If you have been keeping up with Twitterjaya discourse this past week, you are sure to have come across the tale of ‘Timah’, the seemingly innocuous local whiskey brand.
Named in honour of Malaysia’s past as the tin mining centre of the world (timah is Malay for the ore), the bottles feature a prominent illustration of Tristam Speedy, a colonial figure who became the first police supremo in Penang.
However, after launching to market recently, the whiskey caught flak online for allegedly being ‘offensive to Muslims’, for reasons more pedantic than sensical.
The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) has claimed that the picture of Speedy closely resembles a Muslim man in a ‘kopiah’, or skullcap, and has thus called for an immediate ban of its production to protect religious sensitivities.
They also went on to say that the product is ‘offensive’ because the name is similar to a contraction of the Muslim name ‘Fatimah’. It was not long before netizens and politicians alike joined in the chorus of condemnation, echoing the CAP’s reading of the situation.
“I would prefer if names used are not confusing, because it will appear that the product is for Muslims, and it’s confusing for the community,” reportedly said Datuk Mahfodz Mohamed, a ranking member of the political party PAS.
This controversy forced the company behind it, Puchong-based distillery Winepak, to issue a much-maligned clarification.
“TIMAH is a local word meaning ‘tin’. The name of TIMAH Whiskey harks back to the tin mining era during British Malaya. The man on our bottle, Captain Speedy, was one of the men who introduced whiskey culture back then,” a statement read.
“Due to this history, we use the name TIMAH. We do not intend for our name to stir controversy. Any interpretation of our name unrelating to Malaysian tin mining is false.”
When it’s all said and done, the campaign against the whiskey brand seems to have only increased public awareness of its existence.
Indeed, a scroll of social media postings shows many people buying the drink for the first time, in what is turning out to be a marketing coup for Winepak.
In a multi-religious society such as ours, it always pays to be tact and cognisant of each other’s cultural differences. But in the humble opinion of this JUICE writer, this is, as often is the case, much ado about nothing.