(The following letter had been contributed by Daniel Tan, 40, business owner. Tan tells us he had received the meme circulating on WhatsApp. The Facebook version cannot be found.)
(Update: There was feedback that the owner of MediaCock claimed the visual was altered by others and the visual with the President was not their doing)
Does the above meme look funny to you? 2 ministers and a CEO praying for good luck from the President? It may appear to be mere satire at first glance, but on second thought… it is incredibly disrespectful.
From a Chinese perspective, it has so many differnet meanings:
a.) You’re wishing the death of the President
It is not certain what the image is trying to portray, it looks immediately like an ancestral tablet. In supernatural beliefs, you do something like this when you either actually want to wish death on someone, or you give absolutely no respect to your target.
b.) You’ve belittling Heavenly powers
If the image was trying to satirise some sort of deity, the meme maker is then very disrespectful to the beliefs of the Taoists. He/she is trying to equate human powers to divine powers and that is blasphemy.
c.) You are in contempt of religion
In sum total, the meme maker shows us that he/she does not belong to that religion. If it were so, respect would have been accorded to things of this realm. It is in contempt – fun is being had at the expense of someone else’s beliefs and matters normally given high accord is being derided.
And then there’s the secular point of view:
d.) You’re disrespecting Malay/Muslim community
You’re taking a tudong wearing, Malay woman’s image and superimposing it on objects belonging to another religion and another race? Are you serious? Even if you did not vote for her, don’t know her or don’t like her… you treat another human being and their beliefs with respect.
e.) You’re putting down Halimah’s husband
The Chinese words on this meme addresses Halimah’s husband as “First Wife”. It’s not about belittling the man, but again, you don’t know him nor the work he does, what is the purpose of it?
f.) You’re in utter contempt of the Office of the President
Then finally it comes to this. No matter whether or not you like the person, we treat that office with respect. It doesn’t matter if it is Low Thia Khiang, Jack Neo or Chee Soon Juan occupying that seat, once that person is installed, we accord it with respect it is due.
We are given the freedom to do things like this, but we exercise it with decency and a bit of logic. Why on earth would you want to piss off entire religions and races this way?
As a Chinese person, one of the values I am most proud of is our advanced civility. Our tradition is that accords great importance to respect and courtesy. Frivolous meme making like this is not compatible with Chinese culture and this sort of practice should not be condoned.