Malaysia Ramadan TV ads axed amid racism complaint

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian television station axed a series of commercials to mark the Muslim month of Ramadan after angry viewers complained the ads insulted non-Muslim ethnic minorities.

The three commercials began airing recently to remind viewers of Ramadan, which began Aug. 1. Ethnic Malay Muslims, who make up nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 28 million people, refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sundown during the month.

A 30-second clip depicted an ethnic Chinese girl eating while Muslims watching her, another showed her wearing a sleeveless blouse and in the last one, she was shouting at a stall owner. The scenes were followed by messages urging viewers to show respect for Ramadan by not eating in public, wearing revealing clothing or being loud.

Viewers including Muslims slammed private station 8TV for the ads, which they said stereotyped minority Chinese and imposed Islamic practices on non-Muslims. Religion is a sensitive subject in this multiethnic country, where ethnic Chinese and Indians who mainly practice Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism are the largest minorities.

Some called for a boycott of the station.

"8TV, are you trying to tell us, we Chinese don't respect Ramadan month or my Malay friends?" Yee Shan Shan wrote on 8TV's facebook page.

Azrul Mohamad Khalib said fasting was about discipline, empathy and solidarity and "not about imposing your will on others."

The TV station withdrew the clips and issued an apology late Tuesday.

"The message was not meant to offend anyone, race or creed in any way. This is an honest mistake involving a very small amount of humor that was misinterpreted which led to concerns," it said on its Facebook page.

Last September, another private station TV3 was also forced to scrap a Muslim commercial amid complaints it appeared influenced by Christmas and Santa Claus.

The government has struggled in recent years to boost racial relations after a series of grievances over racial and religious rights. Minorities say efforts to bolster Islam have undermined their freedom to practice their faiths amid disputes such as whether non-Muslims can use the word "Allah" to refer to God.

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