Does that mean Kedah Muslims cannot appreciate the works of Michelangelo, or any other medieval artist or sculptor, in Florence?
Would their children be denied a trip to the popular Warner Brothers Studios, which showcases Harry Potter artefacts? Are witches as offensive as women with wings?
Is the fairy, Tinkerbell, in Peter Pan an offensive character? And if so, how will our children be able to appreciate the classics?
In September 2016, the Perak deputy mufti, Zamri Hashim, was the recipient of a furious backlash, when he said that creating statues of living creatures went against the teachings of Islam.
After four days of fierce debate, he finally backed down and claimed he had been misquoted. Zamri was reported as saying that the statue of an eagle on the Langkawi waterfront went against religious doctrine.
Today, it appears that bigots will oppose any statue, even those on private land. What will happen next? Are the authorities going to trespass into private homes and seize statues or figurines because a sensitive Muslim has chanced upon the statue, and found it to be offensive. Are religious idols next? Are we at the bigots’ mercy?
If mere statues can intimidate the Muslim, what must that say about his character, and his faith which seems to be as fragile as the wings of a butterfly?
If we don’t deal with this absurdity, the nation will descend into chaos because bigots will always have their say. We do not need the Islamic State (IS) to destroy our statues. We have our own home-grown vandals.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
With a firm belief in freedom of expression and without prejudice, FMT tries its best to share reliable content from third parties. Such articles are strictly the writer’s personal opinion. FMT does not necessarily endorse the views or opinions given by any third party content provider.