Free hugs malaysia: cultural concern

“But all the quotes I know are serious and meaningful.”
-Shazeea Banu

For the moment:
John Legend Live in Philadelphia

This post is a follow up to the previous one, Legal Concerns dated 1st February 2008.

*I thank Sakinah Muhammad and Dina Khan for assisting me on parts of this post.

**Once in a while I approach people I know online for a quote. And I tell them that it does not have to be meaningful, inspirational or motivational. As long as it is readworthy, shoot. It can even be one of their own. To me, that** is readworthy.

Bow 1



I feel that it is imperative to deal with the cultural sphere first before the religion one as it correlates. For that, let’s take a completely external foreign example to show that the ‘obstacle’ is not peculiar to Malaysia. We are all the same. We are all also different. And we should all respect this fact.

I take for example, a successful industry that has flourished by its own in its own way, without extremely adopting a foreign culture, but perhaps learning from them. Bollywood.

This film industry, despite it not being in English, still maintaining its own ways and even some might say ‘cliches,’ has still managed to cultivate, develop and gain respect. In the production of their films, they rely so little on foreign labour, skills or approaches. There is of course foreign or external influences but at the core if it, it is still what it is.




It may have not started off with having award shows as early as the Oscars, but now there is IIFA. Or Bollywood Awards as it is casually known.

Observe how when a male award recipient receives his award from a female presenter. No he does not hug her, or kiss her cheeks. Is this an act of disrespect? Narrow mindedness? Does it make their culture any less than any other out there?

Just in case you ignorant folk answered yes to the above, those questions were rhetorical and sarcastic.

Now I’ve watched less than 5 Bollywoods film in my life. And I’ve never watched the IIFA but I was told that when,

  1. a male presenter presents the award to another male, they shake hands and maybe hug.
  2. a female presenter presents to another female, they hug or kiss each other’s cheeks.
  3. a male and a female, they do the namaskar or the namaste.

Yes. You can actually do it without knowing yoga.

Namaskar or namaste is when a person joins his or her own palms and (usually) places it at the chest. It is a way of respecting the opposite gender, outsiders and elders.




If you go to Japan, you bow. The Maori place their foreheads to each other in greeting. Something they do welcomely with non-Maoris. But if you’re not ok with that gesture, I’m certain there’s a polite way to show it. As certain as I am that the Maori would understand.

Sometimes when you don’t observe or adhere to the culture of the place that you are in, it maybe alright, frowned upon, or taken as an act of ignorance or blind rebelliousness. I know of a great number of non-Asians, who when (even) in their own country visit the houses of their Asian friends, they take off their shoes before entering.

It is common among Italian men to kiss the cheeks of a male friend or relative, much like in the Middle East. Some find this act only appropriate between two different sexes. Including Malaysia. Each to his own.




Malaysia is multi cultural. If you know, or are likely to know, that the person you’re offering a hug (is of a different sex) comes from a culture that does not find such an act appropriate, then use your common sense. Be respectful.

If a man wants to hug a woman stranger in public, and she wants to hug as well, then proceed. Vice versa. An offer is subjected to acceptance.

The same also goes between two people of the same sex.

Don’t harass or compel anyone, or place that person in an awkward position. That would be inappropriate thus giving Free Hugs a bad name.

We have similarities, yet we are all different. You should not feel oblige to adopt foreign cultures or ideas in totality. Cater it to your surrounding. We are not superior to them, neither are they are to us.

To insist upon absolute universality, that everything in this world must be done in one way and no one else’s way, is almost like proposing one sex human beings. No males, no females. No countries, just planet Earth.


No Paris. No Britney. We can’t possibly live without that.

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