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LETTER | Don't change brand name Timah for frivolous reasons

LETTER | Winepek Corporation should stick to its award-winning whiskey brand name 'Timah' unchanged as the manufacturer has said that it simply means tin and nothing more.

It reminds Malaysians, at least those who drink, of the legacy of tin which was one of the main exports together with rubber until the 1970s and 1980s. The word timah is seldom heard now as there is hardly any tin mining in the country or tin exports.

One does not see tin mining dredges anymore but they were a common sight in Puchong, Sungai Way, Batang Berjuntai in Selangor and many locations in Perak.

The name Timah should not be confused with Fatimah, a once-popular name with Malays and was also the name of the Prophet's daughter. In Islamic syariah law, intention (niat) is of paramount importance.

When the manufacturer decided to name the drink Timah, it had no inkling even in its wildest imagination that it could refer to the name of the Prophet's daughter. It must be noted here that the Arabs and other Muslims generally don't shorten the name Fatimah to Timah as is done by the Malays here.

Since the manufacturer had no intention of casting a negative image of this mainly Islamic name, rationally speaking, there is no need to change the name.

Old-timers might remember the cigarette brands popular in the 1960s such as Consulate, Rough Rider, Camel and many others. Most of these brands have faded into history.

Small image

One cigarette brand was named Abdullah. Incidentally, the name of the Prophet's father was also Abdullah. No fuss was made then about this name in a predominantly Islamic country like Malaysia.

The government and the religious authorities should not force or threaten the manufacturer to change the name or label.

The manufacturer can add a small image of a tin-mining dredge or a dulang (scoop or tray) in the background of the label to avoid any confusion.

Coincidentally, the word Fatima is also associated with Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism as it refers to the place where the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.

There is a Fatima church in Brickfields. Also a Fatima kindergarten near the St John's Institution in Kuala Lumpur.

As for the headdress worn by Captain Tristram Speedy (1836-1911) on the label of Timah, the manufacturer has said that it is of Ethiopian origin worn by the captain when he was employed by the Ethiopian monarch, Tewodros II, and there are photos and portraits to prove it.

There should not be any confusion with the kopiah. Captain Speedy was an adventurer and explorer who saw service in India, Ethiopia, New Zealand, Malaya and Sudan. In Malaya, he is well-known for his services in the rich tin-mining town of Larut in Perak, and this is the reason for his association with timah or tin.

Nehru cap

As for the kopiahs worn by Muslims during prayer and other formal occasions, kopiahs come in various designs and are made of different materials as they reflect the diversity of Muslims and Islamic countries .

Some kopiahs even resemble the yarmulkes worn by traditional Jews and also resemble the headgear of various people and tribes all over the world. There is no fixed shape or design of the kopiahs.

There was a time not long ago when non-Malays were even encouraged to wear the songkok on formal occasions as it was related to Malay culture and not Islam. Similarly, there is the Nehru cap worn by Indians - Hindus, Muslims, and Christians - and others especially those belonging to the Indian Congress Party, and it resembles the Malay songkok and possibly some kopiahs.

No nation or faith has a monopoly on the shapes of headgears or headdresses. It is a fallacy to attribute Captain Speedy's headdress to resemble a kopiah, and that local Muslims will be confused by this image.

Even the man - Captain Speedy - resembles a Middle-Easterner and could be easily mistaken for an Arabian, Persian or Turk. What has one to say about this?

We are now becoming a nation of fault-finders, not fact-finders in all things however small. Malaysians need to be broad-minded in keeping with our visions for the future. 

There have been numerous unnecessary controversies concerning Islam in the country and we may end up as the laughing stock of the Islamic world, if not globally.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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