PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the latest to join critics who objected to the suggestion that Langkawi's iconic eagle statue is haram (forbidden by Islam) and should be demolished.
Dr Mahathir, in a blog post on Friday (Sept 9), explained that with better education as well as technological progress, numerous representations of men and animals, which had been previously forbidden by Islam, were soon allowed.
"At one time painted portraits of such were also forbidden," he said, adding that with the advances in photography, it was impossible for Muslims to ban photographs of men and animals.
Statues were also viewed with less and less severity, he explained, noting that Malaysia has the Tugu Negara (National Monument) and the statue of the country's first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.
The key point, the former premier said, is that the "Islamic injunction is against regarding the carved images as gods to be worshipped".
Pre-Islamic Arabs worshipped certain "oddly shaped rocks" as god, and when Islam came, these gods were destroyed as Islam forbids Muslims from worshipping any other gods, he said.
"Today's Muslims are more intelligent. That is why they don't worship portraits or statues. They know these are not gods," said Dr Mahathir.
"The day some Muslims place joss sticks and genuflect before the Eagle in Langkawi, that day the offending Muslim should be told that they are not following the injunctions of Islam.
"So far no Muslims have ever prayed before or worshipped the Eagle of Langkawi. Destroying it would not make the Malays more Muslim," he said.
Last week, Perak deputy mufti Zamri Hashim had written in a local daily that it was forbidden in Islam to make full-bodied statues of living creatures such as humans or animals, and it should be demolished.
Calls for the statue's demolition was met with outrage from Malaysians and politicians alike.