The recent Tattoo Malaysia Expo 2019 has met with some pushback after photos of semi-nude models at the event went viral
The event was held at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre from 29 November to 1 December. It featured 130 tattoo artists from over 40 different countries.
Over the weekend, photos of semi-nude models showing off their tattoos as part of the exhibition were circulated on social media.
According to CNA, the Tourism Minister had initially supported the three-day show but after the photos had surfaced, he said it did not reflect the nation's "polite and decent" culture.
The Ministry of Tourism said that although the organisers had obtained a permit from the authorities, they did not approve of the semi-nude modelling
New Straits Times reported that the Minister of Tourism, Arts, and Culture Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi had instructed the ministry's agency, the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCeB) to investigate the matter.
He said, "It does not reflect the actual image of Malaysia, which is filled with decency and integrity."
"It is against our culture, with a majority of its population comprising of Muslims," he added.
The ministry is currently waiting for an investigation report from MyCeB and they emphasised that they will not hesitate to take legal action if the organisers are found to have violated the conditions and guidelines set.
However, netizens are defending the Tattoo Expo, saying that the art form is an important part of Malaysian culture
One Twitter user wrote, "Tattoos have always had a cultural significance in Malaysia, especially when it comes to the Iban, Kadazan, Kayan, Kenyah, and Ulu tribes - they are Bumiputeras too. Enough with the religion card. This is a multiracial country. People have tattoos and they have expos. Get over it."
Another person explained, "In Sabah and Sarawak, tattoos are a norm and they are the heritage and legacy of several ethnic Bumiputera communities."
"Henry Golding who is of Iban ancestry has a tattoo of the 'Bunga Terung'. If you disagree with this practice, no one is forcing you to bring your wife and kids to witness all of this," they added.
"Excuse you but tattoos are a culture and tradition here in East Malaysia. So get your mind out of the gutter and look at the ink art work instead," said another netizen.