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Friday, June 16, 2006

The Mystery of Kongsi-Raya Remains a Mystery

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Walski (a.k.a. Whiskey-Alpha Prime) read today that 88% of participants in The Star online poll conducted yesterday disagree with the proclamation of FatwaMan, Mutant Mullah alter-ego of one Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, Perak State Mufti, that the Government should review the practice of kongsi-raya.

Apart from this not-at-all-startling result, an editorial appeared in the same newspaper, questioning if the Malaysian Muslims' faith is so fragile that it needs to be overzealously coddled (original article can be found here):

Is our faith that fragile?


WHY should attending a Kongsi Raya celebration make me a murtad (apostate)?

A joint Chinese New Year-Hari Raya gathering, where I would probably eat an orange, a handful of peanuts and a biscuit or two, should not turn me into a traitor of the religion.

But as it turns out, the ulamas are wringing their hands in worry that Muslims attending such events may go astray.

To save the community from the gravest of sins, the 2006 Ulama Conference has come out with 22 resolutions – including a review of events and practices like the open house and Kongsi Raya celebrations – to guide Muslims back onto the right path.

While we are grateful for their concern which is undeniably genuine, we would like to understand the rationale behind this newfound fear.

Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, chairman of the working committee of the conference, said earlier this week that celebrating the festivals of other religions could erode the faith of Muslims.

Sadly, his comment does not reflect well on Muslims. It seems to suggest that our faith in God is so fundamentally fragile that, on the slightest pretext, we can be persuaded to jump ship.

This is hurtful for those of us who remain solidly Muslim even as we listen to Christmas carols or indulge in mutton curry over Deepavali with friends of other faiths.

That the ulamas consider events which promote friendship, respect and consideration for one another to be potentially damaging to the soul is most perplexing indeed.

Yet, the Quran emphatically says: “O mankind, we created you from a single pair of male and female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other, not that you may hate each other.”

Given this clear message in the Holy Book, one wonders how the religious folks define faith. Is it a sick child to be protected from any exposure at all cost?

Perhaps the ulamas are no longer confident in the religious lessons which almost all Malaysian Muslims would have had from young.

Perhaps, they realise that what they’ve taught us over the years has not adequately prepared us to face life’s thorny dilemmas?

It is natural to be afraid of the unknown – every religion has displayed such fears over time and in different circumstances. But to shut the door on the world and throw out the key will not help Muslims in this country. Nor will it help the country.

Why should we deny non-Muslims the opportunity to celebrate their festivals with us? Is sharing a slice of cake with friends of different faiths a sign that you are succumbing to their beliefs?

Sadly and ironically, our growing religiosity has made us suspicious, discourteous and frighteningly bigoted.

Against this confining background, anyone who questions or offers an opinion to the contrary is conveniently labelled a liberal attacking the religion.

It is so exhausting that we have to deal with such minute matters when so much needs to be done to make this nation work.

Some years back, I read a book by a highly-respected British Jew who said the test of faith is whether you can make space for difference.

Just as he was demolished by his community for saying this, I am likely to be lambasted for borrowing the idea but the message stands: the test for Malaysia is whether we can make space for each other.

Rose Ismail is a former newspaper editor and now managing director of Salt Media Consultancy

Meanwhile, a statement from the Petulant Antagonistic Slimeballs (ever the opportunistic media-whore) had this rebuttal (also published in The Star, an excerpt of which is below), which makes it's stand crystal clear, but doesn't come close to answering the real question (emphasis by myAsylum):

(the PAS statement and more blasphemy in the full post)

PAS also doesn’t favour Kongsi Raya

PAS is not in favour of the Kongsi Raya celebrations as it believes that an Islamic celebration should not be put on par with a non-Islamic festival.

Its deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa said it could be considered syirik (blasphemous) from an Islamic point of view to pair a Muslim celebration with a non-Muslim one.

Nasharuddin: "The concern is that it could affect one's aqidah (faith)"He said “the concern is that it could affect one’s aqidah (faith)”.

“Islam allows us to be friends with non-Muslims and respect people of other faiths. But we cannot compromise on our own faith,” he said.

But this does not mean that Muslims should not visit their non-Muslim friends during the festival or vice-versa. This is part of our culture and I see no problem.

But let us do it separately from our own.”

(the rest of the article can found here)

Stolen-from-The-Star Image hosting by PhotobucketThe person who made this statement (pictured on the left), is obviously not a happy camper. Neither does he bother explaining exactly how faith is eroded. And, "celebrating together but separately on our own" is a concept that not only boggles the mind, but probably contravenes several laws of physics.

Some may quote Chapter 109 (verses 1 - 6) of the Holy Quran which essetially states that belief among religions is mutually exclusive.

But quoting this chapter in no way answers the question of how exactly is faith supposedly eroded.

For example: take Chinese New Year, which is not a religious celebration to begin with. Explain the logic, please. Walski is more than eager to know. And please explain it in plain language so that a highly evolved insect such as myself can understand.

The real culprit, of course, is the Hijri calendar, which merrily cycles around the solar calendar (lagging by about 11 days or so), and has no other practical purpose other than to predict important Islamic events through out an 11-day-short year. The Earth still revolves around the Sun, and this still determines the primary seasonal weather changes, and therefore is still a more practical way of keeping track of time. Unless, of course, you actually believe that the earth is carried on a giant bull.

So, until and unless there is some reconcilliation as to how we count the days, months and years, the phenomemon of kongsi raya is inevitable - unless some other lame-brained Mutant Mullah edict comes out to make forbidden.

And so the real question of how faith is affected remains unanswered, unhappy campers remain glum, and Walski remains unfazed by any spread of MENJtitis, or any other critical social thought diseases rampant on the Internet.

All this, while the Moon continues its monthly phases, oblivious to the real change of seasons that other celestial bodies dictate on planet Earth.