LANGKAWI (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A tourism group in the Malaysian resort island of Langkawi has strongly objected to a claim that the island's iconic eagle statue is haram, or forbidden by Islam, and should be demolished, adding to the online opposition by Malaysian netizens on the issue.
Langkawi Tourism Association president Zainuddin Kadir said the 12-metre high statue in Lang Square had become a key tourist attraction for the past 20 years and was an icon for the island, located in the Malaysian state of Kedah.
"It has become an icon for Langkawi for quite a long period, not as a place of worship or for activities that are contrary to Islam," he told Bernama.
His comments were in response to a suggestion by Perak deputy mufti Zamri Hashim that it was forbidden in Islam to make full-bodied statues of living creatures such as humans or animals, saying that the statue should be demolished.
But his proposal was met with objections from netizens, with many expressing their disappointment and criticism.
Zainuddin, who represents 8,000 Langkawi tourism association members, said he had written a letter to Zamri requesting further explanation on the matter.
"I am still waiting for his answer and willing to have a dialogue with him if necessary," he said.
Zainuddin also asked that the authorities take into consideration the welfare of the Langkawi community, most of whom depended on the tourism industry.
On Saturday, the Kedah Mufti's office said that it would consult the state Fatwa Council on the matter.
Commenting on the issue, Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the statue was symbolic of Langkawi as well as being a tourist attraction.
"Let us be more open about this - embrace that Malaysia is a multi-racial society and be inclusive about this," he told reporters.