KUALA LUMPUR - A MALAYSIAN government-backed campaign to popularise a well-known ethnic Chinese soup by making a version that avoids pork and fulfills Islamic dietary rules sparked criticism on Tuesday by activists who fear it will confuse Muslims.
A halal version of 'bak kut teh', a herbal broth traditionally made with pork ribs, was introduced at a Tourism Ministry food fair last weekend to promote local cuisine. The new version contains chicken, seafood or vegetables instead of pork, which Islam prohibits.
However, some Muslims object to the use of 'bak kut teh' to identify the revamped recipe, saying the name is synonymous with pork among people in Muslim-majority Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore, where the dish is beloved by the ethnic Chinese community. 'Bak kut teh' means 'meat bone tea' in a Chinese dialect, but the meat is generally understood to be pork.
'This will cause misunderstanding among the public. It might even lead some Muslims to wonder whether it is all right to eat pork,' said Mr Ma'mor Osman, secretary general of the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association.
The association plans to send a complaint to the Tourism Ministry, urging it to find a new name for the halal version, Mr Ma'mor told The Associated Press. The Department of Islamic Development, a government group that oversees Islamic policies, reportedly said it won't allow the dish to be formally certified as halal if it continues to be named 'bak kut teh'.
Islamic authorities are worried that Muslims will wrongly assume that the soup's pork version is suitable for consumption, the department's deputy director, Mr Lokman Abdul Rahman, told the Utusan Malaysia newspaper. -- AP