Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tis' the Season to be Jolly...

Tis’ the season to be jolly…Fa la la la la…la la .. la la!
Or is it?

Different Spin
The Star Metro
21st December, 2012

I was assigned to host the Christmas Special for a regular show I do, but was asked to swap dates with a non-Muslim colleague at the eleventh hour. Puzzled, I asked the team why and was told that they were looking out for me.

“We want to protect and take care of you from any unwanted and unnecessary comments and feedback from viewers that will condemn you.”
Condemn me? But why?

I found out later, it was the management’s decision to avoid controversies and problems having a Muslim anchor a Christmas Special show. This hurt and agitated me. A lot.

In a previous article, I wrote about my confusion with the 1Malaysia campaign. Having spent my growing up years in Sabah – I didn’t see any racial segregation or problems of unity - I just saw my neighbours, friends and classmates as another person.

Admittedly, as kids, things were all so simple. We put wealth, race, culture and religion aside. Kids are so naïve about the real world; there is no baggage or hidden agenda. My two daughters constantly remind me of this, time and time again.

In that article, I questioned how can the innocent mindset of a child, be translated to the minds of us adults and to those who govern the country- if the battle is for Malaysia to be one.

Being in the media industry, I have gone through brief after brief on the do’s and don’ts of what we can or cannot do when producing and presenting a show. Some make sense, others don’t - but we are governed by the folks who think it’s best for the audience and ultimately, for the nation. Never mind the fact that the rules may not be consistent at times in its implementation - we are bounded by these authoritative statements from above, nonetheless.

Now this recent concern over a Muslim hosting a Christmas show really irked me. Why would this be controversial? Am I not allowed to wish viewers at home, a blessed Merry Christmas? Let’s put aside the fact that my Catholic parents and siblings do celebrate the Season of Joy, I am disheartened that such a simple gesture of goodwill, is now regarded as religiously incorrect for us Muslims in Malaysia.
Wishing my friends and relatives a greeting of a different faith and culture will not weaken my own faith nor make me less of a Muslim. I have read that Islam is a religion of peace, love and tolerance and I agree with another Muslim writer, Raja Zarith Idris, that certain quarters are giving a false image of Islam, as if there are conflicts between Islam and the partisans of the other monotheistic religions. Like her, I thought the Islam view of Jews and Christians is friendly and tolerant?

I am reminded of an incident where I gave a Christmas present to someone’s son a few years back before I embraced Islam. I received a message the next day from the young boy telling me that he was really sorry, but his mother would not allow him to receive the present, as it was ‘haram’ for a Muslim to receive a Christmas gift. I was also said to be insensitive.

Picture taken from onIslam

That really shocked me as my Muslim cousins and I used to exchange gifts during Christmas and Hari Raya. But that was in my hometown in Sabah. Perhaps things are different over this side of the country?

My family and I are part of the TOWUD Cooperative - an organization created by our relatives with the main objective to unite everyone in our family tree and to know who is who in this large family of ours. Everyone chips in support and financial assistance when we have family reunions, which occurs during festivities, be it Christmas, Kaamatan, Chinese New Year and the Aidilfitri Celebrations.
As mentioned in my previous article, I am glad my parents are open-minded and they embrace the purity of love, trust and mutual understanding among one another.

Mum’s family is Catholic and our cousins are Muslims. Odu’s stilted house has chickens, dogs, cats and pigs roaming around the compound and quite often, her animals would stray to the other side, but that does not bother our Muslim cousins at all. During festivals, my cousins eat the food we serve. There is a mutual trust and understanding that the food served is halal.

This has to do a lot with tolerance and sincere compassion.

I have been brought up to respect and appreciate others regardless of our differences. How am I to be okay with the concept of friends and family wishing me Selamat Hari Raya, and yet, I do not return their goodwill and cordiality when it’s Christmas, Deepavali, Chinese New Year etc? Where then, is the spirit of 1Malaysia in this context?

Picture from alarabiya 
We should be able to requite the same mark of respect of their faith and culture and to wish them the same joy on their celebrations, right?

As for me not hosting the Christmas show, while I am absolutely thrilled my talented co-host will be anchoring the Special and appreciate the fact that my Producers are trying to protect me, I’m just sad that the bigotry attitude and archaic mentality of some small-minded people, still exists in Malaysia.
Tis’ the season to be jolly. So let’s just be just that.

Daphne and her mother are making a Christmas tree out of books this year. Her two daughters are thrilled that Odu (Grandmother) is in town this Season of Joy. Merry Christmas everyone and have a blessed celebration.


  1. I shared your view as I'm from Sarawak where our family members are mixed lots. We celebrate our festivities together. Not much fuss about it. My wife and I are Muslims and my inlaws are Catholics.

  2. many people (not limited to malaysians) make Islam complicated with unnecesary gestures ie haram taking gives from non-muslim. this is what happens when they r ignorant abt what Islam truly is.

    foundementally, respect is to be earned. how can others respect us Muslim when we ourselves ignorants to our own religion & being disrespectful?

    coming from a mixed lots family myself, i'm blessed to be muslim & have a very reapectful family members. this doesnt make me any less of a muslim.

  3. many people (not limited to malaysians) make Islam complicated with unnecesary gestures ie haram taking gives from non-muslim. this is what happens when they r ignorant abt what Islam truly is.

    foundementally, respect is to be earned. how can others respect us Muslim when we ourselves ignorants to our own religion & being disrespectful?

    coming from a mixed lots family myself, i'm blessed to be muslim & have a very reapectful family members. this doesnt make me any less of a muslim.

  4. I hear you!!!!

    I grew up in KK myself, and after leaving service I tried to work there as my choice of town to settle down in, but was unable to for various reasons.

    It is tragic that so many people buy into the idea being sold of late, that there is an identity and faith to "protect" by santising against all interaction and goodwill from without the flock, as if there were only one right path to salvation by way of belonging to the right club and paying the dues of membership.

    I do not believe that all peoples buy into this idea. Those who do are those who need the association with self-declared pedigrees in order to gain any sense of conviction and self-worth. Some of my best allies have been my Moslem brethren, and many have I lost when they chose allegiences with those who would prefer seeing division than the hope of unity.

    Nay, things are not radically different over on this side of the South China Sea. The truth is, we have been witness to the elements of systematic division and discrimination for much longer than East Malaysia. You too, are now witnessing that same sowing of the weeds amongst the wheat, spread by the same source that finds joy in the weeping of others.

    It is then up to us, who think we know better, to never back down from keeping our doors open, for we are all His children, blameworthy as we are for making choices that He would not.

  5. I totally agreed with you sumandak....! Im proud to be Sabahan that everyone regardless of languages and religions everybody is celebrating Christmas, Aidilfitri, CNY, Kaamatan in Borneo. Every year our company gave us a chance to organized Hari Raya open house and also Christmas party where we did exchanged gift and singing joyful songs... When i was little my catholic's friends will sometimes fasting with me during Ramadhan, Chinese friend's parents gave us Ang pow and when December come we did exchange gifts and sometimes follow my friends houses to houses singing Christmas carols. Today we still practiced and valued our respective religions and yam cha at the coffee shop!

  6. Hi Daphne, I think coming frm Sabah make us 'so naive' when it comes to this side of the muslim's neighbour told me that she can't wish me 'merry Christmas' as it's forbidden in Islam..I wonder which part of the Quran mentioned that...anyway, it's ok lah..wishing or not I'm ok..I love Christmas..

  7. this maybe the answer..written in malay unfortunately.u can clearly get the reason y it is forbidden.everything should comes with explanation. this one about celebrating christmas was stated in Al-Quran n the last source, al-Hadith. it's every man's duty reminding his fellow muslims the real thing about is never too late to learn n dig up the truth of islam n being a muslim..:)


    Perkara ini dinyatakan oleh Allah didalam firman-Nya

    لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا ۚ

    “Untuk setiap umat (beragama) Kami jadikan sebuah syariat dan ajaran”. (Al Maidah: 48).

    Bahkan dengan tegas Rasulullah bersabda:

    “Sesungguhnya bagi setiap kaum (beragama) itu memiliki hari raya, sedangkan ini (Iedul Fithri atau Iedul Adha) adalah hari raya kita.” (Muttafaqun ‘alaihi)

    Akan tetapi muncul sebuah permasalahan tatkala kita mengingat bahwa orang-orang kafir (dalam hal ini kaum Nashrani) telah mengubah kitab Injil mereka sehingga sangatlah diragukan bahwa hari raya mereka iaitu Natal merupakan ajaran Nabi Isa ?. Kalaupun , Natal tersebut merupakan ajaran beliau, maka sesungguhnya hari raya tersebut -demikian pula seluruh hari raya orang-orang kafir- telah dihapus dengan hari raya Iedul Fithri dan Iedul Adha. Rasulullah bersabda:

    “Sesungguhnya Allah telah mengganti keduanya (dua hari raya Jahiliyah ketika itu-pent) dengan hari raya yang lebih baik yaitu: Iedul Adha dan Iedul Fithri.” (H.R Abu Daud dengan sanad shahih)

    Tidak Melakukan Aktiviti-Aktiviti Tertentu Yang Menyerupai Orang-Orang Kafir Pada Hari Raya Mereka

    Di dalam fatwanya, Asy Syaikh Ibnu Utsaimin mengatakan: “Dan demikian pula diharamkan bagi kaum muslimin untuk meniru orang-orang kafir pada hari raya tersebut dengan mengadakan perayaan-perayaan khusus, tukar menukar hadiah, pembahagian permen (secara percuma), membuat makanan khusus, cuti kerja dan semacamnya. Hal ini berdasarkan ucapan Nabi :

    “Barangsiapa yang menyerupai suatu kaum maka dia termasuk kaum tersebut.” (H.R Abu Daud dengan sanad hasan). (Majmu’uts Tsamin juz 3)

  8. Hi daphne, this topic is really interesting. I believe that by wishing my friends happy raya or happy deepavali wont make me less catholic. Wishing others for their celebration should not be a big deal. In the end, there's only one person who will judge us and that's God. Who's to say it is wrong to wish our friends and family Merry Christmas, Happy Raya etc... God see things differently???
    Merry Christmas to u n family

  9. Hi,
    Feel sorry for you. Don't let those ostats' hate preaching ruin your family's festivities.. Hopefully they were having a good one!

  10. Hi Daphne. I can truly understand how you feel because I'm a Sarawakian. And we, Sarawakians too are very open minded about all the festivities we Malaysians celebrate, regardless of our races and religion. My bestfriend is a Muslim, and she wishes me Merry Christmas every year, without fail. Just as I wish her Selamat Hari Raya, without fail every year. I have a friend who is a Muslim (she is a Melanau mix Bidayuh) who stays with her grandfather who is a Catholic. The key to this is understanding, and perhaps some people just have the lack of understanding about each others' religion. Some are even blinded by the teachings of mere people, who interpret things differently. If all of us learn to have understanding about each others' religion and festivities, perhaps this sort of thing won't happen.

  11. Dear all, thank you for your wonderful feedback and comments. I'm sorry if I have offended anyone with this article, but this is truly how I feel. Blessed New Year 2013 everyone. xoxo