We have for the past two months witnessed heated arguments over the pictures of dogs and pigs on T-shirts featuring the twelve Chinese zodiac signs, as well as models of dogs on display at shopping malls.
As the coming Chinese New Year happens to be the Year of Dog, pictures of zodiac sign animals have become a sensitive issue in the country.
Thanks to the explanation by liberal Muslim organizations and religious clerics, non-Muslims could finally breathe a sigh of relief and come to the realization that all this while non-Muslims have been talking about this thing themselves while the operators have imposing self censorship, whereby Muslims generally understand that when Chinese Malaysians celebrate Lunar New Year, the animal represented by the zodiac sign of that particular year will emerge, but its presence is never meant to offend the Muslim community of this country.
Pos Malaysia subsequently released the dog commemorative stamps while red packet envelopes featuring the dog were distributed by Sarawak tourism board. All these gestures have further confirmed the stand of government units of not rejecting the images of dog, and that the public should therefore not be overly concerned.
Now that the dog zodiac sign issue is over, Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDS Baru) has now decided to use the cartoon pig as the party’s mascot for the upcoming general elections. Again, the move has sparked a great deal of controversies.
Party president Cobbold John explained that pig carried a special significance in the Dayak community as it represents unification dating back to the 1924 Fort Sylvia peacemaking ceremony which started with the killing of a pig to mark the historic unification of the community and the ending of the headhunting tradition.
John said the Dayaks believed pig is an intermediary between them and the Creator and that PBDS Baru chose the pig as the party’s mascot in GE14 to remind the community of the good deeds and sacrifices of their forefathers.
He said this was the party’s right that should not become a topic of controversy or be made a sensitive issue meant to offend the other communities.
On the surface, the pig mascot and the dog zodiac sign are both potentially sensitive issues. The opponents are of the opinion that the images of these animals might offend the majority Muslim community of the country even though they could not provide valid reasons to substantiate their claims.
Such presumptions of the offensiveness of dog and pig images have been established wholly on the their personal beliefs that in no way represent the official stand of government bodies or any organization.
Moreover, the government has no regulations barring any organization in the country from printing or displaying the images of any specific animal. Dogs and pigs, being a popular pet and meat among non-Muslim Malaysians respectively, can be seen everywhere in the country.
PBDS Baru’s adoption of the pig mascot should pose a serious test to the election commission, but as the government is obliged to respect the religious customs and traditions of the country’s multiracial communities, it is believed the pig mascot will get to run in GE14 alongside the flags of other contesting parties, leading the people towards a more progressive and liberal Malaysia.