Monday, April 22, 2013

A Muslim speaks for Christians

I wish to add my voice as a Muslim to support my Christian brothers and sisters in Malaysia in condemning the Election Commission (EC) over their choice of Sunday as a polling day.

Sometimes I have to simply throw my hand up and wonder who actually is running this country? Here we are, in Malaysia, in the schools, teaching our children about the sacredness of our Rukunegara ‘Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan’ and ‘Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan’.

And yet, who have actually violated these very values? Non other than our top leadership of the country that includes our so called ‘YB’ ministers, one prime minister, one deputy prime minister, the muftis and I would say one other ‘symbolic’ leadership entity but then I might be cited for sedition.

When deep silence follows Ibrahim Ali’s disrespect of the Bible, Ridhuan Tee’s disrespect of the Hindus and the ‘holy warrior of Islam’ Zulkifli Noordin’s disrespect of the Hindus in his speech, I wonder if our present leadership has the moral standing to be re-elected as leaders?

Now, I have no problem whatsoever to vote for BN (as I had done prior to the Reformasi declaration) because I believed in its ideals. But I have deep problems with almost the entire leadership of the party in power in actually being a leader to my children as they have thus far shown complete disrespect of our sacred Rukunegara.

I understand election strategies and war tactics but I do not understand the leadership refusing to at least ‘pretend’ to show their concern or even ‘acting’ to tick off the likes of our three ‘Muslim Lost Warriors-who-only-dare-to-say-things-in-the-presence of-Muslim multitude’. I would have been ‘okay’ and go on advising my children that it is very disrespectful to say such things as a Muslim and as a Malaysian.

I am not sure of who the ruling party’s election strategy advisers are, but if it were me, I would advise a great show of pretending to care, I think that may rake in a significant portion of votes!

Now we have the EC disrespecting these very values. Why choose a Sunday? We should know that it is a Holy Day of the Christians. Even if we had a few Jewish citizens who celebrate the Saturday Sabbath, we should still respect that. By choosing this day, it shows that the leadership of the EC is someone questionable.

I have for many years suspected that our one or two past EC leaders have not been morally and professionally qualified to head this important body. So many questions about ghost voters and irregular procedures, gerrymandering and so many others that leave some of us wondering whether our single vote actually amounts to anything at all.

I do not see why such an important day in our country’s history that we cannot have a holiday on a workday to cast our votes. Or at least a half-holiday. We can have holidays on Sultan’s Birthdays and such but we cannot have one for the country’s democratic ‘birthdays’? Just because the EC is filled with Muslims, Islam does not teach this kind of behaviour or attitude.

I wish to go on record as saying that Muslims who follow the true teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) do not behave like these people in the EC. They are simply bad Muslims, period.

I thought that this was a democratic country and these fellows are officers of the entity that is itself a democratic element. The EC should have consulted a few others like heads of religious institutions, the heads of political parties concerned and one or two others depending on the situation (such as the head of the military in the Lahad Datu case or the surgeon-general in the Bird Flu case).

The EC is showing a bad example of democracy by choosing Sunday as a polling day. In Islam, there is no concept of ‘a day of rest’ although Friday is said to be an exceptional ‘holy’ day. But there is no evidence in the religious texts and the Prophet’s tradition to stop work altogether on a Friday.

The Qur’an merely orders Muslims to cease work for a short period of time (one to two hours) to come together as a community and listen to a sermon that will show some guidance for the week (and not some blatant campaigning of one political party or another attempt at disrespecting other religions) and after that the Muslims should return to work. There is no such holy day decreed by Islam.

Muslims, of course may choose, at their convenience Friday as a holiday but it is understood that this is a choice and not a decree.

For the good of all, I think the EC should reconsider Sunday as a polling day and defer it to Monday (preferably one week later for adequate time). I am sure all the business people would agree to declare this a holiday or at least a half holiday to allow the fundamental rights of the citizens whether he or she be a ‘lowly’ janitor or a ‘lofty’ vice-chancellor. In the eyes of democracy they are the same. One person one vote.

Business can only occur in a respectful climate and not in a disrespectful climate. Finally, I wish to say that regardless of whichever coalition gets to form the next government of our beloved country, the next leadership will have to walk on tip toes because I have seen the new Malaysia forming right in front of my very eyes and with the aid of the Internet and the social media... leadership is no longer a walk through the park.

So again, let me respectfully remind the Election Commission in the language of Bahasa Malaysia... Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan serta Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan... hormatilah semua agama rakyat kita di dalam negara tercinta. Demi Islam... Demi Malaysia, tolong ubah hari mengundi!

[Contributed by MOHAMAD TAJUDDIN MOHAMAD RASDI, professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s School of Architecture. An eloquent writer, he has authored over 30 books, including his latest, ‘Why Listen to the Vice-Chancellor?']


  1. Voting is fixed on Sunday so that the foreign workers who have been given Malaysian ICs can vote as well. I think there are more of these foreign workers than there are Christians in Malaysia, so it is fair to say that the EC is acting in the best interests of the bigger group of people.