Is Malaysia’s cosmopolitan image under threat?

In a recent update of Malaysia-based events or festivities being under threat from authorities, the Malaysian government has announced Malaysian Muslims should not be celebrating the Halloween festivities.

According to the country’s National Fatwa Council, Halloween has been deemed as a Christian celebration of the dead and goes against Islamic teachings. On its website, the council also states that “Halloween is clearly contrary to the values ​​of sharia. It should not be celebrated by Muslims. To commemorate those who have died, Islam advocates the practice of praying and reading the Koran”.

This is not the first time Malaysia has come under the global limelight in recent months.

Just last week after the National Fatwa Council ruled the event called “I want to touch dog” as un-Islamic, global media attention was once again directed at the nation. Also, the banning of a billboard advertising German beer festival Oktoberfest also caught the attention of many, as a number of Malaysian Muslims rallied together to start an online campaign to oppose Oktoberfest in Malaysia.

Public reaction to these events has been polarising, with strong views on both sides. However, does Malaysia run the risk of jeopardising a cosmopolitan image?

Is it affecting creativity when it comes to marketing?

Speaking on the basis of anonymity, a senior planner at a multinational creative ad agency told Advertising + Marketing that over the past few years Malaysia as a society and nation was undergoing a transition. However, he was of the view these “piecemeal headlines” certainly should not present a picture of the nation.

Is it hampering creativity?

He added these laws and rules do not hamper creativity, but rather “chisels it”.

“Creativity wise, it brings in a certain sense of extra responsibility and conscience to all of us practitioners to be more mindful in conceptualising our go-to-market engagement plans,” he said.

He added that because of social media, issues are often misreported or misconstrued, often proving aggravating to the actual situation.

“Malaysia to date is known to be a shining example of a ‘tolerant society’ where multiple ethnicities continue to peacefully prosper,” he said.

He added this recent flurry of everything becoming a national issue and a question mark on a nation’s image is now a widespread global issue.

“Sure social media brings with it a certain sense of empowerment for citizens, but it also opens the floodgates to interpretations, mischief and irresponsible reporting of things. A country’s national image is much deeper than what’s happening in the social media space.”

(Photo courtesy: Tourism Malaysia’s Facebook page)

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