NST : THE SUNDAY COLUMN: Keeping Malaysia as Malaysia is
- From The New Straits Times
8 January 2006
THE SUNDAY COLUMN: Keeping Malaysia as Malaysia is
THE wife of a dear friend of mine had been ill the last few years, and
she was just skin and bones.
The doctors could not find out what was wrong with her, and they tried
everything, conventional, traditional and non-traditional medicine,
and they have also been praying fervently at their church.
There was no change in her condition, in fact she kept wasting away.
At their wits end, they saw sinsehs and bomohs, and changed the
entrance to their house on the advice of a feng shui master. Then they
went to see a Muslim scholar reputed to have healing powers.
Finally, she started recovering. Today, there is colour in her cheeks
and she has begun to put on some weight.
Many years ago, in the early 1980s, another devout Christian friend of
mine related the story of a young Malay-looking couple with an infant
sitting in the back pew of his church in Petaling Jaya.
After the service, he inquired whether they were new to the
It emerged that they were devout Muslims and their child had been
sickly from birth, progressively worsening and the doctors had all but
given up hope.
They, too, had tried everything and nothing worked. They went to the
church in desperation.
Eventually, the child got well and is now a healthy grown-up. They
remain devout Muslims to this day.
What ailed them and what made them well?
Who knows? God, it is frequently said, works in mysterious ways.
God is known by so many different names to humankind.
To Muslims, to me, God is Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet. And we
believe that nothing happens that is not willed by Allah.
My Roman Catholic friends believe in the Holy Trinity, Vishnu, Shiva
and Brahma make up the Hindu trinity, and our Sikh friends refer to
their God as Waheguru, the wonderful Lord.
Our Malaysia is rich in many ways, richest perhaps in its cultural and
religious diversity and in our tolerance, harmony and peace-loving
Our Malaysia is a Malaysia of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus,
Taoists, Sikhs and those of many other faiths and denominations.
In many ways, it is our collective belief in God that has given us the
strength, patience and wisdom to live with each other as friends and
neighbours, in unity and in peace.
We respect each others right to freely practise our faith.
By and large, we know the sensitivity of racial and religious issues
and we refrain from public ranting to preserve our peace. It has
worked for us.
History has shown us how religion and race can become the root of
violence, break up societies and nations. God forbid, none of us want
that to happen to us, to Malaysia.
We know our diversity; our composition of different races and
religions is here to stay.
We want our generation and our childrens generation and their
childrens generation to live their lives in harmony as we do.
Yet there are times when things do not work as we want them to. There
are times when inadvertently race and religion become an issue, like
in the case of former army commando M. Moorthy.
Moorthy had converted to Islam on his sick bed but, by all accounts,
did not adhere to the tenets of Islam and continued to live life as a
It was when he died that religion became the cause of a tussle. Should
he be cremated as a Hindu as his wife and family insisted, or buried
as a Muslim as Syariah required because of his conversion?
Although he was physically incapacitated, he was, again, by all
accounts, in a sane frame of mind when he decided to become a Muslim.
Certainly, no one could force Moorthy to take that most important of
steps to convert. He did it of his own free will.
The question is, although he was sane, what was his state of mind when
he took that decision?
Was he, like my Christian friend, at his wits end because his wife
could not be cured and went to see a Muslim scholar for help?
Was he like the young Muslim couple who did not know what to do about
their childs fading health and went to a church, hoping against hope?
There are many people whose faith is so strong that they would have
never wavered, no matter what.
Yet, all we mere mortals have weaknesses, all of us have succumbed to
weaknesses and we have done things which we are not proud of.
But Moorthy died and a decision he made led to repercussions on us as
a country, as a Malaysian people.
This is not the first time it has happened; but hopefully, the
Cabinet, which has shown the concern this issue deserves, can deliver
on its pledge to ensure that it does not recur.
I have a sweet little sister, the youngest in the family who,
unfortunately, has been afflicted with a severe case of rheumatoid
arthritis since she was 10.
Much as I always picture her as the full-of-life youngest sister in
the early years of her life, when I see her, I realise how much that
ailment has taken a toll on her.
She has spent as much time in pain and in hospitals as she has out of
No normal life, stunted growth, suffering the effects of being pumped
up with steroids in her younger years, and undergoing numerous
surgeries for knee and hip replacement.
Life has been tough for her. It was true grit and determination which
saw her excel in her studies and become a lawyer.
After one of those major surgeries she underwent at the University
Hospital, she was laid out on her back when a group of Samaritans, who
do their rounds at hospitals, visited her to give her solace and hope.
One of them asked her to seek release from her pain and become a
Christian. Politely, she asked the person never to raise the subject
with her again.
My late mother and our family were upset because we felt that what
this person did was wrong, trying to take advantage of an ailing
person in a less than normal state of mind to take a step that would
have had major repercussions for our family.
Are such sick-bed or death bed attempts at conversion right?
Was Moorthys conversion a decision made by a mind that had run into a
dead end? Only those who were there with him at that time would know.
But it is incidents like Moorthys which put normal Malaysians in a
We feel a need to speak up and say something; yet we are afraid we
will be mis understood and labelled as ignoramus and unschooled in our
We are hampered and restricted by our strong belief that issues of
race and religion should not be brought into the public domain because
of the sensitivities they will raise.
It does not take a majority to start a riot which can break up a
We have seen how the death of a president in a helicopter crash in
Rwanda started blood-letting which led to full scale genocide.
We have seen how a racist minority started the Balkan massacre of
We have seen how a small group of fanatics tore down the Babri mosque
in India which led to the deaths of thousands in months of violence.
And just recently, we saw how a bunch of rednecks caused violent
clashes against Arabs in Australia.
Almost always, the voice of moderation is drowned out because the
extreme minority has the lunatic zeal and vehemence to speak loudest.
But we are fortunate because our people, our religious leaders and our
lawmakers are generally level headed and rational and it is to their
credit they headed off any untoward incident in Moorthys case.
We are fortunate that we have ministers like Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and
Kota Baru MP Datuk Zaid Ibrahim who, aware of the consequences of
being labelled by the more extreme elements among them, spoke openly,
rationally and in the interests of fairness and justice.
The Cabinet, too, has made the right decision to look again at the
laws which would allow both Muslims and non-Muslims to receive
justice. There is no other way.
As a Muslim, I believe my God, Allah, is compassionate, just, fair and
He is al-rahim (the merciful), al-alim, al-basir, as-sami (all-
knowing, all-seeing and all-hearing), al-adil (the just) and
Who then, among us mere mortals, could say that we are wrong if we
speak up, with a clean heart and a clear conscience, for the sake of
justice and fairness, for our fellow beings, Muslims and non-Muslim
*************From Uncle Yap**************
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