NOT all animals are created equal, as far as some Malaysian businesses and retailers are concerned when it comes to the Chinese zodiac signs.
Several major businesses will be avoiding any canine depictions as Chinese Malaysians prepare to usher in the Year of the Dog on February 16.
Sunway Malls chief operating officer Kevin Tan told The Malaysian Insight the company’s malls would steer clear of public displays of the dog, which Muslims deem “unclean”.
“This is due to creative considerations. We have many choices. We don’t necessarily have to use the image of a dog.
“We’ll avoid any decorations with contentious elements.”
Sunway Malls, a retail division of the Sunway Group, manages five shopping complexes in the Klang Valley and Penang. The five are Sunway Pyramid (Subang Jaya) and Sunway Giza (Kota Damansara) in Selangor, Sunway Putra and Sunway Velocity in Kuala Lumpur, and Sunway Carnival (Seberang Perai, Penang).
Similarly, the group avoided any depictions of the dog the last time the zodiac animal was celebrated in 2006.
The Chinese zodiac assigns a different animal and its reputed attributes to each year in a repeating 12-year cycle.
The dog comes after the rooster and before the pig in the zodiac.
A spokesman for “Farm in the City”, a popular petting zoo in Seri Kembangan, Selangor, said his company had not decided whether to avoid dog-themed Chinese New Year decorations to avoid offending Muslim sensitivities.
However, he said that the company had always sought to be “considerate” to the feelings of the majority religion.
“Even if we are organising an animal exhibition, we will not exhibit pigs or dogs. Every country’s customs is different. Singapore can have an exhibition on pigs, but this is Malaysia,” said the spokesman, who only gave his first name as Alex.
He said while there were Muslims who would enter the pet store at the Farm In the City to look at the dogs, pet them and even send rescued stray, most Muslims would be uncomfortable with looking at and touching the animals.
Restaurant owner Muhammad Dayan Kamal Mustapah Kamal, 33, said as a Muslim he agreed that there should not be any dog-themed Chinese New Year decorations.
“Not all Muslims in Malaysia or Malays can accept dog decorations. Some Muslims are very sensitive. This is linked to the teachings of Islam.”
He said even a picture of dog can be offensive to Muslims.
Wary of public backlash, businesses in Malaysia have often been careful not to offend Muslim sensitivities.
Earlier this month, the Giant Hypermarket courted controversy from netizens for selling a T-shirt of the 12 zodiac animals, but the dog and pig images were replaced with characters spelling out the animals’ names.
In October 2016, pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s was asked to rename its “Pretzel Dog” to “Pretzel Sausage” by the Malaysia Islamic Development Department.
The same year, a half-man, half-pig character in the Chinese New Year blockbuster Monkey King 2 was removed from its posters. The film distributor, Golden Screen Cinemas, said it modified the poster on its own initiative.
However, not all Muslims think giving next year’s zodiac animal the underdog status is necessary.
Amir, a 27-year-old photographer, said Chinese New Year decorations featuring the dog was not a problem for him as it was part of Chinese culture.
“I don’t feel offended as it is just used as a new year decoration. If some Muslims use this to kick up a fuss, they are too extreme.”
He said every culture should be given space to develop, as long as it is not done in bad faith, such as using a picture of a dog to provoke or belittle Muslims.
–THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT