by azly rahman
For this week’s column, I wish to share brief notes that I had used to contemplate on the state of things our country has been in. From the controversy over the proper attire a ‘Muslim gymnast’ should wear, to the question of ‘Islamic culture’, on the increasing use of the word ‘Bangsa Johor’ as a battle cry in the yet another phase of the Mahathir Mohamad-Najib Abdul Razak mahabharatta (‘the great war’), and finally on the question of who actually is a true ‘Bugis warrior’ - all these preoccupied me this past two weeks. Here are my notes:
What then is ‘Islamic culture’?
Don’t let Islam in Malaysia be reduced to an imitation of a tribal culture Islam in Arabia tried to eliminate; tribalism carries with it a tribalistic ideology, drawn from the discourse of ideological animosity amongst tribes trying to control each other and hegemonise thinking by pegging these ‘neo-tribalistic doctrines’ as Islamic practices.
It is easy for the 80 percent non-Arabic speaking Muslims to fall prey to these re-tribalised ideas of spirituality and how to engage in public display of such spirituality through language, rites, rituals, and dress codes which may include the commercialisation of religious objects and romanticisation of the superiority of this or that diet of the tribes of Arabia; foodstuff such as goat’s milk, dates, and pistachios named as ‘the nuts for geniuses’ (‘kacang cerdik’).
As far as my observation goes, in the case of Malay Muslims, I do not see many Arabs obsessed with wearing Malay clothes such as the kebaya and batik, as much as I see Malays wearing head coverings in a multitude of styles and men adopting Arab clothing as daily wear.
This is the complexity of culture mistaken as religion.
We must question what these are - and even what to wear to make us spiritually comfortable in what we believe as a truth.
Guidelines for Islamic arts in Malaysia?
And what in the whole wide world shall that be?
declaring that rock, jazz, classical, rap, hip hop, and western folk music as un-Islamic ?
declaring that all paintings produced must not depict human beings - only flora and fauna?
declaring that all female singers can no longer sing on stage as the voice is considered ‘aurat’?
declaring that sports in school should now be events separating boys and girls?
declaring that all football players must wear long pants and grow beard?
what in the world is ‘Islamic arts and culture’?
Bring these guidelines to Iran and Pakistan if you must
or else - spend your time and energy passing decrees to help us catch the country’s biggest thieves hiding behind pious language.
What in the world is that too?
don’t expect gymnasts to wear the burqa’
they will look like flying nuns
don’t teach every kampong football team
to takbir “Allahu Akbaar” at every goal scored - they are not having a match against the Dajjal or Yakjuj Makjuj United
don’t expect every Muslim to learn horse-riding and shoot arrows at fleeing camels
this is neither Islamic nor cheap a sports
each sports has its attire
let it be
let it be
there is neither a Muslim sportsman and woman nor a Kaffir one
there is just sports and sports alone
as I cannot be wearing a long robe and a turban playing football
unless I am in the Little Ayatollahs League
in a friendly but fiery match between the Syiahs and the Sunnis.
What in the world is that ?
there is none -
only those born and raised in that place
and grew up discovering that the rich is getting richer
and the poor, poorer in a state on sale, increasingly to foreigners
never coin a new word and lace it with pride
without understanding the ugliness it may also hide.
- be proud of your cultural heritage
for therein lies the ethics of authenticity of your past
- be proud of your willingness to explore other worldviews
for therein lies the possibilities of your humanistic future
- be proud of living in the here and now
for there is fundamentally no past nor future
what merely exists, perhaps
is an ever-changing present
Malaysian forum on ‘Hide and Seek and Everybody Hides’
In the North it will be called ‘Forum Achi Lut’
in the South, ‘Forum Main Sembunyi Ibu’,
the winner gets to play Achi Ligan in the North
and Galah Panjang in the South
the loser to sing Aci Aci Buka Pintu
I think this will be good for the next Great Malaysian Forum
it should be a live telecast over the Internet, with streaming video
to avoid protests and screamings over any mention of Jay Low or Jay Leno.
Never call yourself a Bugis warrior
if you are a chicken without feathers
if even a friendly dialogue will engulf you in total fear
if you are a plunderer of the nation's coffers
and this is what the real Bugis warriors will do - shame you to tears
for today, it is not about a war between tribal leaders
but between self-glorified mega thieves and mega burglars.
Have a blessed Ramadan for those observing the practice of this special month of the Islamic calendar. May this be a time to reflect on what is right and who has been wronged and a chance to realise the meaning of Humanity rather than to perpetually think chauvinistically.
May we see light at the end of the tunnel of our darkest spring the nation has ever seen. Our fear is that, after the ‘seize fire period of Ramadan’ ends, hell will break loose again. Let us all work for peace; at least within ourselves, first.