All in the name of Religion Part 2


Read these first

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The issue of religion in this country has been a very sticky issue especially when it comes to issues relating to Muslims and Non Muslims.

One such case is the issue of implementing hudud – it will be interesting to see how this works out the non Muslim component political parties of the Government with the upcoming RUU 355 which will be presented by the Government in Parliament. There is already voices of dissenting to the proposed changes from MCA, MIC and component political parties from East Malaysia but let’s see how these guys will actually react when the changes actually tabled in Parliament. If you ask me, the whole thing about RUU 355 looks more politicial than religion.

Another has been the unilateral conversion of children in a marriage where one parent converts to Islam – a case in point has been the case of Indira Gandhi, a case that gone all the way up to the Federal Court for decision. The husband convert already gone into hiding with one of the children and remains missing despite mounting court orders. I am not sure what that achieves other than causing high distress and bad experience for the children. In the end, the family remains disunited and parents at each other’s throats and time wasted at the courts.

Of course, there are others that is considered “out of this world” such as building tombstone in a school. It does not matter if 80% of the students in the school is not Muslim or if there is no consent from the parents & teachers. But it does a great concern when we try mixing religion & politics into our schools. It would have been a different story if the same parties had build a science lab or an astronomy observatory for the students. I don’t see how we can achieve high income nation status with building tombstones and not science labs. We sure need to make a reality check on what we need to present as educational item for the young minds.

Anyway as I said, the issue of religion in this country has been a very sticky issue and it will be so in the coming years. Now that leads me to a very interesting news recently relating to my fellow Hindus for Thaipusam.

A group of vigilantes behind the Facebook page called the “Thaipusam Spraying Group”, have threatened to use aerosol spray paint on women, including those who wear the saree (Indian traditional dress for women) with their backs exposed.

Accompanying the warning were pictures of saree blouse designs that the group deemed inappropriate. “Advance Warning to Hindu Female Patrons coming to Thaipusam festival, beware of being sprayed with Aerosol paint if found inappropriately dressed”, said the group in its “about the page” column.

Federal police Corporate Communications Head ACP Asmawati Ahmad told FMT the post could be considered a crime, punishable under Section 507 of the Penal Code for criminal intimidation, or Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act for improper use of network facilities or network services. “So don’t taint a religious event by doing things that can disrupt public harmony and peace,” she advised.

The post was published last week, and at the time of publication, the group had close to 150 members. A Facebook user by the name of Henry Barnabas, who allegedly created the page, wrote on his personal Facebook page that the post was meant to protect the “ritual and culture” of Hindus.

“Let’s spread the positive message through this group, so they will also get knowledge and respect the meaning of Thaipusam. “Most youngsters these days don’t know our history. Thaipusam for them is just to be glamorous, dancing, etc. Let’s bring some awareness among the youth and the upcoming generation,” he said.

Barnabas also called for his followers to make the post viral, saying that women today were behaving like “call girls”. “Who to blame? Boys trying to protect girls but girls behaving like call girls and at the end of the day, when they are in trouble they will blame the guys.”

(Source)

I can’t recall when was the last time I visited Batu Caves (even worse, Batu Caves during Thaipusam) but if I am not mistaken it was couple years ago when I attended someone’s wedding at the wedding hall in the temple grounds or when we had to shave my daughter’s head during prayers. I don’t know which is which. The massive crowd, lack of parking space, the heaps of rubbish, the issue of safety, my own reflection of religion – I don’t know which of these reasons that made me to shun Batu Caves during Thaipusam. I guess, I rather pray in a more conducive manner.

So when I heard of the “Thaipusam Spraying Group”, I admit I had mixed feelings. On one hand I was concerned that someone is trying to force their set of religious values onto others by means of violence (even though it may be limited to spraying), something seems to be rare when it comes to Indians – we even had people with short pants coming to temples for prayers in the past (how about naked Sandhus during Kumbh Mela, one of the most important Hindu event in India?), so what is so wrong with some sarees with modern designs?

On the other hand, it was comical since there are worse things happening during Thaipusam than some pretty ladies wearing a designer saree – how about starting with cleanliness of the temple area in the first place?

Yes I agree that there should be minimal standards when it comes to devotees coming to places of religion (no one will accept anyone walking in naked to pray unless of course it is a Sandhu, right?) but I don’t think sarees with some designs is so degrading and causes high tension at places of religion. Seriously guys, the notion of pushing down one’s religious throat with force and violence need to stop. Religion as I mentioned before, in my opinion is something personal and it is just between you and Him. This is also why I prefer morality compared to religion any time, any day.

The last thing we need in this country is moral policing vigilantes that makes threats and causes apprehension on others. So calm down everyone, designer sarees will not cause the end of the world and we do have other priorities in life. So please have great days ahead.

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Mixing Cows & Coconuts


Read these first:-

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(It does not matter if you are breaking it for fun or for a deep sense of devotion but it is high time we reconsider breaking up coconuts in insane numbers on public roads. Imagine driving your car over this minefield and you will understand why we need to reconsider this. God, I am sure, is happy with breaking of one coconut. It is the substance that counts and not the form. Image: http://www.demotix.com)

No one had say it better on why schools should not be used for slaughtering animals than Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, the chairperson of Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) and it makes a lot of sense too:-

1. The school as a venue for animal slaughter is highly inappropriate as students become unwilling spectators whether or not they are invited to watch. While some may be able to stomach the procedure there will also be some who may be traumatised by even the cry of an animal before it is slaughtered. Children are sensitive lest we forget. Incidentally, religious officials continue to gently remind worshippers that the photographs of slaughters being taken at mosques and suraus are not to be indiscriminately publicised as it may induce trauma to the faint-hearted;

2. School grounds are ill-equipped for any type of slaughter in particular the drainage and sanitary system to ensure the proper extermination of blood, carcass, waste products and odour, which in turn if not adequately disposed of, may result in an unhygienic condition;

3. Also comes into question is the area where the animal is tied down which must be secure to ensure the safety of the students at all times as animals have been known to come loose, run free and hurt bystanders especially children who have slower reflexes than adults;

4. It is not necessarily an issue about religious sensitivities as even Muslim parents are enraged. However, it can be educational if students are prepared and willing to witness the slaughter of an animal in a proper manner best carried out at a licensed slaughter house where facilities are available to ensure a high standard of hygiene. A visit can be arranged to a slaughter house as a school activity instead; and

5. Principals by failing to communicate clearly with parents and students on the purpose of conducting such a practice without considering its cause and resulting effect of such an action in the first place allows matters to be thrown out of context.

(Source)

I have always maintained that schools should be used as a place of national unity and learning and not for anything else (namely politics and religion). On the latest issue above, well some may argues that it is nothing spectacular – slaughtering animals during festive seasons is nothing new. I am sure that everyone agrees that the issue at hand is not whether can slaughter cows or not (I have seen slaughtering of goats and chickens in some temples in a grander scale) or whether it has “offended” the non-Muslims. The issue at hand is whether it is right to be slaughtering animals in a school and whether it is the right thing to do during school hours. I am sure everyone agrees that there is a proper place and time for everything.

Is it right to expose young children to the cruelty of slaughtering a living animal and the “bloody” mess left thereafter? Is a school even designed to cater slaughtering of animals. Some years ago, some of my neighbors got together and organised similar slaughtering of animals. The only place available was the children’s playground. The problem was after the slaughtering and after the blood and the bits of carcass had spill over on the grass, it was not easy to clean (despite the best effort from the neighbors). For some days the smell alone was enough to keep kids from the playground (thankfully a couple days of heavy rain did the trick). But it was a lesson well learned – the open slaughtering stopped and these days, I guess the neighbors do it at a mosque where it was easier clean things up. Even if there is no other place suitable for slaughtering the cows, couldn’t this been done after school hours?

But having said that and since the issue was raised, it has kind of opened up the Pandora’s box or rather the question – what about other religion or cultural rites that may frighten small kids (like the pierced kavadi during Thaipusam) or may pose danger and unhygienic like the massive coconut breaking on public streets mainly during Thaipusam and open burning of those large incense sticks during Chinese festivals. While some of us may argue that is is not the same thing, we need to accept that it is a good question and it is something we should ponder seriously.

I am not sure if seeing anyone with pierced kavadis during Thaipusam is an issue as it is only done near to the temple (sometimes it is not only frightens small kids but also adults who are not used to seeing one) but they may have a good point there with the massive coconut breaking on public roads. But before that, here’s the reason why Hindus break coconut in case some of you are wondering – there are many version of the reason but the simplest would be this:-

Coconut represents the human head. The ego resides in the head. A tantric who has gained mastery over senses, literally cuts off his head as a sign of submission of ego. In Sathwik/Vedic mode of worship, coconut is used instead to depict the same. In either ways, the acts signify surrender of ego and submission to God’s will.

(Source)

Breaking the coconut is usually done within the compound of the temple and sometimes in front of the house (provided there is no cars parked in the vicinity) but doing the same on public road may need to be reconsidered. Yes they have been doing it for a long time now. Yes, it is a core part of the Hindu rites. Yes, it may not be related to the incident of slaughtering animals in schools. However does it makes any difference if we break one coconut in the temple and 100 coconuts on public streets as far as religion is concerned? I don’t think there is a difference. Other than an unnecessary waste of money, it poses unnecessary danger to road users – despite the pieces of coconut may get cleaned after the rites, there still may be some sharp pieces of the coconut shell that can cause serious damage to vehicles. Further, have you smelt coconut water after a few days left under the hot sun?

As I had said, there is a proper place and time for everything. No one is stopping you from breaking coconuts and no one is saying that you cannot break 1,000 coconuts but let’s confine to temples or house compounds. In the meantime, let’s focus on what is more important in schools – educating the future generation and making them the star of the country. Use the schools for the actual purpose it was built and pour all your time and energy for the same reasons. If we simply insist of doing what we want to do without any consideration to others, it is going to be a tough time in Malaysia for everyone.

Have a good Deepavali shopping this weekend…

And God Strikes Back!


Just a quick one before I am off for the holidays…

(It was good to see a very familiar face at the helm of, surprisingly a public demo – perhaps it was high time to learn a thing or two on public demo from Hindraf and Bersih. Unfortunately this was done before it was revealed that it was BN and not Pakatan who approved the development plans. It then turned to be a comedy piece from there onwards)

Happy belated Deepavali and happy holidays to all and since we are on the subject of religion & culture, let me tell you a story.

A long time ago or rather more than 100 years old someone “discovered” Batu Caves and decided to open a temple in one of the caves (thank God that no one lives in caves these days; otherwise we would have another cow-head incident). And over all those years, this temple have grown bigger, more organised and became one of the “must have” place for the Hindus in this country to visit and pray – more so during Thaipusam. And it has been so for damn good years until the 2012 when someone discovered that a private developer is going to build a 29 storey condominium project near the temple and started to make some noise. Religion fanatics, opportunists and issue-hunger politicians then decided to put their 2-cents words and squarely blamed the State Government and demanded that the project to be scrapped otherwise to face the wrath of the Indian community (hoo, are you scared now?) and legal suits. After all, Batu Caves is in Selangor and election is just around the corner – so who want to miss this rare opportunity to create some “inconveniences” to the State Government? Well they tried with the water issue and then with the Talam issue but nothing much happened, so this is not so surprising.

Former MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu spearheaded today a demonstration at the Batu Caves Hindu temple, objecting to the construction of a 29-storey condominium project, in what is seen as a bid to pressure the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration ahead of the 13th general election.

The former works minister accused the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) of having approved the construction project without a proper study. He said legal action could be taken against the council.

“This project is not planned properly and without referring to any professional party,” Samy Vellu told a 300-strong crowd of Hindus and non-governmental activists who had turned up at the famous temple complex this morning to protest the condominium construction, saying the work was an environmental risk and would jeopardise the temple grounds.

(Source)

More accusations flew in the media and the long-lost political party readied themselves to come out from the political wilderness and to champion this great “danger” to the rights of the community. It is not a big secret that some Indians (there’s one in every community) are quite passionate (and brainless) when it comes to religion and any intrusion to their turf (despite having too many unregistered temples at the same place) and how the destruction of temples in Selangor was one of the key factor for the swing of Indian votes to Pakatan in 2008. The plan on paper was rather simple – highlight the great “danger” to the temple due to the development so to “unite” Indians from both divides, give a final option to the Pakatan led Government (well knowing that Pakatan Government cannot keep due to obvious legal implications and short of time) and once that deadline is passed, accuse Pakatan of selling out the Indians in the State and tell the Indians that the ONLY way out from the mess is to vote Pakatan out from the State (as predicted, with the usual I help you, you help me kind of pre-election promises thrown in for good measures).

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has given the assurance that Barisan Nasional will stop the controversial 29-storey condominium project in Batu Caves if it regains power in Selangor.

In making this promise, the Prime Minister said Batu Caves is a revered and respected site among the Hindu community in the country and worldwide. “I give you my assurance that if Barisan takes over Selangor, we will cancel this project.

“We do not want development of the surrounding area to pose a threat to this place,” he said at the MIC Deepavali open house held at the Batu Caves temple complex. The Prime Minister also said the Cabinet had decided to submit an application to Unesco for Batu Caves to be considered a World Heritage Site.

(Source)

Of course, during this chaos, the so-called community champions will conveniently forget some key questions – why no demonstration and objections when the development was approved back in 2007? It was not like they were kept in the dark. Why nothing was done in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011? Why nothing was done in the first few months of 2012? Why only now the Federal Government has plans to apply Unesco World Heritage Site status despite for donkey odd years BN ruled Selangor? Why only now Batu Caves is “deemed” a revered and respected site among the Hindu community in the country and worldwide? And doesn’t the World Heritage Site status irrespective of who govern the State is good for Malaysia (and the Indian community) as whole?

Of course, none of these questions would be made and heavily discussed in public by the same champions but the condemnation and accusations against the Pakatan led State Government will continue, hoping the Indian community will fail to see the bigger picture and will swallow whatever that is dished out by the crusaders of the community as the gospel truth.

Apparently God has been watching this for some time now and decided that the whack way back in 2008 was not enough. Nothing much has changed since then, nothing much is likely to change in the near future. He decided to throw in the spanner into the woodwork – just for the fun of it.

Its official – all 19 members who attended the full board meeting of the Selayang Municipal Council voted in favour of approving the Dolomite Avenue Park project in Batu Caves in 2007. Despite earlier denials and assertions by some councillors that they were neither party nor privy to the approval process, minutes of the meeting held on Nov 29, 2007 – obtained by theSun – show otherwise.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk A. Kohilan Pillai, who was a councillor between 1997 and 2008, had voted in favour of the project. So did the three councillors from the MIC – Rajakupal Sinnathamby, Jayakumaran Govindasamy and Rajandran Muniandy.

(Source)

Wonder who is having the last laugh now? It was interesting to see how the same crusaders and the 300 odd demonstrators are going to spin themselves out of this new found truth. Many thanks to good sensible journalism by theSun, we now know that out of the 19 fellows who approved the development way back in 2007 (before Pakatan came in power),  THREE were MIC councillors and also included Gerakan’s Kohilan Pillai.

As much as Kohilan must be given a chance to give his side of the story, equally important is that he gives plausible explanations.

Are we to assume that the Selayang council at one time or the other operated like a “secret society” keeping vital information away from the residents? Are we to assume that minutes are not recorded accurately? Are we to assume that the minute-taker took it upon himself or herself to “censor” the proceedings and only showed the “good side” of the council reflecting the buddy-buddy working relationship of councillors with no dissent? Are we to assume minutes of council meetings are nothing but pieces of formalities to record what had been previously agreed upon?

Something is certainly fishy. So many questions remain unanswered. The most important is: Why did the council, including its president and the councillors, defy the views of the Department of Environment which stated that development would cause imminent danger to the nearby limestone hills? Enough of pussy-footing. Let’s have some straight answers.

(Source)

In the end this is a story of how some people screwed themselves left, right and center. In the meantime, enjoy the up-coming wayang kulits and a string of memory lapses as the Pakatan State Government gets their hands into the mess left behind by the same community crusaders. Happy holidays to all.