The voices of reason and compassion were given short shrift while shrill, hateful rhetoric was given free rein, laments Zaharom Nain.
Every year we are told, certainly incessantly reminded, that it’s a “bulan mulia”, a holy month of reflection, much prayer, of being patient, and a month of respect and forgiveness.
Ramadan indeed is the month when Muslims flock to the mosques and suraus, especially at night, to bow their heads, prostrate even, in prayer and to seek forgiveness from the Almighty.
But, as we end this year’s month of Ramadan, really, much of what we’ve seen around us these past four weeks has run contrary to all that.
It has been a hate-filled month, bringing to shame whatever claims we may have to being spiritual or god-fearing.
Forgiveness? Well, there certainly was very little of that. Sure, the two silly twerps, that attention-seeking couple, Alvin and Vivian, pulled yet another stupid caper that, at worst, was insensitive and probably insulted some thin-skinned Malaysian Muslims.
But looking back, surely it’s the height of obscenity for these thin-skinned creatures who claim to be alim (pious) and God-loving to then threaten them with violence, death even? And to have the full, repressive force of the state come crashing down on them – and Alvin’s family – must smack of gross overreaction?
But, no, instead of seeing their prank as a pathetic cry for attention, those of us who should know better went straight for their jugulars. All in the name of protecting a religion that has survived and grown all these centuries and, really, isn’t in much need of `protection’ by a group of thugs and tyrants.
Reflection? Where was the reflection when the headmistress of the secondary school in Taman Alam Megah, Shah Alam, told her students, in anger, to go back to China and India? And, when questioned, felt she was justified in doing so because she had apparently also told her Malay students to go back to Indonesia.
And where, indeed, was the reflection when, after he had directed the school’s canteen to be relocated, however temporarily, to the school’s changing room, another HM, this time the headmaster of SK Seri Pristana, Sungai Buloh, then tried to make it look all right by having a `buka puasa’ PR session there?
And there certainly was very little reflection on his part when he followed up his actions by taking photographs of his school kids, some say to intimidate them, and having his staff reportedly ostracising the poor kid whose mother had brought the case to light.
These are supposed to be our educators, for God’s sake, people who are given the noble task, the responsibility, of educating our children. One shudders, wondering where they picked up these nasty, vindictive and vicious traits – in school, in college, in one of our menara gading? Perhaps even, in their homes and wider community?
Well, there has certainly been no shortage of members and groups in the wider community seemingly egging them on.
Indeed, instead of providing sane suggestions to resolve the situation, some quarters, led by that loopy, loony group Perkasa, then urged the government to charge the person who had taken the photographs of the poor kids in the changing room with sedition.
That stupid, ugly word appears to have taken on a life of its own this past Ramadan. It’s been sedition this, seditious that – one threat after another, principally from equally bangang politicians (one or two with local PhDs, mind you) indicating an inability to think and reflect and, perhaps, even more failure on the part of our public tertiary education system.
But, of course it hasn’t ended there. The appointed (certainly not by us) authorities evidently were on something akin to a `seek and destroy’ mission. So, like brave religious warriors hell-bent on punishing `sinners’ in this month, they, wait for it, found four young women to vent their self-righteous fury on.
To prevent the women from participating in a silly beauty contest is one thing. But to then, as reported widely, threaten them with punishment should they even attend the function, surely is the height of tyranny?
If the reports are indeed true – and there have been no rebuttal of these reports – what about the Muslim men who may have attended the function? Why were they not warned?
And, more importantly, under what law were they working on in issuing the warning, nay threat, to the four women not to attend the function even, as best as we can gather, as members of the audience?
And, sadly, the pattern continued until the end of the month, with some jerk uploading a three-year-old YouTube video of a caring animal lover and putting a nasty religious twist to it.
As a consequence, the dog trainer, Chetz/Maznah, has been slandered, threatened, vilified and certainly condemned by, presumably, God-loving Muslim Malaysians.
How God-loving creatures can, in turn, be absolute cretins, quick to judge and condemn, still escapes me.
That esteemed department, Jakim, has gone on to say that what she did is ‘wrong’ without seemingly seeing the need to explain to us all what is exactly wrong about her actions.
More, Jakim reportedly has threatened (there’s that nasty word again) to order her to “explain the video or present herself before the authority”.
If yours is a `Department of Islamic Development’ entrusted with the task of developing the religion, surely, in this day and age, you would need to provide information, advice and, perhaps most importantly, space and avenues for discussion?
Developing something requires exchanging ideas and opinions, wouldn’t you say, rather than arrogantly issuing strictures and, yes, threats?
And it’s not as though those ideas, different though they may be, have not been forthcoming. Indeed, one of the most interesting ripostes to the dogs-are-haram-and-unIslamic tirade was a truly lucid piece by Rusaslina Idrus (The Malaysian Insider, 4 August 2013).
As far as I can gather, the authorities have not bothered to respond to her in an intelligent manner.
Indeed, what’s been given short shrift in all this by the mainstream media have been the voices of reason and the voices of compassion. And what we’ve been presented with have been the shrill, hateful rhetoric of the loonies led by the likes of Perkasa.
And we call this the holy month?
This piece was first published in Malaysiakini.