Is there a need to go cuckoo over eagle?

BIRD OF DISMAY: Langkawi's Helang Kawi was deemed a forbidden monument by Perak muftis. The writer says they should also look at national emblems and portraits of leaders, which would be equally idolatrous.


    Sep 09, 2016

    Is there a need to go cuckoo over eagle?

    THE first message transmitted from the Moon to Earth was "The Eagle has landed".

    The words were uttered on July 20, 1969 - by Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong.

    Much has changed since then, with new space-faring countries in the fold, such as China and India rising high in the race.

    Malaysia is still too far behind in space technology, but has never failed to make the news, mostly for wrong or ridiculous reasons.

    Our very own eagle has also landed - into hot water.

    The iconic statue of the Helang Kawi at Dataran Langkawi has become the subject of debate on haram (forbidden) monuments.

    The 12m-high sculpture of the Brahminy Kite - or the red-backed eagle - is among the main attractions of the fabled isles.

    Perak deputy mufti Zamri Hashim wrote in Berita Harian last week that the making of statues of humans or other living creatures was forbidden under Islam.

    His boss, Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria, concurred, saying: "Any living creature, except for trees, cannot be built as a replica or monument if done with all limbs complete."

    Kedah deputy mufti Syeikh Marwazi Dziyauddin said there would be no rush to demolish the statue but the Kedah Fatwa Council would be consulted for discussions along with the local authority.

    The state's Religious Affairs exco member,Mohd Rawi Abd Hamid, suggested that the matter be referred to the muftis of each state, adding that monuments of living creatures did not involve only Kedah.

    "For example, in Terengganu, there are turtle statues, Kuching has cat monuments," Sinar Harian quoted him as saying.

    I suppose the cute statues of the kancil (mousedeer) near the Clock Tower in my hometown of Malacca would also come under haram scrutiny.

    We can't blame Malaysians for wondering if these people have gone cuckoo.

    Now that the religious experts are going to discuss this matter - which seems to be a much more serious problem than corruption, drug abuse, baby dumping and other current issues plaguing the country - how about also looking at emblems with images of creatures?

    Our National Coat of Arms, for example, is supported by two prancing tigers.

    To return to eagles, the national emblem of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, is the Garuda Pancasila.

    Indonesians, who make up more than 12 per cent of the more than one billion Muslims around the world, have all sorts of monuments, even those predating the arrival of Islam.

    And they accept this as part of their cultural heritage.

    In Hindu mythology, the aquiline Garuda is Vishnu's mount or vehicle.

    The eagle also features prominently in many Arab nations.

    In Egypt, a golden eagle, also called the "Eagle of Saladin", is highlighted in the country's coat of arms, just as in Yemen.

    The "Hawk of Quraish", regarded as a rival to the "Eagle of Saladin", is found in the emblems of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Syria.

    The religious experts in these countries do not regard this as a form of idolatry.

    The seven soldiers of the National Monument - dedicated to the 11,000 who died during the Malayan Emergency - were designed by Felix de Weldon, who also created the US Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial.

    Wreath-laying ceremonies used to take place there during Warriors' Day on July 31.

    But in 2010, the National Fatwa Council declared that the statues were "un-Islamic".

    Dataran Pahlawan was then created in Putrajaya and the traditional ceremony resumed there this year.

    Is the Tunku Abdul Rahman statue in front of Parliament, also designed by de Weldon, equally idolatrous?

    How about pictures of the King, the Rulers and Prime Minister in government offices and public places?

    It may have been connected to the issue of idolatry, but on July 1, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) demolished the Puncak Purnama or Lunar Peaks, one of the city's renowned public sculptures created by the late National Laureate artist Syed Ahmad Jamal in 1986.

    Mayor Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz described it as being in bad shape.

    Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor called it an eyesore, even though it had been DBKL's responsibility to maintain it.

    The demolishing was the second and final blow to the iconic sculpture. Ten years after it was erected, DBKL changed the sculpture's pyroceram (a combination of glass and ceramics) surface into stainless steel without the consent of Syed Ahmad.

    He sued DBKL and was awarded RM750,000 (S$249,200) for infringement of his rights in 2010.

    The amount was later reduced to RM150,000.

    The stainless steel was removed, resulting in damage to the concrete structure and it was left to rot.

    Ironically, the inspiration for the Lunar Peaks sculpture was Armstrong's 1969 moon landing.