Year of the Pig: Is it really a problem for Muslims?

  01 February 2019    Read: 1709
Year of the Pig: Is it really a problem for Muslims?

Communities around the world are gearing up to celebrate the lunar new year, which this time ushers in the Year of the Pig.

New Year celebrations usually mean the animal is depicted everywhere - in decorations, toys, gifts and advertising.

But the pig, the last animal on the Chinese zodiac calendar, is considered unclean by Muslims and a sin to consume. So does this cause problems for people celebrating lunar new year in Muslim-majority countries in South East Asia?

Like most Chinese-Malaysian families, the lunar new year is serious business for the Chow family, who live in the sleepy town of Batu Pahat in Johor, Malaysia.

This year is particularly significant because Chow Yoon Kee, his wife Stella and their daughter were all born in pig years.

"We will display lots of lucky pig ornaments at home and of course, have our relatives, friends, workers and neighbours over to visit, no matter what race or religion. Celebrations are for all," said Mr Chow, a floor manager at a local biscuit factory.

He isn't worried about his celebrations offending fellow residents as he believes there is no sign of new year controversy.

"There was a lot of fuss last year," he recalls, when it was the Year of the Dog, also seen as impure animals by some Muslims.

Image copyrightAFPImage captionMalaysian authorities threaded cautiously last year, being careful not to overdo the canine decorations
Malaysia is multicultural but the official religion is Islam, and there have been increasing reports of intolerance towards activities and actions considered insulting to Muslims.

So many shops and merchants avoided using images of dogs in fear of offending Muslim communities.

Is it sinful to touch a dog?

But Mr Chow feels local authorities have overlooked the feelings of the Chinese community, who actually celebrate the holiday.

"Malaysia is a country made up of many races, it isn't just Malay Muslims. We have Chinese and Indian communities too, as well as other religions like Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism so we should be respecting each other's beliefs and celebrations."

But he adds that "the spirit of censorship" did not seem to carry on into the pig year.

Image copyrightAFPImage captionThat's some pig! Celebrations are under way in Chinatown, Singapore
Each animal of the Chinese zodiac is believed to have its own unique traits and qualities. Those born in the year of the pig are said to be intelligent, compassionate and loyal.

"There's absolutely no reason to worry," said Kuala Lumpur-based Feng Shui consultant Joey Yap. He told the BBC there didn't seem to be any sensitivities around celebrations in Malaysia this year, compared to last.

"Pigs will be fine," he said, adding that whether you display objects or not "does not affect one's personal luck".

"Colours, emblems; they all aren't important. In reality, one's luck all boils down to one's actions, so embrace positivity," he said.



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