Friday, October 27, 2006

We, Not Western Nations Or Their Reporters, Kill Our Tourism Industry.

A foreign couple, traumatised when religious officials stormed into their home in the wee hours of the morning, will get to meet the tourism minister. Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said he was waiting for reports on the incident from the Kedah Menteri Besar and the State Religious Department before meeting Randal K. Barnhart, 62, and his wife Carole Joanne, 61, from the United States. "I have communicated with Barnhart through emails and plan to meet him soon," he said.

Two weeks ago, the retired couple living in a condominium in Langkawi had some unexpected visitors at 2am. They were awakened by a pounding on their door by six men from the State Religious Department demanding to inspect their home. Fearing for their safety, Barnhart had refused to disclose any information or allow them in but the men dressed in blue uniforms were threatening and aggressive. The men had asked to see his "woman" and then demanded to see their marriage certificate and passports. They noted the couple’s particulars before leaving.

The experience has Barnhart reviewing his plans to make Malaysia his second home. Barnhart wants a letter of apology from the State Religious Department and a letter that they will not be bothered again and compensation of RM4,315. (NST)

**** It's news like this that puts a severe damper on the efforts of the tourism ministry to pull in a greater share of the world market to Malaysia. When the average tourist reads about this incident can you blame them if they feel that the country has been 'Arabised' and 'Talibanised?' As it is, Muslim countries have a bad reputation as unsafe places and news like this only serves to reinforce this unreasonable view. There is no point then appealing to tourists and crying "Don't Be Influenced By Negative Reports About Malaysia."

The government simply cannot pander to the likes and dislikes of religious purists on one side and at the same time placate money bearing foreigners on the other. Either choose one or exercise moderation and punish the extremists. That will do more good for tourism than carrying out silly stunts.


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