August 2nd, 2011

Putting unity to the test

 ‘Muhibah’ may be established between members of society only through friendship, wherein there will be mutual help, kindness and respect.

WHILE diversity of faiths and religions test Malaysians’ capacity for unity, it also accentuates the need of a framework which is practicable and acceptable to all.

Two global scholars, Fazlur Rahman and Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, have suggested in their works that the positive value of religious communities is that they may excel in moral goodness.

According to such interpretation, this is indeed a divine command in the Quran, fastabiqu al-khayrat (al-Maidah, 5:48).

Since there are very broad opportunities for various religious communities to compete with each other towards all that is good, it is imperative to explore this model to its fullest potentiality, for example, in providing welfare to the poor.

When we say “commanding what is good and forbidding what is evil”, good and evil must not be evaluated according to secularised, anti-religious values.

Rather, good and evil here must be judged according to universal religious values and good traditions of man and society (al-ma‘ruf).

Commanding the good and forbidding the evil must be done by religious adherents in a proper, gracious, honest and sincere way.

It is extremely important to acknowledge the difference between one religion and another and thus their uniqueness.

Interreligious problems won’t be solved by denying the fact that there are differences among various religions or by saying all religions are the same as asserted by adherents of religious pluralism.

The present-day religious pluralist is either a secularist who himself does not practice a religious life or is a secularised individual who is at best doubtful of religious truths. Promoting pluralistic co-existence by imposing secular principles that make all religions equal is counter-productive.

Rather, the solution must be sought by having respect for the unique, different qualities of each tradition, and coexist with those differences.

Inter-faith relations should not be in terms of toleration if by toleration we refer to emotionless and dispassionate relations, which are artificial.

The inter-faith relations that we must promote is one which affection and compassion are intrinsic to. Such kindness and honesty is already couched in the Malaysian founding fathers’ term muhibah, which comes from mahabbah (love or affection).

However, muhibah may be established between members of society only through friendship, wherein there will be mutual help, kindness and respect.

I submit that friendship may only be realised as a result of individuals’ union in school, in university, in workplace, and in their living in the same place.

Here, we must acknowledge the challenging fact that we Malaysians are in.

To my mind, generally, there is a divide between children who go to national schools and those who go to national-type schools, let alone those who go to public schools. This divide needs to be sincerely bridged.

A bridge rather than a wall is needed to unite a divide between public and private universities; between public service and the private sector; between the rural and urban population; between Malaysians who habitually use the national language and those who don’t.

If our children, generation after generation, go to separate schools and universities and offices, and then almost live in separate places, and communicate in different languages, is there any hope for genuine friendship to bloom?

Another challenge for this nation is how to solve problems without becoming a litigious multi-religious community, as friendship cannot be expected to flourish between legal complainant and defendant.

While claimants in a civil case related to inter-religious issues are entitled to seek legal redress through the court, the fact remains that a purely legal way is not conduce to affectionate inter-religious relations.

The claimant and defendant can only be artificial friends, if at all they still want to be friends.

But how can we pay genuine respect to other people; how are we going to be genuinely kindly to others if we do not have the opportunity to be neighbours or the prospect to be friends?

As mentioned in Peloponnesian War, a work by Greek historian Thucydides, “There can never be any solid friendship between individuals, or unity between communities, unless the parties are persuaded of each other’s honesty.”

Ikim Views By DR MOHD SANI BADRON Senior Fellow/Director, Centre for Economic and Social Studies

Source: The STAR Home News Opinion Tuesday August 2, 2011

It's fast, not feast

 THIS is the time of the year boxes of kurma, or dates, make their way into offices.
The first week of Ramadan is marked by reports of dates selling like hot cakes, accompanied by television advertisements depicting a veiled woman in a desert whispering the brandname of a particular date product.

The fruit, known for its rich nutrition, serves as a quick meal for those who have not the time to buy or cook a proper buka puasa meal. And that, for many of us, constitutes the equivalent of the day's three meals -- breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Now that is not good thing. The holy month of Ramadan has, for quite some time, become a food fest despite the well-known fact that it is about curbing one's desires.

But enough of that. I am sure you have all heard, seen or read the media broadcasts detailing the meaning of Ramadan.

Back to the first week of Ramadan. The air-conditioning in the office feels to be significantly at a lower temperature. Perhaps there is something wrong with the remote control, yet there is no doubt that it is going to be a cold, cold office for the whole month as there will be no food to warm the stomach from dawn till the muezzin's call for Maghrib prayers.

The overalls, sweaters and oversized, off-colour blazers usually worn by sleazy businessmen in Malay dramas once again find their places in the office.

Some even wear hats, beanies and party headgear to keep their heads snug, under the belief that this increases productivity and keeps the working environment lively.

Smokers may feel more than the loss of nutrients, but believe me, you would be better off refraining from lighting up at all in the next few weeks. Some may have already caught on to that -- those who threw up as a consequence of breaking fast with a puff the day before.

It is that rationale that has prompted some to quit smoking at this time: if you can go without cigarettes for a month, you can go without cigarettes. Period.

New but old status updates will pop up on Facebook. "I am sleepy, hungry, bored -- and waiting for Maghrib", which suddenly has become the most favoured prayer time of the day.

Apart from the buka puasa meal, the Ramadan bazaars are something to look forward to. Muslims and non-Muslims crowd these bazaars at as early as 4pm in search of delicacies that are only available once a year.

The parking lots leading to the bazaars are packed to overflowing with double-parked vehicles. Aromatic wafts of ayam percik grilling and lemang roasting greet the visitor.

The more fortunate are able to buy food, beat the traffic and be home in time to be at table by the time the call for prayer sounds.

Others, after packing rice and some lauk, head back to the office to slog the evening through And the dates will be there as both appetiser and dessert.

The first week of Ramadan can be tough for those fasting for the very first time. Curbing other desires is never so easy as when your brain is only registering hunger and thirst.

Headaches triggered by lack of food or dehydration is another factor to contend with. Be comforted by the knowledge that the body will get used to it in no time, and in three days, everything should all right.

It is also important to remember not to overeat when breaking fast. If you do, you may have to study the concept of fasting to better understand it.

Happy Ramadan to all!

Source: The NST Home Letters to Editor 2011/08/02 It's fast, not feast