Sin Chew Daily
Confucianism has always advocated "social segregation" for young women from men who are not their direct relatives. Holding hands and personally handing over an item are not encouraged. This makes Confucian teachings even stricter than Islamic teachings.
However, under extenuating circumstances, such taboos could be exempted. For instance, a man should hold out a hand if he sees a drowning woman. Over-compliance with social rites and rejecting all forms of physical contacts between individuals of different sexes could pose danger to an innocent life, which is both inhuman and morally unacceptable. Even Muslim men will not leave a drowning woman alone for religious reasons.
The new ruling implemented by the Terengganu state government forbidding male and female movie-goers to be seated together inside the cinema hall has been perceived as a move out of pure religious consideration and has nothing to do with Confucian teachings dating back over 2,400 years.
If the new rule has been enacted on "moral grounds", all Terengganu residents irrespective of race and religion should abide by it. However, if a religious factor is thrown in, then it should only be applicable to people from a particular community or religion and not enforced on the rest of the society.
It shouldn't be a big issue if cinema seating is rearranged to show our respect for one religion while the entertainment freedom of people embracing other religions or atheists is not compromised.
We would like to suggest here that cinema hall seating areas be redesignated into "Muslim men", "Muslim women" and "Non-Muslim mixed" seating. Nevertheless, some are concerned inappropriate reactions of some patrons at the mixed seating area during screening could adversely affect Muslim patrons. This can be solved by designating Muslim seating areas for men and women on either side of the aisle in the front portion of the cinema hall, with non-Muslim mixed seating at the back.
As ancient Chinese saying goes, "What is unseen is clean!" If Muslim men and women focus on the movie plot and do not turn their heads to the back, nothing bad is going to happen. Call this the "new normal" cinema ecosystem!
A student of Confucius asked him how to become a near-saint. He replied, "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil and touch no evil."
Looks like the gender segregation rule for Muslim men and women movie-goers in Terengganu does conform to the ancient Chinese rituals. Great effort to try to lift the mortals to a level closer to sainthood to ensure cinema patrons are physically separated to fend off any potential moral trespassing during screening.
While we can accept such physical segregation in upholding traditional Confucian or religious teachings, how are we going to stop the advances of mental depravation?
July 7 marks the 50th anniversary of our Rukunegara which embodies the five guiding principles: Belief in God; Loyalty to the King and Country; Supremacy of the Constitution; Rules of Law; Courtesy and Morality.
The first principle "Belief in God" should apply to all religions. Although Islam is the country's official religion, freedom of religion is enshrined in the Federal Constitution. Any Islamization policy must never be enforced on people of other religious faiths. We can only establish a harmonious society if we know how to respect one another's religions.
The separate cinema seating for male and female patrons in Terengganu is only a beginning. We cannot rule out the possibility of more similar measures in near future. Perhaps very soon we will also have gender segregation rules for public transport, hotel accommodation, restaurants, school classrooms, or even separate sidewalks for men and women?
In 2017, a Muar "Islamic cleric" by the name of Zamihan Mat Zin expressed his support for "halal launderette", posted an online comment against the Sultan's decree and criticized the Chinese for being "unclean". He later went into hiding having triggered tremendous public outcry. That looks very much like the separate cinema seating for male and female movie-goers we have today.
Perhaps our Muslim compatriots have grown accustomed to such segregation, but enforcing the same on the rest of the society could be a little too demanding. Many business owners may find it difficult to follow without sacrificing their profitability.