Thursday, November 04, 2004

Embracing Islam is embracing Malay?

There was an article that I found in 'Milenia Muslim' which talks about ethnocentrism which means the belief that one's ethnic identity is far more superior to others. This time they were relating it to the issue of Non-Muslim embracing Islam. This issue has come up once or twice before and it was refreshing to read an article written in the perspective of a newcomer (mu'allaf).

In Malaysia we've always associated Islam with Malays. If you're Malay then you're definitely Muslim but most people also think that if you’re Muslim then you're Malay or should become like one. This is SO wrong.

I don't know why this issue should come up when we've been living in a country which is multiracial and religious freedom is practice. So when a non-Muslim wants to embrace Islam or any other religion, cultural aspect of a race associated with that religion shouldn’t be a part of religion itself. But that is exactly what is happening. For a non-Muslim embracing Islam also means embracing Malay 'masuk Melayu'. I have personally seen proof of this so-called phenomenon.

Once when I was 14, I was reprimanded for eating with chopsticks. I was at a mall with a bunch of friends having lunch when suddenly the security guard came up to me and says, "Awak tak malu ke. Dahla pakai tudung tapi makan macam orang kafir." (Aren't you ashamed? You're wearing a scarf and yet you're eating like a non-Muslim.) Then the guy walked off. I was speechless. All this while I have never been told that eating with a chopstick was wrong. I even use it at home and my parents are cool about it. But like any 14 year old I just laughed it off. But at home I mentioned the incident to my dad and surprisingly he was quite steamed up about it. He gave me a point which no one could refute, there's more than 100 million Muslims in China which is 10 times more Muslims in Malaysia so should we reprimand them for eating with chopsticks? And what about the fork and spoon? They're not Malay's culture so should we stop using them?

Quite a big issue for a 14 year old to ponder about but what my dad says makes sense even then. We should never associate Islam with a culture. If we do then what's the point of God creating different kind of people. I don't like to point fingers but its people like that security guard that takes Islam back and not forward. These type of people have this mindset that the Malay way is the best and all other races just doesn't know any better hence they’re 'kafirs'. Well… have they ever wondered why those people don't want to embrace Islam?

No race wants their culture to die out so it is understandable when certain people are apprehensive about converting to another religion. It's especially worrying to the converter's members of the family of the. They're worried that any ties to their family will be severed. But we should always remember once we’re born into a certain race we shall die as a member of that race and nothing can ever change that. Even religion.

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