BY UMSU PRESS
Timah Whiskey is Malaysia first double peated blended whiskey, produced by Winepak Corporation and received many awards over the years: Silver Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2020, Silver Medal in the International Spirits Challenge (ISC) U.K 2020, Silver Medal in the International Wine and Spirit Competition 2021 & Gold Medal for Best Malaysian Whisky in the International Whisky Competition. From the awards received, Timah Whiskey successfully gained its reputation and public attention. It should be an achievement for our Malaysian community to be proud of. However, things do not turn out that way. It became a target for criticism and a new centre of controversy. So, what had happened?
Timah Whiskey was criticized by the conservative Muslim community and framed as it is insulting Islam, from its name to the imagery on the bottle, moreover, the launching time. From their perspective, the name “Timah” is the short name for Fatimah, which is the name of the Prophet’s daughter. The image on the bottle shows a man in 'kopiah' with a long beard as if showing that someone with a Muslim image is promoting liquor. Some people in the community also condemned that the whiskey was launched in an online ceremony on Oct 7, on a date close to Maulidur Rasul, which is Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. In general, they claimed that although in our community, we have non-Muslims and we cannot ban alcohol consumption, they shouldn’t use Muslim-like names and images in their products that will confuse the Muslim community.
However, there is some misunderstanding in the issue. First, "Timah" is actually a local word “bijih timah” meaning Iron ores. The name ‘Timah Whiskey' harks back to the ores mining era during British Colonization in our land. The man on the bottle is actually Captain Tristram Speedy, an English officer during the British colonisation of Malaya who introduced whiskey culture back then. The whiskey company also stated that any derivation of the corporate name which is not related to mining is incorrect. This controversy gained too much political attention until people started to slam the government for giving too much attention to this issue rather than other important matters in our country.
Currently, on 13 November 2021, the cabinet has agreed to allow Timah Whiskey to maintain its name, with the condition of including an additional label on the whiskey bottle to explain the origin of the name, which is the reference to “bijih timah”, the Bahasa Malaysia term for iron ores.
It is a thought-provoking phenomenon to see a Timah Whiskey brand that has been existing for years suddenly receive controversy and provoke community up-roar just because they are entitled as Best Malaysian Whiskey recently and gaining spotlight in our community. Is it a political party’s dirty play to stoke racial and religious sentiments? Or is it the cooperation responsibility to understand our social culture well? Or is it our community’s religious sensitivity that leads to over-interpretation of things? It is a good issue that we can ponder upon so that we can get to understand the bigger issue underneath this small bizarre controversy. When we finally tackle the issue we are having in our community and our government, we can finally pay more attention to other important public interest issues that have been left unsolved for years and eventually advance our nation.
Written by Secretariat of Current Affairs 2021
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