21/04/2021
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Interracial and inter-religious charity perceptions in Malaysia

By Professor Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

The charity work of a Christian MP helping several Muslims that went viral in the media has brought about an accusation of negative perception by an academic now famous for his many exploits 'defending Islam' against Christians' missionary-like efforts.

He specializes in taking issues with Chinese Christians who are DAP members, it seems, because the other target I can still recall was also another MP who happens to be a Christian who happens to be Chinese and who happens to be a DAP member.

The famous lecturer, who went viral accusing Tun M for being too 'old and senile', I assume, was famous because Tun M not only came and sat directly opposite him in the forum, but went on to be the Prime Minister for the second time and he even masterminded the fall of his own coalition to make way for his own party to be the unchallenged ruler of Malaysia.

In this article, I do not wish to take issue with this academic from a public university in the northernmost part of Malaysia but rather discuss the important issue of publicity, charity and inter-religious and interracial harmony in this country.

The main concern of the said academic from the north was that Steven Sim was too obvious in 'targeting' Malay-Muslim hardship cases and the manner of his publicizing effort seems to suggest more 'negative motives' than just trying to help fellow Malaysians.

According to the accuser, charity work should be private and not being made into a media blitz for some people.

Well, I am not sure where this academic has been living all this while, but BN and Umno seem to thrive on charity blitzes during elections. Even the PM of today has had his media day with the Sikhs recently.

I remember reading about an incident where the Prophet Muhammad was going to war and he gathered his Companions and asked loudly and clearly for all to hear 'Who has given half of his property to his Prophet and Allah' of which Abu Bakar raised his hand and said 'I have'. The intention there was to signal a competition of doing good deeds in donating.

In another occasion, I have also read about when the Prophet gave a speech to ask for donations, the womenfolk gave away in public their bracelets and jewelry for the cause of goodness.

It was also the habit of the Prophet Muhammad to give away in public donated goods in his mosque to whoever came to ask for a claim.

When I supported Parti Islam SeMalaysia many years ago, I witnessed people donating money and jewelry at the ceramah in the muddy fields for PAS to finance their election machinery.

Now PAS no longer needs this backing of the people's money as they have huge sources of income elsewhere, enough to fund every single seat in Parliament.

I have witnessed also how a Hindu society gave some money to a Malay family whose house was razed by fire.

Recently I have seen how Teresa Kok gave away RM300 to a starving former stewardess. I wondered why the northern academic did not take issue with Teresa Kok, perhaps because the Malay-Muslim lady went herself to see the MP.

In the case of Steven Sim, he was the first on the scene to help the needy Malays.

In the Qur'an, the teachings of Islam is for Muslims to find those in need before they ask for aid. This is because good people are embarrassed to seek help.

A society must be judged not how much they can help the needy but how well they can identify the needy before these people seek for help.

Look at how the headmaster of a school who goes out looking for homeless children living under road bridges so that he can school them in numbers and letters such that they can find jobs at McDonalds or Burger Kings.

These are the true noble souls of Malaysia that deserves the title Dato' or Dato Seri, not young criminals showing off bundles of money on Instagram.

This country badly needs interracial and inter-religious charity. It is only in this way that we can reforge the trusts and faith in all of us to cement the bricks and stones of our nationhood.

To place negative accusations of 'ulterior motives' could reseed the mistrust between our 40 ethnic groups and destroy this country.

I have always said that this country's ills are not caused by bad politicians and civil servants but by our own people who live in the silos of their own race, religion and social status.

True spirituality of any religion is not built on rituals of prayers or pilgrimages but on the bedrock of Sadaqah or charity.

As a modern Hindu spiritualist once said, 'You can never make yourself truly happy until you help another in need'.

The sickness of modern life is predicated on private and personal consumption plus unnecessary consumerism at the expense of our own souls.

Thus, when I see one race helping another, or when I watch another religious adherent help a person of different religion, I am watching not only the true force of religion but the true birth of nationhood.

(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)

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