With tongue-in-cheek I had titled my posting on the Kongsi Raya controversy as Will Muslims jump ship for kueh-mueh?
I didn’t expect the issue to be on the extreme side of passionate, where there are fears among some Muslims that the joint Malaysian style celebrations may lead to the corruption of the Islamic faith by stealth. They are worried that their faith could well be 'assimilated' into that of another, or vice versa. True to form, Harussani Zakaria, the Mufti of Perak, has been able once again to stimulate Muslims’ feelings about the Kongsi Raya concept, either one way or the other.
Thus far, I have deliberately kept non-Muslims views out of my posting because those would be too predictable. I won’t provide my comments yet, but offer some more of the Muslim views.
Last month the Anti Inter-Faith Commission (Badai), including PAS youth members, had formed a 200-strong protest group that had, through a fearsome protest in Penang, disrupted an Article 11-organised public forum to discuss freedom of religion.
The police was accused of siding with the protestors but it claimed that public order would be best served by ending the forum. It had been unusual for the police to side with the protestors considering their readiness to disperse the anti-fuel price protest rallies by use of draconian and violent means.
Anyway, Badai has voiced its disagreement with the Kongsi Raya, because the objection had been made by a competent religious person, namely the Mufti of Perak, based on strong evidence from the Quran and Hadith (Prophetic traditions). It didn’t elaborate on what evidence those had been.
Its chairperson Mohd Hafiz Mohd Nordin said: “Badai believes that national unity had existed and can continue in this country on the condition that followers of all religions respect each other.”
He didn’t explain who or which other religion had been disrespectful. I wish Badai could have been more kind by clarifying what its statement had been about?
Meanwhile, Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (Abim) secretary-general Khairul Arifin Mohd Munir didn’t indicate whether it objected to or supported the Kongsi Raya event, but instead said it would like to see guidelines drafted so that the Islamic faith can be guarded while improving racial and religious tolerance. I read it as Abim supporting the event but not wanting to alienate the Muslims who have voiced their opposition or concerns.
But Nicholas Sylvester, a convert heading Islamic group JIM’s proselytisation wing, said Harussani or other muftis need to explain a bit more, so that Muslims can distinguish between celebrations that are religious in nature and those that are predominantly socio-cultural.
While Sylvester supports the call to review the practice of simultaneously hosting two or more religious celebrations, he said this should not apply to cultural events and social gatherings.
He cited the Chinese New Year celebrations as a non-religious celebration. In this respect, KTemoc recall a Chinese Muslim friend (whose family’s Islamic faith has been of a thousand-year vintage) celebrating Chinese New Year and was severely criticised by our Muslim boss for subscribing to pagan rites.
Sylvester said: “We’re not against open houses as it is encouraged in terms of visiting people and strengthening good relations.”
One of Malaysia’s intellectuals, Chandra Muzaffar, who is also president of the International Movement for a Just World, said that throughout the history of religions, there had been “custodians of the faiths claiming to defend the purity of the faiths”.
He said in many instances, such persons would adopt a position against any accommodation, or inclusiveness or universality.
Chandra pointed out that the Islamic religious scholars in Malaysia seem to more concern only with the superficial aspects of Muslim identity than most scholars in other countries. He averred: “It is important to remind ourselves that Islam’s splendour was its willingness to absorb other ideas while at the same time protecting the integrity of the faith.”
OK, I’ll welcome your comments but please keep them objective and civil. I know we can get heated up sometimes but let's play it cool.