When you sow peace and love for the people you live with, that is when God smiles and blesses you, writes Hamzah Osman.
The environment around which we grow up makes us the individuals we are today.
We are surrounded by our parents first, then our close family members and friends, and finally the community we live in.
Then comes the second phase, when we go to school and meet our teachers. Teachers are part of another community where knowledge and good values knowledge are instilled, so that we become good citizens of the country.
As much as the above two phases, the third and most vital one is the phase of religion, be it Islam, Christian, Hindu, Sikhism or others. Every religion is beautiful as long as it espouses love, care, charity and peaceful co-existence. The ultimate destination is towards the love of humanity and God.
I had the pleasure of growing up in Rawang, a small mining town, with a multi-ethnic population of Chinese, Indians (mainly Indian Muslim families, Telugus and Punjabi Sikhs) and Malays. Many communities like the one in Rawang are dotted all over the country, especially the west coast of the peninsula.
Festivals like Deepavali, Christmas and Chinese New Year were celebrations for all in the community. As a Muslim member of the community, I received Deepavali cookies from neighbours and friends which could last for months.
In the 1970s, the non-Muslims took great care in serving Muslim guests halal food. They looked for the Malay haji in the market to slaughter the chicken.
Nowadays, this tradition has largely disappeared. And instead, we have this superficial open-house celebration.
The most memorable place for me was the Sikh temple in Rawang. Though a small community, the Sikhs had a big heart. I used to visit this temple with my friends for good chapatis and side dishes. All we had to do was wait for their prayers to be over to be served. All were welcome. Everyone, Sikhs or people of other faiths, would be served, and we would walk out happily with stomachs full.
Today, whenever I see a Sikh temple anywhere in the country, my eyes light up with beautiful memories of my wonderful younger days.
At 61, I am still a Muslim and am not confused but have learned to respect every religion. If only we could keep the faith and respect others, the world would be a beautiful place to live in.
Many of my childhood friends are still in touch with me. I am blessed and consider them a gift from Allah. May my friends continue to prosper and be happy.
We may have different religions; we may have different rituals but our destination is the same: to surrender to the one and only God we love.
When you pray and engage in rituals, that is between you and God. When you sow peace and love for the people you live with, that is when God smiles and blesses you.
I sincerely call upon the good people in the Muslim community to speak up. The good people are the silent majority. We have spoken up in the recent general election. Don’t let the religious bigots impose their anti-social views upon the silent majority.
Long live Malaysia baru!
Hamzah Osman, based in Rawang, taught in a secondary school for 17 years before resigning from the teaching profession in 1997. He then worked in an English daily, where he became foreign news editor and later joined another English daily before retiring.