Monday, 29 January 2007

Muslim Objection to Year of Pig Greeting Cards

From The China Post

"The Imam of the Taipei Grand Mosque complained to Taiwan's foreign minister for sending him a greeting card for the Chinese New Year showing four pigs, a newspaper said yesterday.

After receiving the New Year card, Imam Ma Hsiao-chi pointed out to the Foreign Ministry that the card was offensive to Muslims, the Liberty Times reported. Muslims do not eat pork and regard pigs as unclean animals.

But the ministry defended Foreign Minister Huang Chih-fang's sending out the greeting cards, which were printed because 2007 is the Year of Pig according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

"Sending New Year cards is part of our culture and has nothing to do with religion. Minister Huang sent the cards to people in Taiwan, not to Muslim countries, but we still want to thank Imam Ma for reminding us," the Liberty Times quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Chien-yeh as saying.

The Year of Pig begins on February 18 with the start of the Chinese New Year celebrations, the most important holiday for Chinese all over the world.

Last month, Taiwan's postal monopoly the Chunghwa Post Company Ltd. issued the Year of Pig stamp, but warned Taiwanese not to use the stamps when sending letters and parcels to Muslim countries or Muslim friends.

China has also banned images and mention of pigs in television advertisements aired over the lunar new year to avoid offending the country's Muslims.

China's ban also applies to cartoons and traditional paper-cut images of pigs, and to slogans such as "Golden Pig Brings You Fortune!" and "Wish You a Happy Pig Year!"

The Chinese lunar calendar follows the Chinese zodiac, or horoscope, which has a 12-year cycle. Each year is represented by an animal -- rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

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From China Daily

According to the Chinese edition of the Asia Wall Street Journal, CCTV issued a notice to all advertising agencies on Jan 23 that "China is a multi-ethnic order to show respect to the Muslims, as instructed by the respective government unit, that CCTV will not air any ads containing images of the pig throughout 2007. This measures also applies to ads related to the Chinese New Year."

Images of the pig to be banned includes photographs, cartoons, paper cutting silhouettes, and even "Happy Year of the Pig" slogans.

Many corporations were surprised by the notice as most CNY ads have already been produced. Some just decided to re-do all CNY ads.

Nestle SA has initially prepared a smiling pig cartoon ad to celebrate "Happy Year of the Pig". Spokesperson said they would follow the requirements and change the content accordingly.

Coca Cola has prepared two sets of CNY cartoon ads with leading characters being a panda and a pig respectively. The company said they will still air the pig ad but will not air it in local TV stations where there is a large Muslim population.

Mindshare Shanghai told Deutsche Presse Agentur that the "No-Pigs" requirement was ordered by the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party, which is responsible for ideological propaganda. The agency said the order was made by committee member Li Changchun, quoting fear of conflicts between ethnic groups.

CCTV refused to say from which department was the order being made, saying the notice was an "internal document".

China has about 8.6m Muslims. Ma Yunfu, vice chair of the Islam Society of China said Muslims hate pigs and they would not even mention the word "pig" in their daily life. Ma didn't know about the notice CCTV received, but he believed what the government wanted to do was to "immunize" against any possible troubles.

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