It’s 10pm, I just got back home, I haven’t had my dinner, and truth be told, I am so damn hungry I could eat an entire damn factory of dim sum. But here’s something that has been bothering me since before Christmas, and today, the most.
A few days ago, thanks to the power of the ‘share button’, we all got to know of a website that had a guideline for Muslims who want to celebrate festivals with non-Muslims. It caused a minimal wave of dissatisfaction (I think because most of us were too busy settling last-minute Xmas presents and dinner invitations), and a lot of disbelief on things that were publicized on said website, e.g. no Christmas trees, no dressing like a fat old man in a red suit, no saying Merry Christmas, etc. Then today, my Facebook timeline showed shares of KJ’s (you know, the Minister of Sports, a lot of people think he’s hot but I don’t think so) note in which he basically told of his childhood in a Catholic school in Japan that provided him with a great experience, and ended with saying how if your belief is strong, nothing/no one can make you lose your faith.
Now, on the surface his note meant well (I could bring up points to counter it, e.g. he should have written it in Bahasa Malaysia if he really practiced what he preached, because English-speaking, culturally-opened, urban Muslims and non-Muslims all know what it takes to live in a multi-religious society – it’s the non-English-speaking ones who need to broaden their mindsets*) – but what bothered me the most was going through the comments made by some Muslim Malaysians in said note which were frankly extremely shocking and maddening for me.
There are comments like:
(a reply to a comment in which a girl expressed her gratitude to a non-Muslim housemate who used to wake her up for subuh prayers): better introduce her about muslim.. hidup dan mati kerana Allah. Tugas didunia sebagai khalifah, jangan lupa. Wallahualam
( a reply to a comment in which someone said it’s weird that Muslims can’t wish or say Merry Christmas to non-Muslims): mmg tak boleh wish..kalau ko wish maknanya ko setuju yang jesus tu anak tuhan n lahir pada 25 dicember..kalu nk wish gk ganti dengan happy holiday..
Why on earth need to translate the Bible? Use English lah! Malay Bible for whom? Target to murtad Muslim Malay right? Good KJ have strong faith, how about weaker faith?
And there are TONS of comments from religious bigots in KJ’s note.
It’s sickening and saddening to know that in a multi-racial and multi-religious country, some people still think they can condemn others freely, that they have the right to. Religion is between you and God, and no one else. It is about your heart, your actions, how you live your life on earth. It’s not about pointing fingers and bringing other people down, disrespecting other people, inciting hate and spreading fear and animosity among countrymen. What have you done to ensure a waiting list in heaven? Have you helped the needy, do you have compassion, have you tried to have a pure heart and kind intentions? Because judging by the comments, you have not.
You, and you alone are responsible for your life. You, and you alone have a relationship with your religion. You have no right to enforce your beliefs upon other people, acting as if you are God’s mouthpiece and Public Relations person, when you have done nothing to help those in need or who are underprivileged.
I have two very dear friends, Aida and Yaty, who are also my team members (we started off on a rough note but our history is a story itself for another day…). I have been asking Aida to don the hijab on me for ages, purely out of curiosity how she does her stylish and beautiful hijabs, and today I bugged her so much that she did it for me.
This is a picture of me, styled by Aida.
This is not a proof that I’ve converted, or that I’m the next Felixia Yeap.
This is me, who was born in, and spent 13 years of my life in KK, Sabah, and embraced all religions and races. I can be dressed in this way or that, I can be in a temple or a church, I can be in a Malaysian kampung or a European city, I am still me and I still have my own personal beliefs.
It’s unbelievably gut-wrenching and heartbreaking to think that there are people in this country who act as if they were so religious, but in reality they’re being utterly selfish, intolerant and dangerous. These are the kind of people who should be charged for sedition, for ruining the peace among all. You know what’s peace about? It’s about acceptance and respect. It’s the people in East Malaysia who celebrate all festivities with each other, without judgements and restrictions. It’s people like Aida, Yaty and I, who have different beliefs on paper and who have different lifestyles but are still friends, and still grow together. Aida would now and then share what she’s read about Islam and Christianity, about the Holy Quran, and I’d try to answer whatever questions she has about Christian ways or traditions (although I’m not so well versed in that either). I drink, I party, I dress up in whatever I wanna wear, and Aida would be in her tudung – does that make us enemies? Does that mean we shouldn’t be friends?
If everything that is allegedly ‘not Muslim friendly’ is detrimental to Islam, does that mean Aida, Yaty and I shouldn’t be hanging out? That Malaysian Muslims shouldn’t be anywhere near non-Muslims? Why should external things be blamed if someone is unsure about his or her faith? Why is a fat man in a suit supposedly more dangerous than unwanted teenaged pregnancies, incest, rape, forced teenage marriages, low level of education, theft? Why can’t you let people of different races and religions be happy living in a respectful society?
We are all human beings in the end, and no matter what religion you practice, what’s on paper, whether or not you believe in heaven and hell – we only have one life. It is for us to grow, to be better, to gain wonderful and memorable experiences, to be stronger through ups and downs, to be kind and compassionate, and to try to be the best version we could be.
Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and every religion is beautiful. It is unfortunate that narrow-minded people ruin everything and make it ugly and hateful.
Me, Aida, Yaty. Different-different but still the same. Same love, same friends.
*sigh. So a few people have shared this post around, and some weren’t satisfied that I wrote ‘It’s the non-English-speaking people who need to broaden their mindsets.’ This is an observation from the comments on KJ’s FB note that had made me write this post in the first place. I don’t feel like I want to dissect every single sentence I’ve written, after all this is not a thesis on social-cultural differences between urban and non-urban Malaysians. Generally, those who are not culturally opened, do not mix with other races, do not converse with ‘outsiders’, who do not speak or understand English that well, are the ones who are posting bigoted comments when it comes to topics of Muslim Malays and other non-Muslims. I am not looking down on non-urban dwellers – hell, I’m a kampung girl myself and spent half of my life with my grandparents in both Kinarut and Kuala Penyu, Sabah, and my grandparents mostly spoke Bahasa Malaysia and Kadazan/Dusun, although they understood English, too. But then again, Borneons (whether or not they are English-speaking), are widely accepting and tolerant when it comes to racial and religious matters.
If you want to be upset about that sentence and take it at face value instead of thinking about the bigger problem that’s facing and dividing our country – that is entirely up to you.