Oops, We Didn't Mean Malaysians Are Terrorists - British Marines In Retreat After Gaffe
But a high-octane recruiting film for the Royal Marines forced the Ministry of Defence into headlong retreat yesterday, after complaints that it portrayed one of the most peaceable countries in Asia as a breeding ground for Islamist terrorists. Officials apologised to Malaysia for the offending video, which was used in cinemas and on the MoD's website until it was withdrawn yesterday.
The film, which was made in Brunei while the marines were on exercises last year, featured a Malay man as a terrorist toting a Kalashnikov, who is being pursued by a group of marines in the jungle.
"I am the most evil man in the world. Come fight with me. I will kill you all," the actor said in Malay.
Having apparently just shot down a helicopter, he continued to shout abuse.
During the 40-second clip, a voiceover in English added: "I am your worst nightmare. I have conquered fear. I have come to terms with terror. And pain is my best friend."
As the camera switched to the marines it continued: "I am a Royal Marines commando. I will come from the sea. I will disappear without trace. "My brothers will lay down their lives for me as I will for them. Royal Marines commando." It concluded: "It's a state of mind. You may already have it."
The marine recruiting officer's latest catchphrase is: "A commando state of mind", meaning, they say, "a determination to overcome adversity, no matter what it may be".
An official at the British high commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, was quoted yesterday as saying: "As soon as we became aware that the video has caused some offence, we withdrew the video."
In London, the MoD apologised for "any offence that may have been caused".
It said: "It was certainly not our intention to cause any offence. The advertisement has been withdrawn from circulation. It was not our intention to suggest Malaysians are involved in terrorism and we have ensured that this advert will not be broadcast again."
The video was aimed at 16- to 24-year-olds, defence officials said. It certainly seemed to have worked.
By February, the Royal Marines had recruited all the soldiers they wanted for the year.
But the film remained on the MoD and Royal Marines website for seven months. It was still there because the navy were looking at applications from people who wanted to join the marines next year.
The video also served as an "awareness-raising" exercise, officials added. It was taken off the MoD's official website this week only when it was realised it was causing offence, defence sources explained.
The video was made by what defence sources called a "creative agency" and produced by a local company in Brunei where marines were already deployed for an exercise with a Malaysian film crew and actor. The subject of the film was first raised earlier this week by a member of Malaysia's parliament who complained about its portrayal of a Malay as an evil man.
Malay Muslims make up nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 27 million population. The country is proud of its moderate approach to religion and is one of the Muslim world's most stable countries. British troops have a history of combat in the country helping to quell insurgencies there in 1949 and again in the 1960s
Zainal Abidin Bakar, an official in Malaysia's foreign ministry, told the Associated Press news agency that the recruitment video hurt local sensitivities, but his government had not decided whether to fire off an official note of protest.
"They have withdrawn the video on their own accord. It's a good gesture on their part," Zainal Abidin said. "They've realised their mistake and the sensitivity of the Malay community."
Officials in the MoD in London privately admitted contrition about what they agreed could be interpreted as an insult.
But they said their apologies had been well-received by the Malaysian government and what might have become a full-blown diplomatic incident had been smoothed over.
Attempts by the MoD to have the video taken off other websites, including YouTube, appeared last night to be destined to fail. The episode reflects a determination among recruiters to attract people to the armed forces and a belief that one way of doing it is to be as gung-ho as possible. It is no use presenting a softer image if that simply results in recruits failing the physically rigorous initial training courses and aptitude tests, it is argued. (Guardian.co.uk)
***** Full marks to our government for not making a big diplomatic issue out of it.