My Take

Foreign tourists posing for naked selfies show disrespect

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 June, 2015, 2:12am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 June, 2015, 2:12am

It's generally more acceptable to offend people of your own religion, just like it's ok to tell jokes about your own race. However, Charlie Hebdo notwithstanding, being offensive to other people's religions and other races is usually not a good idea.

There is now an unfortunate trend among young foreign tourists to pose for naked selfies while visiting sacred grounds and temples. Many take that as a joke and may even consider it an act of daring. But the locals inevitably find it offensive, not to say illegal.

The latest incident has a Canadian hiker, said to be a Hong Kong resident, among a group of tourists posing for pictures in the nude atop Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu. Having posted the offending pictures online, Emil Kaminski added insult to injury by calling Masidi Manjun, the minister for tourism, culture and environment in the East Malaysian state of Sabah, an "idiot" and "a dildo".

Media reports said about 10 foreign tourists broke away from their entourage of 27 and stripped naked for pictures on Mount Kinabalu last month. A mountain guide tried to stop them but they reportedly called him "stupid" and told him to "go to hell".

The act has angered locals who consider the mountain a sacred site because it is the final resting place of their ancestors.

Nude selfies in sacred places have become a Western tourist trend. Early this year, two US sisters were arrested in Cambodia after taking nude selfies inside an Angkor Wat temple. They were each fined US$250 and banned from visiting the country for four years. Less than two weeks before, three French male tourists were caught taking naked pictures inside the same temple.

I was young once and yes, it's fun to cause offence, sometimes. It's an assertion of individuality and freedom, that you are not bound by superstitions and customs.

But there is another good reason to travel. This is to learn and appreciate other people's cultures and customs, or at least be respectful of them.

When you encounter a group of tourists, it's easy to tell the nice and curious visitors from the obnoxious ones. The former would listen and be respectful. The latter would be rude, demanding and loud.