Tattoo Madness

A piece of gem by Art Fazil, originally published in the local Malay daily.

Original article was in Malay. Below is my horrible attempt at its English translation.

A press report here discussing the spread of tattoo reminds me of an experience by a relative who once managed the burial of a tattooed Malay/Muslim man.

According to him, after the body was prepared for burial, there was a strange occurrence.

When the deceased was placed on his side inside the grave [as per Islamic rite], it would sprawl on its back, as if something was preventing it [from being placed on its side].

All those present at the funeral were shocked and felt uneasy.

After failing the third time to place the deceased on his side, all parties, including family members, agreed to bury the body in supine.

When I relate the story to my friends, they only shake their heads while lamenting on tattoo’s rampancy here.

In my observation, the tattoo trend began to spread some 10 years ago. Apart from tattoos representing the seal of criminal gangs, ultimately I connect tattoos with the influence of entertainment and sports celebrities.

Celebrities are the current media icons, and thus a measure of what is considered cool.

Commonly, adolescents tend to be keen in the latest trends. The Internet has facilitated access to latest information. What exploded onto the international scene simultaneously spread here. This is the effect of globalization.

When I type in “Celebrity Tattoos” in the Google search engine, I was directed to a website displaying tattooed celebrities.

The madness of Gangsta rap music has elevated artists most covered in tattoos such as Lil’ Wayne, 50 cents, Eminem, Soulja Boy and Snoop Doggy Dog. Among pop and rock singers are Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams and Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit), while female singers such as Rihanna, Pink and Beyonce are no exception. Hollywood A-Listers who have casted tattoos on their bodies, including Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansen, Megan Fox and Pamela Anderson.

Weirdly, only Madonna use henna tattoos.

Among the famous athletes, David Beckham led the list. His body is ‘almost completely’ tattooed – from the neck, left arm and right from top to bottom, back and even down to the feet. There are not less than 100 tattoos on Beckham, coloring his body dark blue. His wife, Victoria Beckham, who is also tattooed, once said in a UK magazine that “…I will continue to pray that he does not add his tattoos…”.

In addition, the web site YouTube also has a special channel for the Reality TV series Miami Ink which records a variety of events occurring in a tattoo shop in Miami Beach, Florida.

Tattoo means ‘mark’ in Tahiti.

Romans tattoo themselves to signify a person who originates from slaves. The Maori tribe in New Zealand ink spiral-shaped tattoos on their faces and bodies as a sign of good lineage. In Solomon Islands, tattoos are carved on women’s faces as a ritual to mark a new stage in their lives.

What are the reasons for Malay kids to tattoo?

Because of style. Oh, so trivial.

According to Imam Al-Nawawi (rahimahullah), tattoo is defined as inserting tattoo needle or the likes into the back of the hand, wrist, lips, or other parts of the body until blood flows.

The area is then filled with kohl [celak] or quicklime (calcium oxide) until it becomes green.

We already know the views of Islamic scholars according to Qur’an and Hadith on the issues of tattoo, including a chapter on the ablution of a tattooed person.

What surprises me is when I found similar opinion by the Christians on this issue. Verse 19:28 from Leviticus in the Bible commands that followers of the religion should not get tattooed: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos.”

Specialists reveal that tattoo application may expose a person to infections such as Hepatitis B and C and also HIV. The Hepatitis C virus may cause fatal Hepatocellular cancer death due to heart function failure. Pamela Anderson had admitted that she was infected with Hepatitis C because of needle-sharing with her former husband, Tommy Lee, a Motley Crue drummer.

Psychologically, some experts categorize tattoos as self-mutilation – harming oneself. According to two German psychologists, Aglaja Stirn and Andreas Hinz, who did a study for a tattoo magazine, Taetowiermagazin, “Tattoos are an easy way to reveal the internal effects of individual psychology.”

A woman who uses the pen name Mismimichi wrote in her blog, Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing that tattoo ink is like black heroin. “Like heroin, it makes me feel beautiful and mighty.” After a few sessions of getting tattoos, she became an addict – once tried, she wants more.

In the meantime, Counseling Program lecturer of Faculty of Leadership and Management, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM), Associate Professor Dr Sapora Sipon said: “Some tattooed women psychologically feel that symbols on their body gives satisfaction. In addition, they feel strong facing everyday life, apart from the uniqueness of their personality identity.”

Is life in Singapore is so difficult that adolescents today experience painful emotional stress?

What is it that causes them to feel angry with themselves, their family and the community that they would want to harm their bodies with tattoo needles?

Are their pain as great as the difficulties faced by our brothers in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Xinjiang?

A friend who cannot stand the behavior of “mat tattoo” said: “David Beckham has tattoos, but he’s very rich. Our kids have tattoos, but they steal handphones!”

Another friend said: “What good is there following Mat Saleh (Westerners) when your English language is all over?”

Among my friends, Malays who were born and raised in London, not one is tattooed.

What is more disturbing is its impact on the next generation.

A friend of mine, a primary school teacher, found one of his students penning his hand with marker. When investigated, it was found discovered that the mother is tattooed. Similarly, another student who drew on his hand with a pen – the mother and father are tattooed. According to him, generally the same situation is happening in other schools. This is a disconcerting trend.

Just like the majority of us who are not happy with air pollution when exposed to cigarette smoke (passive smoking), tattoos should be regarded as “visual pollution.” Like passive smoking, visual pollution can spread negative effects if it goes unnoticed.

From the eyes down to the heart, from the heart down to the skin. If regularly exposed to the habit of tattooing, this generation will become numb. Their skin has the potential to canvas the tattooer’s needle.

Many developed countries have strict laws on tattooing. In Australia, a tattoo studio must get written consent from the parents or guardian before tattooing or piercing teens under the age of 18. In California, as in the United Kingdom, it is an offence to tattoo youths under the age of 18.

Our ministers and members of parliament must hasten to deal with the tattoo issue. A new law should be proposed. Just like the sale of cigarettes, tattoo studios should only allowed to tattoo customers aged 18 and above. Even better if it is raised to the age of 21 years – the eligible voting age.

Tattoo is just a trend that’s being followed. With age limits, it can prevent young people from being influenced by the temporary craze.

What will happen to them after the tattoo trend is gone, after a new genre of music takes over, after youth has passed and skin sags?

They will be left with the memory of the stale stupid age, marred on their skin for life.

The next generation does not have to stare hard at a body full of tattoos sprawled supine in the grave to realize that “Tattoos Are Not Cool.”

I cannot agree more.



One thought on “Tattoo Madness

  1. Malays in Singapore are ‘Pak Turuts’. Yes, I agree with the author that tattooing is a becoming to be a norm amongst the Singapore Malays. They look horrible, ugly and shitty as far as I am concerned. I know of people who have tattoos on their body. They think that they are strong, invincible and ‘advanced’.

    The fact is Malays in Singapore are becoming more and more like ‘hampas’. They are not interested to advance themselves morally, religiously and socially. They think that by tattooing themselves, they are above everybody else. I have met these people and I wish they can realise that they are not invincible. Who they are actually? Well most of them are school dropouts, criminals and so on. The guys are criminals and the girls are the ‘minah jalanan’ type – who have no qualms about sleeping together without ‘nikah’ and bore illegitimate kids. Yes, I have met them. It is kinda sad to see Malays like these.

    There is a block of rented flats (studio type – no bedroom) in Redhill where most (80%) of the tenants are Malays. (No, I don’t live here, just passing by only). I was appalled at the occupants’ mentality and they are very proud of what they do or who they are. There is no Islamic feeling in their soul. They are Malay Muslims in name only. It is like a norm for these people to stay together without ‘nikah’ and solemnised their ‘nikah’ after having a few kids in tow. As I said, they are proud of that. The occupants are mostly contracted labourers (ada kerja ada gaji, no CPF, no insurance etc), ex criminals etc. Laziness is rampant among them. To wake up in the morning to go to work, oh that is a very difficult thing to do …

    From my observation, they actually have nothing in life except their pride. The funny thing is they want to be respected when there is nothing to respect about them. I am sorry to say this but I feel that it is not a hearsay that the Malay community has been criticized for being what they are.

    Other races are not perfect but at least, they study hard and strive for a better life rather than become ‘Pak Turuts’ whereas the Malays are nothing but ‘hampas’ only. In Malay, we say, ‘action aje lebih, habok pun tarak’. Embarrassing right? If this is the norm, Malays will never progress. This will become a cycle for the next generation as Malays will never, ever come out of this ‘tempurung’ mentality. Advancement in the Malay’s eyes is tattooing, follow the latest trends, singing, dancing, low moral, decadent behaviour etc ..nothing whatsoever for the real advancement of his/her being, family, society, country …..nothing to be really proud of actually.

    I wonder whose fault is this? Community? Political leaders? Country? Whatever …..

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