The controversy surrounding the branding of an award-winning Malaysian whiskey, TIMAH, has resurfaced again.
This time, in parliament.
Like "drinking Malay women"
On Oct. 28, a member of parliament (MP) from Pakatan Harapan, Rusnah Aluai, said that the word "Timah" is often associated with the name of Malay women, The Star reported.
She further claimed that the brand name was "confusing".
"It is as though we are drinking Malay women," Rusnah said.
For the uninitiated, Timah is a common Malay name for women, derived from "Fatimah".
During the debate, Rusnah also suggested that the brand should depict Captain Speedy in different hats, as the current one looks like a Muslim skullcap.
In addition, she said the brand should rename the whiskey to "The Mines" as the brand alludes to Malaysia's tin mining era.
TIMAH had earlier released a statement stating that any interpretation of its name unrelating to Malaysian tin mining is false.
Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Food Industries Che Abdullah Mat Nawi agreed with Rusnah and said that products that create confusion among its customers "should be banned", Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported.
MPs disagree with Rusnah
Rusnah's line of logic came under fire by fellow members of parliament.
In response to Rusnah, Barisan Nasional's Azalina Othman said that Malaysia "need(s) to educate our society to think logically", FMT reported.
Azalina also shared that she ate hotdogs from the popular American fast-food chain A&W when she was younger, then the name was changed to Coney Dog.
"My child loves eating hotdogs. Am I supposed to say that he cannot eat anjing panas (literal Malay translation for a hot dog)?"
FMT added that Deputy Minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Rosol Wahid seconded Azalina, saying that if this trend continues, there "will be no end to it".
Rosol also made clear that he did not want this issue to be a precedent for future issues to come.
Comedian, netizens took a jab on the issue
The issue caught the attention of other Malaysians beyond the chambers.
A popular comedian, Harith Iskander, questioned Rusnah's logic in an Instagram video.
He stitched a clip of Rusnah at the beginning of his post, followed by him saying: "Following that logic, all this while when we were eating Ramly Burger, it means that we're eating Ramly's meat?"
Harith ended the video with him showing a confused face while giving a disappointed facepalm.
Controversial Malaysian political graphic designer, Fahmi Reza, also uploaded an image of Ramly burger on his Twitter, with an accompanying caption that read: "When you eat this burger, it is as if you're eating a Malay man."
A Twitter user @brut3c0ck criticised Fahmi's depiction of the burger, saying that it was not an "apple to apple" comparison as burgers are not prohibited and do not cause accidents on the road.
In response, Fahmi uploaded another image, showing a popular beer brand Tiger Beer.
The text on the illustration reads: "When you drink this beer, it is as if you're drinking a Malayan tiger."
Other users also commented on the issue, including Singaporean singer-songwriter Imran Ajmain, who is currently based in Malaysia.
My mother, Timah, is not made of whiskey. She doesn’t drink & neither do I. They can call it anything they want because it doesn’t involve us.— Imrān Ajmaīn (@ImranAjmain) October 28, 2021
When we eat Nasi Bukhari, I’ve never thought that we’re eating a piece of Bukhari.
Please focus on proper, pressing issues, ma’am. https://t.co/6xxnLikTNR
He wrote that his mother, Timah, is not made of whiskey.
Imran urged the parliamentarian to "focus on proper, pressing issues".
Lawyer and activist, Siti Kasim, had also expressed her disappointment regarding the conduct of the MP in raising this issue.
She said that the quality of Malaysia's members of parliament is "embarrassing" and had called on Malaysians to "vote for individuals rather than political parties".
I've said this before.. the quality of our MPs are embarrassing.. this PH MP is another example.. 🙄🤯 Reject these type of mentality. No matter from which party. Vote for individuals rather political party.https://t.co/08pTo4pDWW— Siti Kasim (@sitikasim) October 28, 2021
Rozana Isa, the executive director of Sister in Islam, a Malaysian non-governmental organisation that focuses on promoting women's rights, described Rusnah's move as an "objectification of Malay women".
She questioned why such an issue was raised in parliament, claiming that Rusnah's argument had no basis and assumed consumers have no agency to figure out what they are drinking.
Objectification of Malay women, she is also a drink now. Why is this an issue to be raised in Parliament by an MP? Her argument has no basis, banal, plays on sentiments, assumes consumers have no agency to figure out what they are drinking. Dumbing down of the rakyat continues. https://t.co/UcMEsmRzN8— Rozana Isa (@rozana_isa) October 28, 2021
She added that with this controversy, the act of "dumbing down" on Malaysians continues.
Other netizens were also unimpressed with the conduct of the MP in raising the issue.
I want to make a joke about Timah so bad but rly nothing is funnier than the fact that they really said that this is "like drinking Malay women" in parliament. THE PARLIAMENT. OF MALAYSIA!!— spôôkfįend stëvëns (@reinedeloup) October 28, 2021
The Timah alcoholic beverage issue is the dumbest i've seen that I've resisted myself to even talk about it here.— Megat 'Adli (@TheFunSizeGuy) October 28, 2021
Lebih baik sembang tentang isu "drunk driving" dan had penjualan arak.
TIMAH agreed to change its name
Amidst the uproar, TIMAH had agreed to change its name and the image on the label.
In a statement by Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi on Oct. 28, Winepark Corporation (M) Sdn Bhd has asked for a week to discuss with its shareholders and board of directors regarding the change, The Malaysian Insight reported.
The minister said that the government had noted the fiasco regarding the label and called for a meeting with Winepark Corporation.
During the meeting, the company would look into changing the whiskey's name.
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Top images via screengrab Harith Iskander/Facebook