Someone sent me a Whatsapp message recently to say he had suggested to another Malay to follow my footsteps and join DAP. What is interesting is that person’s reply, which was (and I am paraphrasing): “Zaid is not a good Muslim. He enjoys life.”
That person unintentionally gave me the best compliment anyone can get. What is life for if not to be enjoyed? The bounty and beauty of the universe is God’s gift to us, and as with every great gift, we must appreciate, savour and experience it.
I know some of my Muslim friends live life in fear. They fear the Almighty and spend a lot of time seeking forgiveness for their sins. They are also very angry most of the time: at sinners, Christians, Muslims who eat in public during the fasting month and even at Chinese from DAP who join them for breakfast. That’s their choice, but that’s not how I choose to live my life.
The Star recently received a lot of flack for a May 27 front page where it published a picture of Muslims at prayer alongside the headline “Malaysian terrorist leader.” All the “good Muslims” were indignant at the paper’s perceived insensitivity to their feelings, and even the Home Ministry has joined in by issuing a show-cause letter to the daily.
Although I don’t read The Star, I don’t think the editors did anything wrong or seditious. I had another look at the front page that caused so much outrage. There is a large picture of Muslims praying. The headline on top of the picture refers to the many people killed in Marawi in southern Philippines and how militants—led by former Malaysian lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad—were involved in the carnage.
A picture paints a thousand words. You can construe that headline in many ways: you could think, for example, that it mocks Muslims for being hypocrites, i.e. by praying in large numbers even though some of them are involved in senseless violence and killing. Or you can be charitable in your interpretation and see that the picture depicts the two contrasting faces of Islam in the world today.
There are many things now happening in the Muslim world that do not make sense. Just one week into Ramadhan—a month of peace, forgiveness, and restraint—the Islamic State has already killed so many of their fellow Muslims in Iraq and Pakistan, not to mention in Mindanao. They have also killed Coptic Christians in broad daylight. Can any observation of these contrasting faces of Muslims be deemed malicious and against the law?
What if someone were to write a story about how much food we waste and how gluttonous we become during this holy month of fasting? What about a story about a Muslim leader’s outrage just because an Opposition MP spoke in a mosque’s premises? These are facts that can be proven, but would these observations be regarded as insulting Islam too?
During this month we are supposed to show restraint and the better side of our nature, but it seems we are offended so easily and have so much suspicion of others. Our first thought is that they are mocking us. As a community, are we beyond criticism?
Why not be charitable and regard The Star’s editors as insensitive at worst? Now is the time for Muslims in Malaysia to show charity in forgiving a mistake. That’s what good Muslims do. But I don’t think that will happen. Probably because there are actually only a few good Muslims left in the country.