Portray true image of religion
HARI Raya Aidil Fitri, or Eid Ul Fitri, like all other holidays in this country is celebrated by all Malaysians. Regardless of our race, religion or culture we have no problem celebrating each other’s holiday. These are the time where we can get a glimpse of the tradition, culture and faith of our fellow Malaysians.
When I was a child, celebrating Malaysian holidays was not just about getting to eat all the delicious food the different cultures had to offer. It was also the time free television stations competed against each other to offer animated shows related to the particular holiday.
I can still remember during Chinese New Year watching animated films like The Monkey King, which is closely related to Buddhist teachings. During Deepavali, cartoons of stories from the Ramayana, a beautiful epic of love and dedication derived from the Hindu scripture, would be shown.
Even though these were just animated films, they provided a chance for us Malaysians to understand the different cultures and faiths of our fellow countrymen. No one made a fuss back then as we accepted the fact that our country was a place for all Malaysians.
Nowadays, with the resurgence of extremist Muslim scholars, the Islamic/Malay society has become a sensitive lot. Everything and anything can be turned into an issue against our version of Islamic teachings. We have become a paranoid group of people who easily jump and shout haram (forbidden), murtad (apostasy) and kafir harbi (enemies of Islam) to those whose culture, opinion and faith differ from us.
We also chastise fellow Malays who we think are not up to our standard of Islam. We force non-Muslims to respect our faith but at the same time have no qualm demeaning others with our words and actions.
What has happened to us? If the words and teachings of ulamas or mullahs have turned us into an extremist community, how can we revert to our original selves?
A distorted version of religion has been used to divide human beings since time immemorial. Wars have been waged, families torn apart and many atrocities perpetrated by those who use religion for their personal agenda.
In the pursuit of God, some of us have become victims of extremist preachers and warmongering religious authorities. Religion that is supposed to give us hope and unite humankind is used as tools to encroach upon civil liberties and freedom. Sadly, this is what we are currently experiencing in our country. Extremism is not the path to God.
Piles of controversies have been reported during Ramadan. It seems that our act of fasting that is supposed to teach us humility and self-enlightenment has become a platform for us to chastise others. From criticising the attire of fellow Muslims in Ramadan bazaars to forcing non-Muslims to not eat in public, we have forgotten the truest facet of Islam which is to preserve our relationship with God and with other human beings.
Relationship with God and other human beings goes hand in hand; if one falters it would mean that our iman (faith) is not complete.
We tend to forget that the Koran that has been bestowed by God upon us upholds civil liberties and human rights. It is explained plainly and clearly in Surah Al-Baqarah 256 that “there shall be no compulsion in the religion”.
Why are we trying to force our beliefs on others who don’t share our opinion on religion?
On whose authority do those who force, ridicule, attack and punish others act if God has stated clearly that there must be no compulsion in the religion?
If we do not follow the Koran, which is the highest authority of Islam, the word that we believe comes from God Himself, that none shall stand at par or higher than its authority, are we committing blasphemy by going against the word of God?
We use the name of God to invoke non-existent laws and rules. If this is not sacrilegious, then I do not know what is.
All religions promote peace and love. We may have different views on certain things but all faiths share the same agenda, which is to live in peace together on earth.
It’s time for all Muslims in Malaysia to live up to the name of Islam which means peace. All of us Muslims need to step up on our role as peace advocates. With all the things happening around the world, where Muslims are being branded as terrorist militants, we in Malaysia can be the voice of change. We need to practise what we preach and portray the true image of Islam which upholds compassion, love and kindness to all.
On Hari Raya, it’s a tradition for us to open our doors to visitors, but now we need also to open our hearts and minds to the fundamental spirit of peace and compassion. If our heart and mind are filled with love for all creatures, only then can we call ourselves Muslims.
Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all The Star readers. God bless you all. Ahmad Soffian Mohd Shariff The STAR Home News Opinion Letters Tuesday, 5 July 2016
Improve national schools
THE reasons cited by Liong Kam Chong in his letter “Improve the teaching of POL” (The Star, June 29) on the teaching of pupils’ own language (POL) in national primary schools is only part of the answer to why 90% of Chinese parents send their children to SJK(C) (Chinese vernacular schools) and the increasing number of non-Chinese pupils there.
Other reasons are the issue of discipline and the perception that our Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) has increasingly become more like Malay schools.
I would like to use my alma mater as an example.
In 1968, I entered Standard 1 in SRJK St. George, Taiping. Even though my parents were both Chinese school teachers – my dad was actually headmaster of a SRJK (C) – they recognised that an English education would be advantageous to me. At that time, enrolment in my alma mater was so overwhelming it had to be divided into SRJK St. George I and SRJK St. George II, sharing the same premises but alternating between morning and afternoon sessions.
Back then, English medium government schools were the preferred choice even for some Chinese educationists.
Fast forward to today and after successive generations of headmasters, the ethos of the school has changed to Malay. Numbers have dwindled to one class per standard in a single session only. Even Malay parents and non-Chinese speaking parents are sending their children to SJK(C). Why? This is because schools like SRK St. George are now no longer the preferred choice.
The aspirations of our national Education Blueprint 2013-2025 are indeed noble.
But in its implementation, changes should be made so that parents voluntarily send their children back to SK which could become the preferred schools again. In order to achieve this, the teaching of Science and Maths in English, and making Tamil compulsory for Indians and Chinese compulsory for Chinese are all important. This will also help to solve the problem of how to absorb the Chinese school teachers and will fulfil mother-tongue education as enshrined in our constitution. Bahasa Malaysia will, of course, remain compulsory for all.
I was right in the midst of the three years when we transitioned from English to Malay medium and must admit that we had the best of both worlds. Not only was our English good but I also obtained A1 in BM in MCE (equivalent to SPM today). I even scored a credit in Chinese by attending POL and despite not having gone to SRK(C). Our SK was truly multi-racial then. Chuah Seong York Malacca The STAR Home News Opinion Letters Monday, 11 July 2016