Sunday, September 9, 2007

Festivities, Uncertainties and Realities..

The hectic festivities around the 50th Merdeka Anniversary ( I watch them over the TV mostly for the KL traffic is most threatening!), and some of the vitriolic remarks about them in the blogs, left me very uncertain. Even the picturesque "Jubli Emas Merdeka 50" booklet which gives some historical highlights to the Anniversary, failed to convince me that the whole country would be "inspired" by the extravaganza mounted by the 16 big-wig committees which masterminded the entire celebration.

Uncertain of what? Many things! The objectives other than just commemorating an important national event, the expenses involved, the high-level manpower put to work (at the expense of other tasks certainly), the participation of the public roped in, the response of the public as reflected by the small number of cars and buildings flying the national flags, et., etc. Well, the festivities will go on for a month. But I feel that the budget announcement has made more people happier than the annivesary fanfare.

Whatever it is, in the light of uncertainties people normally search for realities and truths. In that mood I always go back to the source of unltimate truth in Islam - the al-Quran and Hadiths. I wanted to know what Islam says about holding anniversaries and celebrations, beside the general ruling that everything should be just so-so and not too lavish or extreme. In the website I find that Kassim Ahmad, Mahaguru 58, to some extent The Moderator and a few others have said a lot about Islam itself and the way government is handling it. But as usual, the reading is tough and laborious. I wonder how many of our Muslim bloggers follow their writings.

And I asked myself again and again, how much can our non-Muslim bloggers learn about Islam from their writings (besides others sources in the internet)? Or care to read and share their experience as part of the total Malaysian experience in order to increase our common awareness: a very important factor in forging national unity. The more experience we share the more we have in common and the closer we feel to each other. But that's a subject for Sensitivity Training, T-Group Sessions, Group Dynamics etc. which our educationists must consider introducing in schools to enhance national unity in this country...

In as far is Islam is concerned, all Malaysians should know what the important tenets of the religion are, as simply as possible, so that there could be no misunderstanding about a Muslim or the Malay who could be your next door neighbour.
If you think you know about your neighbour without understanding what type of a Muslim he or she is, you can be in for a great surprise some day! Even if you have been neighbours for years. Why? Because a Muslim can be as different from each other as Kassim Ahmad is from Mahaguru 58 or The Moderator, the Ulama's, the appointed religious leaders such as the Imams and Muftis. the western trained Muslim intellectuals, the "sekolah pondok" ustazs, and the ordinary urban and rural Muslims (Malays). They can be very different from each other in their views of life and how it should be lived as a good Muslim! So, unless you know something about Islam and its many schools of thought, you could be making a lot of wrong assumptions about the neighbours that you have known for so long...

Most of our non-Muslim friends can certainly identify well or easily with the western trained religious scholars or just the ordinary Muslim with a good western education . They are very rational and based their arguments on sound reasoning. Yet some can be so steeped in orthodox Islamic teachings that they might not agree with the product of rational thought as a result of holding on to some religious values or believes. Don't try to discuss things or argue with them using common sense or straight logic. They will never agree with you. To question their logic would be to question their belief or faith.

In general, the stronger a Muslim's belief or faith in a certain aspect of religion is, the more difficult it is to make him change any of his views. There are of course some plain stubborn people but a stubborness or obstinacy born out of a religious belief is even more difficult to overcome. This in fact is true for all religions and it is for this reason that religious fanatics are more difficult to get along with in this world than the less religious people. Strong minded people often elevate their believes, even in non-religious matters (such as politics), to the level of a religion! Hence we have people in this world who are ready to go to war and kill other people because of their religious beliefs. And those who are ready to die because of their religious beliefs, rightly or wrongly imbeded in the religion they embrace, as understood by themselves.

I think all of us are influenced in some ways by our religious beliefs, or just our cultural orientation (which is a very potent source of values) when reviewing the 50 years of post merdeka development in our country. We evaluate our leaders against these beliefs and values. Unless we appreciate more of each other's value system can we ever come to a consensus on how things stand and how things should be? If people say that national unity in this country is backsliding, can this be the cause of the problem? If so we need to check back on our values and reallign them so that we see more things in the same light rather than highlight things in such a way that the same things looks different and we begin to get nervous about them!

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