By Mohsin Abdullah
This Chinese New Year please do not give me ang pow like you usually do.
No, I am not crazy in making this request. And it's not that I do not like money. I do. Believe me I do, particularly during these economic uncertainty times. What more with the conflict in the Middle East and the US-China trade war which will worsen things.
You see, ang pow I like, but not the ang pow packets. OK, let me explain.
You see there is this leader of my community (no need to tell his name because you don’t know him one) who says Chinese New Year decorations put up at a school in Puchong contravened Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution.
You know what… this Article addresses Islam’s role as the religion of the Federation of Malaysia, our beloved country.
I learn from media reports that the decorations include arched doorway decorated with flowers and lanterns. They have the words Selamat Tahun Baru Cina. Also, there are Chinese characters, words like spring. There are lanterns in parts of the school.
I know Chinese New Year is a cultural celebration not religious one. Ya lor, many times before, I mean years ago we celebrated together. I go to your house for yam cha and sek fun. You give me halal food, and also mandarin oranges. Of course, got ang pows.
But, the Article cited by this leader is about the propagation of other religions to Muslims. He claims he received complaints from parents who felt that putting up the decorations was an attempt to propagate non-Islamic beliefs to Muslim students.
He says putting up such decorations is not constitutional. That I don’t know lah! but when he says it involves trying to convert Muslims to be non-Muslims, I am very frightened. I maybe naughty but I take Islam very seriously.
Maybe now all Chinese New Year decorations in shopping malls and public places must be taken down? I don’t know.
But, what the leader is saying makes me tell you not to give me ang pows. because the packets will have Chinese characters saying Gong Xi Fa Cai, or have pictures of the Rat because this year is the Year of the Rat, right? Maybe there are drawings of people wearing Chinese costumes and with pigtails clutching their hands to say Gong Xi Gong Xi.
Maybe this is also trying to make me leave my religion? So I cannot accept your ang pows even if you give a very thick packet full of Ringgit Malaysia. I simply cannot accept, unless the packet has a picture of a songkok on it, or coconut tress and padi fields. Picture of a beautiful kampong also can.
Do you think you can “redecorate” your ang pow packets like that? If you can, thank you very much. If you cannot, then keep your ang pows and give them to other people. Very sorry, friends. I must listen to this leader. He is smart and he loves us. That’s why he worries we will be converted to other religions.
I sign off with a very early greeting – Gong Xi Fa Cai. I hope this is still allowed and I am still a Muslim even after I have made that greeting.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)