By Farah Harith
My parents made sure I received a proper education. Before I was seven, they sent me to kindergarten for a good three years. At home, the education did not stop. I was encouraged to read and by six, I was reading the newspapers. There is also a picture of me at about five or six years old, asleep with a copy of a political book by SH Alattas. Not sure what I understood from the book at the time, but my point is that I was not deprived of an education. I was also exposed to good music at a young age. At seven, I entered the public education system and stayed there until I finished Form 5 with a Grade 1 in SPM.
My education continued after that and until today, I am still learning. My story is not unique. Many people in this country pretty much go through the same process. What we take away from all that education will of course differ from one person to the next. What I am trying to say is that we are not a nation deprived of educated individuals.
Which is why it makes me angry when people keep telling me, or more specifically, Muslims in general, that we are easily confused.
Remember the Jolly Shandy incident of some years back? Several “concerned” Muslims were worried the packaging of Jolly Shandy, which to them looked like any normal soda drink, would confuse the Muslim population in our country.
Never mind the fact that for any Malaysian with a clear head, Jolly Shandy has always been and will forever be an alcoholic beverage placed next to other alcoholic beverages at the store. Also, the word alcohol is clearly printed on the can.
Just because a few people found it confusing, they saw it fit to “warn” other Muslims on social media to be wary of the drink.
Today, something similar has cropped up again. The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) says words like “dog” and “beer” should not be part of a menu as it would confuse Muslim customers. It is likely that Fomca was referring to the much-loved hot dog and root beer that has been part of our lives for as long as I can remember.
While we may have joked about hot dogs and root beers with our friends, I believe most of us are aware that we weren’t actually eating cute puppies wrapped in bread or that we would be pulled over by policemen for drunk driving after gobbling down mugs of root beer.
For those who frequent Auntie Anne’s, the famous pretzel kiosk, I highly doubt there were those who got confused over their Pretzel Dogs.
But somehow, we, as in Muslims, have always been told that we are easily confused.
“Such and such should be banned because it might confuse Muslims.”
How many times have we heard this line in news reports and how many times is it actually about truly confusing things?
I feel it is an insult because Islam is a religion that emphasises education. We are supposed to keep on learning for as long as we are living beings. Education is something that does not end once we leave school. With that said, why do people keep telling us we might be confused when logic dictates that at some point, we should be able to think for ourselves?
If one or two people are confused, is it right to simply generalise?
I was never confused with the Jolly Shandy drink and I sure am not confused by hot dogs, root beer, beef bacon and turkey ham.
I am also not confused whenever I go to a Malay stall selling kuih and I see dishes like badak berendam or cucur badak. Have you ever asked the makcik selling the kuih if her husband battled an actual badak to get its meat for her to cook badak berendam?
A friend asked yesterday: “What about bishop’s nose?” Good question, I would say. How many bishops sacrificed their noses for us to be able to eat dishes with bishops’ noses in it? This “confused” Muslim can safely say that the answer to that question is zero.
Also, no buffaloes (with or without wings) were harmed in the making of buffalo wings.
In the case of this whole “dog” fiasco, I believe societal norms should prevail. Some phrases are not literal. The phrase “hot dog” may be confusing in a society that has never heard of sausages and hot dogs. The phrase “buffalo wings” too may be confusing in a society where winged buffaloes are in existence and they have never ever had chicken wings.
This is Malaysia. Hot dogs are sausages. Beef bacon comes from cows. Turkey ham is made from turkey. And root beer will not make you drunk. So my advice to those who think they are doing Muslims a favour by warning us about this and that, think first before you issue your warning.
And stop telling us we are easily confused. While you may go through life drooling and wondering about how things work the way Homer Simpson does, most of us are not like you. Most of us are actually intelligent people.
With that said, I will continue to enjoy my hot dogs and root beers. And I will not purchase a can of Jolly Shandy just because I was confused. I may use the confusion as an excuse if ever my parents catch me drinking Jolly Shandy, but that one would be on me. Hic.