In Year Of The Dog, Malls Play Down Dog Decorations

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 – Some businesses are skirting around or playing down the portrayal of canines in Chinese New Year decorations this year, wary of offending the Muslims in the Year of the Dog. Dogs are considered “unclean” under Islamic tradition and Muslims are required to carry out a ritual of washing themselves if they are in contact with the animal.

Pavilion KL will not depict dogs in its decorations ahead of the Chinese New Year celebrations, focusing instead on the 10th-anniversary theme of the centre. Director of Marketing Kung Suan Ai said religious and cultural sensitivities were a determining factor in conceptualising decorations. The mall attracts three million people of various backgrounds each month, she said.

“One of the considerations we take in when we work on decoration concepts for Pavilion KL is to create something highly experiential … and also to be socially accepting (for) all,” she said. Twelve animals, including a dog and a pig, another animal Muslims consider as unclean, make up the traditional Chinese zodiac.

Muslim leaders have been vocal about events that involve dogs previously. After the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow, when athletes paraded with a Scottish terrier donning their country’s name, politicians aired their disproval, calling the stunt “disrespectful”. In 2016, religious authorities asked popular pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s to change the name of its “Pretzel Dog” to “Pretzel Sausage”.

At MyTOWN, another Kuala Lumpur shopping centre where half the visitors are Muslim, the mall downplayed the depiction of dogs in its decorations. “We have the dogs but it’s in how we (display) them. They are not the main object. They are life size and placed as ambient decorations,” said Head of Marketing Christopher Koh, so that the canine would not appear like an idol.

“It’s the same with the pig (for the Year of the Boar), Malaysian retailers won’t usually put up a giant pig as a centrepiece.” Alex Chow, who runs a company supplying packaging materials, said corporate clients have stuck to generic illustrations for their packaging designs this year. — Reuters

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