PM Najib visit to Batu Caves controversy a failure of religious leaders?

February 15th, 2012 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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I  can’t believe this! Just few days ago, the Mufti of Perak said the following things:

Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria today expressed his dismay over the prime minister’s decision to “sacrifice his faith” to attend Thaipusam celebrations at Batu Caves recently.

 Harussani said even though he advised Datuk Seri Najib Razak every year not to join such events, the Barisan Nasional (BN) chief appeared not to place much importance on his faith or Islam.

It’s an idolatrous act. I don’t know why this happened… when we don’t join in the celebrations of other races in their houses of worship.

“The prime minister should have sent a Hindu minister to take his place… as Muslims cannot be involved in other religions’ festivities,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Harussani added that the minister in charge of Islamic affairs or a religious advisor should have advised Najib not to attend the event held two days ago.

We cannot join in (on other religions’ celebrations). They perform religious rituals, and as Muslims, we cannot be present,” he said, adding that going to open houses was acceptable but not places of worship.

source: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/najib-sacrificed-his-faith-to-attend-thaipusam-do-says-perak-mufti/

Another article quoted the following:

The Ulama Association of Malaysia (PUM) has urged Muslims to stay away from non-Muslims religious festivals following the prime minister’s visit to Thaipusam celebrations last week.

 Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria had criticised Datuk Seri Najib Razak for “sacrificing his faith” by attending the Hindu festival at Batu Caves last Tuesday, the prime minister’s third visit in as many years.

PUM noted that guidelines set out by the National Fatwa Council on April 12, 2005 stated that Muslims cannot attend events which incorporate ceremonies that go against the teachings of Islam.

“Based on that decision, in PUM’s opinion, it is very clear that if the non-Muslim ceremony contains non-Muslim religious rituals, Muslims cannot participate as it can threaten their faith,” it said in a statement yesterday.

All religious authorities at state and federal levels should work to ensure that “correct advice” is given to political leaders and urged the latter to abide by such counsel, the association stressed.

PUM also called on the Islamic Religious Development Department of Malaysia (JAKIM) sponsor a dialogue session to explain the importance of this restriction to state and national leaders as well as Muslims.

It added that non-Muslims should understand and respect that faith was a core component of Islam and to be more sensitive to issues concerning the religion and its laws.

Najib’s visit to the annual Thaipusam festival at Batu Caves last week prompted Harussani to remind Najib that his predecessors had sent representatives in their place instead of showing up in person.

“It’s an idolatrous act. I don’t know why this happened… when we don’t join in the celebrations of other races in their houses of worship.

“The prime minister should have sent a Hindu minister to take his place… as Muslims cannot be involved in other religions’ festivities,” Harussani had told The Malaysian Insider.

The Perak mufti said that while it was acceptable for Muslims to go to open houses, they could not enter houses of worships where religious ceremonies were being carried out.

source: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/stay-away-from-non-muslim-religious-events-ulamas-tell-muslims/

And today, he does an about turn saying this:

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s presence at the recent Thaipusam celebration in Batu Caves was not against Islamic doctrine, said Perak mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria.

 He said this after Najib informed him what actually happened when he attended the Thaipusam celebration in Batu Caves, when the two met at the opening of a Pekan Umno-organised seminar on “Professionalism of Islamic Religious Speakers” by the prime minister, here, today.

What the prime minister did was to be at the hall to explain government policies, he was not involved in the religious procession and did not enter the cave temple,” Harussani said when met by reporters, here, today.
He said as a national leader, it was not wrong for Najib to be together with the other races in conjunction with a festival celebration.
“It’s okay if there is no intention of celebrating or endorsing the rites of other religions,” he said.
The Perak mufti was prior to this, quoted as saying that it was unIslamic for a Muslim to bless and join in a religious celebration in a temple.
On Najib wearing a kurta when witnessing the Batu Caves Thaipusam celebration, Harussani said it was only a traditional attire which was also worn by Muslims in India.
Instead, Harussani said, he was more disappointed with Pas’ action in Perak where during the Thaipusam celebration, they set up stalls and canopies and flew the Pas flag as though they were celebrating the occasion too.
– BERNAMA

source: http://www.nst.com.my/latest/pm-s-presence-at-thaipusam-celebration-not-unislamic-perak-mufti-1.47075?localLinksEnabled=false

That’s one hell of a turnaround indeed!

To make matters worse, not only the Perak Mufti is confused, so is the the others like “oxford trained people” below:

It is all right for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak as a Muslim leader, to attend non-Muslim religious celebrations like Thaipusam if he follows established guidelines, said a former Perlis mufti.

As a (national) leader and administrator, attending (a non-Muslim religious celebration) to give advice is allowed, as long as he is not involved in the disciplines and rituals of another religion,” said Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin.

The Oxford University visiting lecturer said that Muslim leaders attending such events cannot display aspects of their dressing, or perform any act, that condones the rituals of another religion.

The only error was that the PM was involved in a ritual.

“That does not mean he is apostate. Maybe he was not given proper advice,” opined the former mufti.

Asri explained that the proscriptions of Muslims attending non-Muslim religious celebrations are not absolute and depend on the situation at hand.

For one, he said, that those involved in administration of the event and public order such the police, are allowed to attend.

Perlis mufti Juanda Jaya agreed, blaming the premier’s religious advisors for neglecting to advise him better.

“Guidelines about this matter are there. I am disappointed with the PM’s religious advisors. This will mar the PM’s image,” he lamented.

Last week, Najib attended the Thaipusam celebrations in Batu Caves, decked out in a light yellow kurta (an Indian traditional outfit).

He was draped with a silk cloth and also donned the traditional Indian flower garland.

Najib’s actions had drew the ire of Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria, who slammed the leader and expressed disappointment, accusing Najib of cheapening the Muslim faith with his annual Thaipusam visits since becoming PM, despite advice to the contrary.

source: http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/189173

pic from The Malaysian Insider.

Among the contentious issues where the attire he wore and the garland. It was said to be religious. Looks like the Mufti and his ilk need to attend some classes on religion and culture because they can’t seem to differentiate between the two. These kind of misinformed people can easily create havoc if not properly educated.  And I shudder to think that many Muslims are being influenced to be antagonistic towards other religions by these kind of misguided folks. So, everything would be viewed with a suspicious eye.

The attire is common in Indian sub-continent regardless of race. It may have even existed before these religions. Same goes for garlanding people. Its a culture to show respect towards the person. Its common to see in many events in India, like in schools, government functions, movie launches,  etc.

Temple and church weddings consist of religious rituals (as with many other religions). Does it mean that our Muslim friends cannot attend such functions? If that’s the case, what would the impression of Islam be on non-Muslims? Even our King attended Prince William’s wedding in a church. So how? These people rebuked him or not? Berani ke?

As explained by the PM below, those in power need to be careful with their words. Need to understand difference. I really wonder if these people have ever attended or mingled with Malaysians of other race/religion or not.

Efforts to promote understanding and awareness through discussion, dialogue and education are important so that the public understands clearly the differences and similarities between the various races in the country, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

He said the people should not be confused with what constituted cultural and religious beliefs.

Najib cited as an example, his attendance at the Thaipusam celebration in Batu Caves recently, which according to him, has been questioned by some quarters because he wore the “kurta”, a traditional Indian attire for men.

But they are not aware that in India, millions of Indians who are Muslims wear the kurta daily. Are they then not Muslims,” he said.

He said this when addressing a gathering of religious leaders in conjunction with “World Interfaith Harmony Week 2012″ at at his official residence Seri Perdana here Wednesday.

Najib then gave the example of the attire usually worn by Malaysian Chinese Muslims Association (MACMA) president Datuk Mustapha Ma, which according to him, had Chinese cultural elements and should not be linked to the question of faith.

“He is a seventh-generation Muslim. This is a question of culture and not faith. Thus, issues like this, if we don’t understand, it could lead to suspicion and hatred among the races.

“As such, it is incumbent upon the committee tasked with interfaith understanding to clarify such matters,” he said.

Najib also said with the rapid advancements in information technology, whatever was said by anyone could spread like wildfire, causing the world we are in today to face a more challenging environment and requiring more efforts to promote understanding and awareneness on a continuous basis.

source: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/2/15/nation/20120215183404&sec=nation

So, its indeed scary that we, after half a century of independence, and with the power of Internet, still not able to understand our fellow Malaysians culture/religion. We are living in our cocoons, imagining that we are right. And worse still, we are in the position to influence others, which can lead to hatred and anger. Our social and education systems seemed to have failed, by producing such folks.

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1 comment

  1. parthiben says:

    Agreed with your concern, but then is it really necessary for Najib to come to Batu Caves during Thaipusam festival? And what’s with the huge garland meant for an elephant? Sometimes things just get politicised for wrong reasons.