MCI Removes Hari Raya Ad After Netizens Claim It Stereotypes the Malay Community

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With every race and ethnicity, there tends to be good and bad stereotypes attached to them.

Like how Chinese are always good at maths—you can be wholly assured that that isn’t strictly true—or that we have small eyes that somehow limit our visions when biology tells us all optic organs work the same.

We can joke about them however we like in private settings, but when the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) starts making use of these stereotypes, thereby perpetuating and affirming them in a negative way, shit is going to hit the fan.

And it certainly did.

Days after MCI released a Hari Raya advertisement called “Messages to Syawal”, it was met with a barrage of criticism, causing the government agency to take down the video “to avoid controversy and argument” during the festive period.

Contents of Messages to Syawal

The two-and-a-minute video revolves around a family of three: a father who works as a mover, a housewife mother, and their young son, Syawal.

Owing to the fact that their father is the only breadwinner in the house, the small family lives in a rental flat, but it’s barely enough to make ends meet.

Thus, Syawal often skips school to earn extra money for his family before a teacher catches wind of his truancy and flags his absence from school to his parents.

Later in the video, the mother chooses to return to work to alleviate the family’s financial burden, while the father seeks for a better-paying job.

Since it’s a video that’s meant to celebrate Hari Raya, it’s laced with Malay proverbs, showing the family moving out of the rental flat to a new house several years later where they celebrate Hari Raya.

Propaganda being propaganda, the video also referenced several government initiatives to help the underprivileged, like schemes to help rental flat owners obtain home ownership and the Uplift programme to assist disadvantaged students.

The full video, which was originally uploaded on the Gov.sg YouTube channel, has been taken down a few days ago.

As to why it had to be taken down… you can probably guess.

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Criticisms from the Malay Community

Needless to say, the video accidentally touched on some sore stereotypes for Malays, like the lower socio-economic status and hints at delinquency, even if it was for a good cause.

The netizens argued that that video seemed to suggest that families only deserved to celebrate Hari Raya after making progress in their socio-economic status.

It’s not a nice narrative to entertain in the least.


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When inquired about the video, a MCI spokesperson replied, “We understand that the takeaway of any creative work is subjective. While most Malay/Muslim viewers, including the many who viewed it prior to release, perceived the story to be heart-working, some expressing reservations.”

The word “some” is being used very loosely here.

Other viewers were more offended by the fact the advertisement was geared more towards promoting government initiatives for the underprivileged rather than focusing on the festivities.

In any case, MCI thought it would be better to avoid any heated arguments or controversy by removing the video before the festive period began, as it’s supposed to be a time for celebration and reunion.

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Featured Image: YouTube


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