Thursday, August 30, 2012

55 Yrs of Independence....

After 55 years of Independence or Merdeka, I see that people become more and more insensitive or lukewarm to the anniversary celebration. I don't see flags flying around on cars and busses, fluttering atop building, and the whole city being lighted up. The centers of activity for the celebration are few and numbered. It's not like the whole nation rises up in pride and jubilation.

I keep thinking that this is probably due to the fact that government is handling everything. The Merdeka celebration is fully orchestrated by government, from arranging the parade, the processions, the music, the dances, etc. We pick the schoolchildren to do most of the stage-filling jobs, the acrobatics (if you can call it so) but more like becoming the pom-pom dancers. Actual participation by the people and the crowd is practically nill. You only go to the Merdeka Square to watch, almost the same same thing every time, sometimes tolerating the sun or the rain. So, it's not surprising if people chose to stay at home and watch everything on TV.

How to allow people to participate actively in the processions and all the shows? The organizers need to think about that, inviting every form of participation that people want. Musical performances along the street by professional or amateur bands with dance group to invite participation from the crowd could be a draw. Street dancing in fancy dresses could be another crowd puller with free participation from the crowd, moving along determined routes around the Square. Even opposition groups could be allowed to participate by mounting their own shows, with participation from the crowd and no 'ceramah' or politicking. ( Who wants to listen anyway when dancing and singing is the order of the day or night.}

Whatever it is we have to break away from the old tradition of presenting cut-n-dry performances, exploiting the schoolchildren under the rubric of participation, and limiting the participation of companies and agencies to a semi-fancy dress march through probably accompanied by a float. Why don't we allow them to perform in whatever way they want to entertain the crowd. Such entertainment could even start on the eve of the anniversary.

I feel that the Merdeka celebration should also allow Malaysians to show their artistic talents, express their joy and pride in whatever way they want under the light and within the premise of the Merdeka Square. People don't want to be mere spectators anymore, they want a piece of the action. Isn't that what merdeka is all about?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Shawal...Are the Camels pregnant?

In the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, the camels are supposed to be carrying a fetus, since shawwal means to lift or carry (according to wikipedia although the arabic word for carry is raffa'a). We are now one week into the month of Shawwal, and Muslims especially in Malaysia are still celebrating aidilfitri. It's the month of open houses, especially for political leaders and the the rich businessmen, out to reward their supporters or clients as the case may be.

The open-house can really be a huge occasion for feasting and tightening up the relationship or promoting a leader's public relations. An elderly Auntie of mine was so happy when she attended the aidilfitri open-house reception at a Menteri Besar's home and had the opportunity to shake hand with the leader, "which had never happened before in my life" she announced with pride and joy. We can see huge smiles and appreciation expressed by those who attended the leader's open-house, captured in color photographs and splashed as headline news in the media.

There certainly are more of such pictures than that of a leader visiting an impoverished home and giving some new clothes or household furniture to the occupants. What you can see more often are pictures of richly dressed leaders handing over angpows to visitors to their homes.

The OIC extraordinary summit meeting is over and the killing goes on in Syria and elsewhere in the Muslim counties. I try to follow the news coverage as much as possible since the first day of aidilfitri but I don't see much of Muslim leaders in the Arab world spreading the spirit and joy of aidilfitri to their countrymen. Maybe our coverage of events on those countries was inadequate but what we could hear was more of political talks than efforts to spread the joy of aidilfitri. Is there no injunction by Allah SWT or examples set by the Prophet SAW for Muslim leaders to do just that during the month of Shawwal?

The main purpose of zakat fitrah is to enable the poor to join in the celebration of aidilfitri. Perhaps that objective would be achieved if the material and financial help to be given to is given before the end of Ramadhan itself. If given later how could they celebrate the aidlfitri itself on the 1st of Shawwal? Such matters, I'm sure, are too small and petty for OIC to deal with. But there are thousands upon thousands of Muslims out there devoid of any means to celebrate aidilfitri and some are facing starvation, even while other Muslims are having parties and open-houses.

Allah has ordained that the rich be the protectors of the poor. Are they fulfilling that obligation?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

OIC Extraordinary Summit on the Eve of Aidilfitri..

Well, Ramadhan al-mubarak is coming to a close. In this holy month, the "syaitan" (satan), according to Islam, are imprisoned or locked in. It follows then that they will be back or the prowl, leading Muslims away from the rightful path, to do mischiefs and other destructive acts once Ramadhan is over.

Very appropriately KING ABDULLAH BIN ABDUL-AZIZ,the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia had called for the fourth Extraordinary Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), to examine the situation of the Muslims in many countries of the Islamic world, intensify efforts to confront the situation, address the sources of discord and division, reunify the Islamic ummah, and promote Islamic solidarity.

We all know that many Islamic countries have just undergone some traumatic uprising in what is called the "Arab Spring" or a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests against the government which began on December 18,2010. Thousands have been killed in bloody clashes between voluntary and government forces, more than 20,000 in the case of Syria. It really appears that satans had been let loose and the month of Ramadhan had not been able to restrain them. If the killings and the massacre of innocent women and children could happen during the month of Ramadhan when satans are supposed to be shackled, one can imagine what will happen when they are let loose again.

The Aidilfitri would be a good reason to stop the fightings and the massacres in the Muslim countries.It's a day of celebration to mark the end of the fasting month and a month of intensified prayers and submission to Allah.It is a day that should be respected by non-Muslim just as the Muslims respected Christmas, the New Year and other festive days of the non-Muslims.

It would be wonderful if the OIC could stop bloodshed in the warring Muslim countries with the advent of Aidilfitri, as a first order of priorities..Help the traumatized and impoverished people to be able to celebrate the occasion with some food and financial assistance.Addressing the sources of discord and division, would be a very complicated and long-term task. So is reunifying the Islamic ummah and promoting Islamic solidarity. OIC had been at it for many years without achieving any observable success.
Why not try to reduce the sufferings of those at war first. Only a good result in that area will lend support to the other long term goals mentioned.

Muslim all over the world on the other hand should be ready to help their brothers and sisters in accordance with the principle " kullu muslimina ikhwatun". This is a duty which a good Muslim is obliged to undertake. If that cannot be done, then the whole "training" which Ramadhan was supposed to give then, has failed. Muslims all over the world must first uphold the full spirit of Ramadhan to be able to pacify the deeply troubled Islamic world after the "syaitans" are let loose again.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Night of Heavenly Visitation....

Muslims believed that in the last ten nights of Ramadhan, there could be a heavenly visitation from the messengers of Allah SWT (subhanahu wataala), when the sky is lighted up with Godly illumination and the trees will bow low in deference to the sacred presence of all the signs of Allah. That is the night of Lailatul Qadar which all Muslims sought and craved to see - a gift which will be awarded to the most faithful of Alllah's servants.

None of the Prophet's friends and the Ulamas had experienced the visitation or made such a claim, although strange happenings had been seen. In what shape and form, no one had described in any detail testifying to the Sufi's claim that the experience of being in Allah's presence is never describable.

As we approach Aidil Fitri, the shopping malls and arcades are agog with cheap sales, fantastic discounts and the echoes of Hariraya songs. But the decorations are not as colorful, resplendent and ornate as those welcoming Christmas, the New Year of the CNY.
Muslim don't display sacred or venerated religious figures in honor of their festive occasions.Restraint and the middle road are always preached in all forms of action and celebration.

Nonetheless the huge shopping malls in the city are said to be flooded by visitors and shoppers from up-country, while the roads are also jammed up by their visits." Who are they?" I asked a friend who made the claim. "Felda settlers!" came the quick reply. "They have received so many financial bounties from the government after their investment company head been listed on the share market." I know that Malaysians with an income below RM3000 per month had also received cash packets from the government, But I doubt if the amount is enough to pull them to the high=class dropping Malls. To Jalan masjid India shopping haven, maybe. The military, police and civil servants had also received a raise and a bonus. They are also adding to the human traffic jams in the shopping malls, I believe.

In spite of all that, I feel that the festive mood is not as cheerful and boisterous as before.There seem to be too many unanswered questions and doubts about everything in the air. From politics, economy to sporting and social events. There's a murmur and a rumbling which disturbs the festive mood, even concerning the logo and motto adopted by government for the coming Merdeka Anniversary celebration...

Maybe there are too many NEW things being done by government too quickly with too little attention to the grassroots' opinion. Remember that the consultation labs conducted under the NKRA scheme of things do not include the men-in-the-street but most ly senior executives in the private and public sector. Can they really represent the thinking of the average Malaysian citizen? At the village community level, do the village development committee members as selected by the local power house represent the villagers as a whole? Indeed there could be a serious communication gap developing at various levels in the new scheme of things.