A Chinese Muslim has faced strong condemnation in China after criticizing the world’s biggest e-commerce firm Alibaba for renaming its travel-booking service “Flying Pig Travel.”
Snacks entrepreneur Adil Mamattura posted a message to his 216,000 followers on Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo last week claiming that Alibaba’s choice of Chinese name to replace “Alitrip” was offensive to Muslims. Mamattura, a member of the predominantly-Muslim Uighur ethnic group, said he had been a devoted user of Alibaba’s services.
“But now that Alitrip has changed its name to Flying Pig, I can only remove the app, and maybe all my Muslim friends too, because the word "pig" is taboo to Muslims all over the world,” he wrote. “Alibaba is an international corporation, could it take Muslim taboos into consideration?"
The comment sparked an immediate backlash that hinted at tension between China’s Muslims, which make up an estimated 1.6 percent of the population, and its Han ethnic majority.
"We each have our own way of life; we do not force you to live according to our rules, but you cannot force us to change the law,” one Weibo user, Fireflyinred, wrote in response, reports the BBC.
Uighurs are mainly concentrated in the far western autonomous region of Xinjiang, which has been the scene for violent unrest over China’s rule in recent years. In 2014, China’s Communist Party banned Muslim government employees, students and teachers from fasting for Ramadan. And last year Muslim-owned shops and restaurants were ordered to sell alcohol and cigarettes, items forbidden by the faith.
The subject of pigs is also a delicate matter. While Muslims abstain from pork, China is a huge consumer of the meat and the pig is also one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac.
In response to Mamattura’s criticism, Alibaba said that the new name for the app, which is called Fliggy in English, was simply designed to appeal to its younger user base, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“We embrace diversity and respect all creeds and religions,” an Alibaba spokesman said. “The name change is meant to reflect the demographic’s aspirations to pursue dreams, sit back and enjoy life.”
Following the backlash, Mamattura deleted his post and issued an apology on Weibo.
“I get along very well with my Han friends and colleagues,” he wrote. “I will work to improve myself, to use my practical actions to convey better things and positive energy.”