Why the official silence in inter-religious charity affairs?

By Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

I am a worried Muslim. I am even more an extremely worried Malaysian.

I can see the total and complete destruction of our forefather's concept of Malaysia in the deadly silence from those charged with the fate of Islam in the charity affairs of two DAP non-Muslim personalities.

I am waiting for public university professors from so-called 'Islamic universities', faculties of Islamic studies and centers of Islamic thoughts to say something about the two incidents.

I am also waiting for religious officers like muftis of Islamic departments, director of JAKIM and the minister of religious affairs to pronounce whether they agree or disagree with the criticisms of the two DAP non-Muslims in handing out charity to Muslims.

I am still waiting for so-called progressive and 'socially conscious' Islamic NGOs to make some statement. I am also waiting for so-called 'Islamic' or Islamic-biased political parties to also weigh in whether it is allowed for non-Muslims to give charity to Muslims.

The silence is deafening.

In the past, I had written about how our country's leadership gave a speech thanking non-Muslims for their generous donations for the building of the National Mosque or Masjid Negara.

I remember also writing that non-Muslims had also donated generously for the building of the Negeri Sembilan State Mosque in our past.

Now, we are faced with a new narrative that seems to suggest that non-Muslims' help should be disallowed or be viewed with extreme suspicion.

My question is, where will this lead to in our relationship between religious adherents of our multicultural nation?

I remember news about a religious head teacher of a madrasa questioning Muslims going to cut their hair at Hindu barbers. I remember the laundry issue where only Muslim clothes are allowed and non-Muslims' religiously filthy wears are not welcomed. I remember listening to a recorded conversation purportedly between an Indian Grab delivery man and a Muslim woman who scolded him for accepting to deliver a Muslim packaged food. To the woman, this Indian had tainted her packed food with his unholy hands.

Where will this go next? Will there be an app where you can request a driver from a certain religion?

Oh, wait a minute, we now actually have a company offering Muslim drivers as well as malls and housing estates tailored specifically for Muslim patrons and owners.

Where will this end?

Will we now have schools for only Muslim students with all-Muslim teachers? Will we have an all-Muslim university with an all-Muslim staff?

We now have many products to spray furniture, car dashboards and stair rails to kill the COVID-19 virus. Will we now have a product to 'disinfect' things held by non-Muslims? I wonder.

I have seen changes in the Malay-Muslim societies among my own friends who are getting more and more conservative by the day.

The narrative of 'unclean non-Muslim' is taking a fierce grip on their perception of what is pure in Islam.

This narrative is also coupled with the 'kafir enemy' construct of certain political parties who wants to change election boundaries and force only Muslims to hold every single public office in the country.

Will someone please tell me where all this is going for Malaysia in just five years down the road?

I can still recall an incident with a Chinese newspaper about 15 years ago which decided to translate my writings about Malay traditional architecture.

The newspaper was happy to help the Chinese learn more about Malay beliefs and customs through the manifestation of space, forms and structures of Malay buildings.

So they published my writings along with the drawings and photographs of wakaf, rumah bumbung limas, rumah Kedah, rumah Perak, rumah Melaka, istana and madrasah. Suddenly, my writings about masjid or mosques had no pictures or drawings. When I inquired of my editor, he sheepishly explained that the chief editor ordered that the newspaper shall carry no images of mosques for fear of reprisals from Malay political parties or NGOs. I asked incredulously why was that?

Photographs and drawings are as much information as the writings. The editor said that Malays would take issue that Chinese might use the old newspaper prints that contain photographs of mosques and wrap 'unholy animals' or any 'haram' product.

I remember thinking then, what was going on with this nation's education? Or for that matter, what was going on with Islamic education?

So, people of Malaysia, where the heck do we go from here? A word from 'Abah' might reset our destiny of Malaysia as a tolerant nation, but I know he won't say anything because his very life depends on the support base of a political party which considers itself the savior of Islam.

So, I don't really think he will help. Anyway, this is our problem as a nation.

Negara kita, tanggungjawab kita. We should not look at the politician or 'other traditional leaders' to solve our problems for us.

Where are the Muslims to reset the narrative of a progressive Islam in the context of a multicultural Malaysia?

I … am still waiting.

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

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