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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

News Reports

Roast the boar and call a pig, a pig

Every year, my mother buys the Chinese New Year zodiac commemorative coins as keepsakes. So she was asking about the Year of the Pig. I told her it’s the Year of the Boar. She looked at the newspaper pictures of the coins that the Monetary Authority of Singapore is putting out for 2019. It looks like a pig against a kampung backdrop. I told her boars are found in kampungs too. She harrumphed. As she should.

Why hasn’t someone asked the MAS why it has decided to rename the animal in the Chinese zodiac? I can’t recall ever going through the Year of the Boar. I googled the term and found that boar and pig are used interchangeably – so it’s not incorrect. But it’s the pig which hogged the search list.

Is the boar a nod to political correctness or some worry that Muslims here would be offended by an animal in the Chinese horoscope? If so, then the MAS should have minted more boar-like pigs on the coins. And merchants should be told not to adorn shopfronts with pigs.

Yet, there are reports that the Muslims here aren’t at all perturbed by a year being named after swine. They can’t eat pork or touch pork, but does this mean they can’t look at the image of a pig or contend with the idea that there is something known as the Year of the Pig? Nor is anyone forced to buy the coins if the concern is about manhandling the image.

Since nobody asked MAS why, I can only speculate that MAS doesn’t seem to credit our Muslim community with some common sense. Or maybe it will cite chapter and verse that the term is used elsewhere or interchangeably. Or maybe it will accuse me of provoking religious sentiments.

The wonder is that the Chinese community here isn’t saying something about the Boar versus Pig dissimulation. The fact is, we’re used to the pig. Perhaps, its members think that it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to raise the matter lest they be accused of being insensitive – a term which is very easy to bandy around no matter which side of any divide you’re on.

Still, it hasn’t stopped non-Muslims from raising a ruckus when some fast-food chain decides to go halal with turkey ham.  But it’s one thing to slam a commercial company which bases its decision on dollars and cents and what the market will bear. It’s another thing to question an agency as august as the MAS about re-labelling an entire year and tampering with tradition.

The Chinese here know that as the majority, they are expected to give more than they take. Nevertheless, I think they should be able to keep their pig.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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