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Thursday, June 1, 2017

I will break fast with whoever I want



There are many things that happen in Malaysia that would probably make a lot of rational people wonder if Malaysians are an insane bunch. Unfortunately, these incidents happen in the name of Islam when it really isn’t.
Remember when Muslim extremists in the country made a big fuss saying that Malay Muslims are not allowed to wish those of other faiths who were celebrating their festivities? Apparently, it is wrong to wish the Chinese Happy Chinese New Year and the Hindus Happy Deepavali.
And let’s not even get started with the Christians. These extremists would have you believe that if you wish some people Merry Christmas, you would immediately cease being a Muslim and your soul will go straight to hell.
I really couldn’t be bothered with this. I come from mixed parentage and although I am a Muslim, I have relatives who are Chinese and Indians with different faiths - Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. So I will be wishing all my cousins, uncles and aunties anything I want.
Now, at the start of the fasting month, these extremists have come out to say that it is wrong for non-Muslims and Muslims to break fast together. I have been wracking my brain as to what religious edict provides an explanation on why this is wrong.
As far as I know, eating a meal together isn’t wrong at all. In fact, sitting down together for a meal would be the best opportunity for people to get to know one another, promote understanding and strengthen kinship among them.
What could really go wrong if a non-Muslim joined a Muslim to break fast? Would the non-Muslim’s presence somehow make the Muslim leave his or her faith? Would the food served suddenly become non-halal for the Muslim to eat?
Just last week I broke my fast with a colleague, Ching Yee, who just happens to be a non-Muslim. The food tasted good and the conversation was pleasant. And when time came to break fast, she urged me to eat even before her meal had arrived. Very thoughtful for a non-Muslim.
After the breaking of fast (and some good coffee and ice cream!), we left the restaurant and I was still a Muslim. The next day, and the day after and the day after, I still continued my fasting like the good Muslim that I always try to be.
The ‘non-Muslims can’t join Muslims to break fast’ incident happened after I broke fast with Ching Yee so when I read about it, I showed the article to her. We both found it extremely amusing and equally baffling as to what they thought would happen if a non-Muslim and a Muslim ate together.
Spreading hatred
So what really irked the group of Muslim extremists who said that it was wrong for non-Muslims to join Muslims during the breaking of fast was that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had planned to attend a Pakatan Harapan breaking fast event.
To put things into perspective, the Muslim extremists come from Jaringan Muslimin Pulau Pinang, a group that is affiliated with PAS, which as well we know, have had beef with Pakatan Harapan ever since they separated from the coalition. It is what they call cutting of their “tahaluf siyasi”.
So, it is so obvious that their extremism is not even based on religion. It is so political in nature that this is a good case to prove that religion and government cannot mix. But really, these just are intolerant people who just want to spread hatred.
Fortunately this time around, the religious authorities spoke up for what is right. The mufti of the federal territories Zulkifli Mohamad stated that there is nothing wrong with a non-Muslim joining a Muslim in breaking fast.
Chief Minister Lim has also decided to ignore the fuss and will be joining the breaking fast event, which will happen on June 11 in Penang. It will be attended by all the Pakatan Harapan leaders from all the component parties.
But politics aside, eating together and celebrating festivities together encourages camaraderie, understanding and harmony. What better way to show that Malaysia is multicultural and multireligious. There is no place for those who manipulate religion for their own self-interest.

ZAN AZLEE is a writer, documentary filmmaker, journalist and academic. He is a Muslim who loves eating and believes that having meals together is the best way to encourage dialogue and understanding. Visit FATBIDIN.COM to view his work.- Mkini

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