Muslims offended by ‘Bak Kut Teh’ Ramadan greeting.
Alvin and Vivian, the couple who posted the Bak Kut Teh greeting for Ramadan have publicly apologized through a video uploaded yesterday to their YouTube channel called SexcussionsAlvivi. The video, which was recorded in Malay with English subtitles, seeks forgiveness from all Malaysians for offending the Muslims during Ramadan. Alvin went on to describe the Bak Kut Teh greeting that included a Halal logo that is only used by Jakim (the Islamic authority of Malaysia). He also claimed that both he and Vivian are aware that Muslims were forbidden to take pork, but made the greeting 'for humour'.
The 1:22 minute video shows Alvin speaking in a rather tensed and somber mood, with Vivian sitting next to him. Alvin also conveyed his regrets for his actions.
"We truly regret offending religious beliefs and sensitivities in multi-racial Malaysia," he said, adding that they had no intention to insult, ridicule or trivialize Islam, or incite racial conflict.
"With that, we apologize to all offended parties."
The video ends with an Aidilfitri greeting and another apology. Vivian was silent throughout the video.
Alvin and Vivian were in the headlines sometime in October last year for uploading videos and pictures of themselves in various suggestive positions and detailing their sexual liaisons in Tan's personal blog. Alvin was a student of the National University of Singapore*. Since then, Alvin has had his scholarship withdrawn. It is unknown if they are still studying. Now they are making headlines again, for all the wrong reasons.
Alvin and Vivian, both in their mid-20s posted a greeting online that says ‘Selamat Berbuka Puasa, dengan Bak Kut Teh… Wangi, enak, menyelerakan!’ In English, it means happy breaking fast with Bak Kut Teh, aromatic, tasty and appetizing.
Bak Kut Teh is a popular Chinese Malaysian recipe commonly served with pork ribs in herbal soup. Although, the name of the dish does not specifically mean pork, the greeting certainly raises eyebrows and courts disapproval from many quarters.
“They have gone overboard and they are very disrespectful towards us,” said a young tech- savvy urban Malay who declined to be named.
Sinar Harian, a Malay daily reported that Seremban MCA chief, Dr. Yeow Chai Thiam had lodged a police report yesterday at Campbell Road and had urged the police to take action against them.
He said that this is not something to be taken lightly and that the couple should not have insulted Muslims who are fasting. He also said that the couples’ actions have agitated many people including the Chinese.
“If left unaddressed, we fear that it might affect our racial harmony and lead to larger issues,” he said.
This insensitive greeting especially in the month of Ramadan, is potentially harmful especially when the Chinese in Malaysia were blamed for the marginal win during the 13th General Elections held in May this year. Prime Minister Najib Razak termed the dwindling support for the national coalition as a Chinese Tsunami, a move generally seen as an attempt to distant himself from the poor performance compared to his predecessor.
Muslims are forbidden to consume pork as stated in the Quran with no less than four references made.
“He has forbidden you only dead animals, and blood, and the swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for other than God.” (Quran 2:173)
However, some netizens have mischievously defended the couple by asking whether the meat that was being referred to was ‘chicken, rabbit or venison?’
Although most ordinary Malaysians balk at any attempts to further disintegrate racial unity, it must be said that resentments towards the different ethnic groups are deeply rooted and that racial harmony are constantly under threat. Extremist groups like Perkasa and Jati often openly provoke discord along racial lines and are unabashed for their unilateral views.
More often than not, some pockets feel marginalised even though government policies provide affirmative actions like quotas and incentives. These policies, however, have had a negative impact, as only a handful of them were made very rich through the National Economic Policies. The widening the gap between the rich and the poor are the primary source of discontentment, although some politicians have boldly pointed the finger at the Chinese.
Tanda Putera, a full-length movie that was supposed to be screened before the general elections, portray the Chinese as the provocateurs during the May 13, 1969 riot with a scene showing Chinese youths allegedly urinating on the flagpole bearing the Selangor flag. The movie, which is funded by the government arm FINAS, is still unreleased. Even so, private screening to selected audiences especially students were made prior to the last election.
Another controversial matter which had the non-Muslim community up in arms, was the introduction of Interlok as compulsory literature for Form 5 students. The story, written in 1971 by Abdullah Hussain gives the impression that the Chinese are greedy, smokes opium and sell their daughters away; and the Indians as pariahs. The book has since been removed from the syllabus.
The 1Malaysia slogan has so far, been just a slogan and a catchy phrase at best. Ironically, the Prime Minister calls for a national reconciliation despite contradictory to his accusation of the Chinese voting for the opposition. In the 12th General Election, the Indians were made the scapegoats. It would have been better if there was some consistency in claiming to be a multiracial country and not confuse people every now and then.
Even after 56 years of independence, we can still hear people say ‘Go back to China’ or ‘Go back to India’.
Perhaps the latest stunt by Alvin and Vivian is just another attempt to draw attention, or it could be an underlying problem within our multiracial society. According to blogs around the internet, the couple had claimed that they posted the greeting for ‘no reason’. The MCMC will be conducting an investigation into the complaints made against the couple.
In order to strive for a more balanced and healthy society, people need to discard prejudices and categorisation by religion, colour and race. This tit-for-tat mentality has to end someday if we ever hope to live peacefully. What we do not want is more ire or confrontational approaches, but what we do truly need are level-headed leaders who believe in equal opportunities, have a combative attitude towards racism and an ability to lead his people forward as Malaysians.
Hopefully, there will be no more replicas of Alvin and Vivian.
*Correction made: Vivian Lee was never a NUS student