MALAYSIA must learn from the countries in the Middle East to be more open-minded with regard to its tourism sector, says Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.
The Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister said this after the “no bikini” and Timah-brand whiskey controversies raised by Datuk Willie Mongin (Puncak Borneo-GPS) in Parliament to illustrate how these unnecessary incidents hamper the tourism sector.
“When we visit other countries, we all want to have a good experience and a special moment to enjoy ourselves.
“But in Malaysia, when the tourists come here, they want to swim in the swimming pools in their bikinis, and it is prohibited.
“Even drinking Timah also became an issue,” Willie said when raising the matter with Tiong, who was wrapping up his ministerial replies in Dewan Rakyat.
He said it would be hard for the nation’s tourism sector to be competitive with other countries in such an environment.
In October 2021, there was an uproar over the use of “Timah” for a locally produced whiskey as being offensive to Muslims.
After much brouhaha, the company was allowed to keep the name of the brew.
Elsewhere, in January, the Melaka Islamic Religious Affairs Department (JAIM) called for action to be taken against those considered indecently dressed on Pulau Besar, an island resort.
In response, Tiong acknowledged the challenge of promoting the tourism sector here, as mentioned by Willie.
“I will sit with my counterparts from the other side and Muslim MPs to see how we can learn from the Arabs and Middle Eastern countries on how to be open-minded.
“Those days, people used to say that they were close-minded, and most of their shops closed at 5pm.
“Now, you can do everything there,” said Tiong as he reminded MPs not to turn everything into a religious or racial issue.
He emphasised that Malaysia is a multicultural society that must learn to work together for the betterment of the nation.