Are we proud of the way we react to issues of race and religion?
Fathers’ Day should be more than just celebrating the contributions and sacrifices of fathers; it should also be an auspicious moment for self-reflection, says Mustafa K Anuar.
A belated Happy Fathers’ Day.
Fathers’ Day, which was celebrated over the weekend in Malaysia and many parts of the world, is a day to celebrate the contributions and sacrifices made by fathers and father figures – just like their mothers – for the sake of their beloved children.
In the course of the tender lives of their children, most fathers do, or at least try to do, almost anything to give the best they can for their happiness. Low-income fathers, for instance, would sacrifice their leisure time, if not their health, in order to hold two jobs in an attempt to make life more comfortable for the children.
Although many fathers seek to give material things to their children, the rare ones provide life’s guiding principles – and consequently less of many attractive tangible things – to their kids.
There are such fathers in our midst. A certain Abdar Rahman Koya consciously did not want to start his daughter’s life “on a lie”. Unlike some other Indian Muslims or Chinese Muslim converts, he refused to “change” the ethnic status of his daughter from being “Indian” to “Malay”, knowing full well that she would very likely be deprived of all the privileges that come with the category “Malay”.
True to his Islamic principles, Abdar Rahman would rather that his daughter compete on a level playing field in her life; he also wants to have a clear conscience when he meets his Maker in the afterlife.
But Fathers’ Day should be more than just celebrating the contributions and sacrifices of fathers. It should also be an auspicious moment for self-reflection so that fathers can learn from their recent mistakes, be it in the form of actions or spoken words, and subsequently mend their ways.
For instance, fathers who were part of the religious contingent that recently barged into a Hindu wedding should sit up and think about their misdeeds in this regard. At the very least, they should feel the need to be remorseful and sensitive to the needs, expectations, concerns and dignity of people of other faiths.
Weddings are indeed moments filled with much emotion and joy, and one can imagine the horror experienced by those associated with those weddings when the authorities gatecrash in. Surely, Islam doesn’t condone such brazen acts to the point of causing distress and hurt, if not untold shame, to those holding weddings such as this one. Fathers who were part of this well-reported raid should examine their conscience.
Similarly, much pain (and even shame) can be inflicted upon the family of a deceased whose body is snatched away from them by religious authorities that believe the deceased was a Muslim, as was the case of the late Teoh Cheng Cheng.
Obviously, a funeral is a solemn occasion, and the family of the deceased concerned can do without high drama and media exposure. Once again, fathers, who formed part of the raiding party, should ponder upon the grief, distress and anxiety that the aggrieved family experienced as a result of the unexpected raid. These fathers should ask themselves, is this bureaucratic arrogance Islamic?
But the distress, grief, anger and horror experienced by these families are also shared by many other concerned Malaysians. For, such actions by the state religious authorities concerned are not only an invasion of privacy, but also constitute an affront to the freedom of Malaysians to practise their respective faiths.
That is why fathers who rule this country at the national and state levels are also accountable for this state of affairs in which the religious sphere transgresses into the domains of the private and the individual.
Then, there are fathers who become part of the enforcement party to demolish houses to make way for “development”. But there are also mothers who come to the forefront and play an important role in their fight for human rights and dignity. Seventy-three-year-old Wahidah Md Salleh made the headlines recently when she defiantly confronted Kuala Lumpur City Hall officers who demolished her house and those of her neighbours in Kampung Chubadak Tambahan in Sentul.
The courage demonstrated by the likes of Wahidah is commendable particularly when they have to bear the whole weight of the state apparatus and capital in their fight for justice and human dignity. But more than that, the Wahidahs in our patriarchal society often face the discrimination and stigma that come along with being women, as lucidly and compellingly argued by Aliran member Sheila Santharamohana. Sheila feels that Malaysian women have generally been given short shrift in many areas of life in our society.
In the realm of politics that is mixed with ethnicity, it is even harder if you’re a woman and Malay at the same time as exemplified by young DAP politician, Dyana Sofya’s entry into active politics. Aspersions had been cast on her for being a “traitor” to the Malay community, the kind of demonisation, to be sure, that has been lashed out against Malays joining the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP).
Although a cardinal sin in Islam, slander has become a convenient weapon to attack Malay DAP members such as Dyana -allegations ranging from being a bikini wearer to a habitual drinker. In her article, Aliran member Syerleena Abdul Rashid tells us that it has been an uphill task to some degree for Malay members in the party.
It is thus our collective hope that the Malaysia of today would turn around and evolve into a better society where more fathers – and mothers – can be role models for our future generations.
Mustafa K Anuar
17 June 2014