Tue, Aug 23, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Chinese words for Jews and Islam are demeaning: group


A peace group yesterday called on the public and the government to support a campaign to change what they call "discriminatory" Chinese translations for terms related to Islam and Jews.

"There are many Chinese characters for you tai (猶太), or Jew, but they pick the you with the `dog radical' (犬)" said Chien Hsi-chieh, executive director of the Peacetime Foundation of Taiwan. "In Chinese, [the character] refers to an animal of the monkey species, and has the connotation of `parsimoniousness.'"

A better choice for the word, Chien said, would be you (), which is more neutral.

Chien also urged that the hui character used in the Chinese translation for the religion of Islam (回教), be replaced with yisilan (伊斯蘭), because hui has a connotation of paganism. The earlier Chinese translation for Islam used a hui character with the "dog" radical.

Chien made the appeal at a press conference at the Legislative Yuan yesterday morning.

Zhou Xun (周迅), a history professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said it is almost impossible to find a definition for the term Jew or Jewishness in Chinese.

"As a matter of fact, the animal radical of youtai indicates the imagined physical difference between the Chinese and the Jews, which is rooted in the tradition of picturing the alien groups living outside the pale of Chinese society as distant savages hovering on the edge of bestiality," she said.

Chien yesterday also lambasted the Presidential Office's Human Rights Advisory Committee, headed by Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), saying it had ignored their petition.

The Presidential Office yesterday said in a statement that the foundation's claim that Lu was using the committee as a tool to benefit her political career rather than promote human rights was a misunderstanding.

The statement said that on Oct. 4, the foundation's petition was submitted to Chen, who ordered the committee convened by Lu to discuss the issue. On Oct. 13, the committee's deputy convener, Liao Fu-te (廖福特), chaired a discussion of the issue with representatives from the foundation, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government Information Office.

The committee members said that the government would gladly help out if civic groups continue to promote the idea, the statement added.

"The petition was filed by the foundation [in Taiwan] rather than by Jewish people. According to the conclusion reached by the committee on Oct. 20, it was unnecessary for the government to take such an initiative. Besides, Taiwan has no official diplomatic ties with Israel," the statement said.

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