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