Saturday, November 5, 2011

Eyeing Raja Zarith Sofia's message



RAJA ZARITH IDRIS (Sultanah of Johore)

-My Running Deer (animated) Friends,

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Season of goodwill
MIND MATTER by RAJA ZARITH IDRIS (Sultanah of Johore)


If Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Isa (Jesus), a prophet respected and revered in Islam, is it so wrong to wish a blessed day for those who celebrate it?

DURING the days before Christmas last year, I wished my friends who were celebrating it "Merry Christmas" in much the same way they would wish me "Selamat Hari Raya" or "Happy Eid".

I find it rather sad that such a simple greeting – one which I grew up with and which I have never regarded as something that would compromise or de-value my own faith – is now regarded as something so religiously incorrect for us Malaysian Muslims.

When I was at boarding school in England , I had to go to church every Sunday because it was part of the rules. My father advised me to consider it as part of my "education" and he had no doubt that the experience would strengthen rather than weaken my own faith.

I was able to see the similarities and differences between Christianity and Islam. I learned more than the average Malaysian Muslim would about Christianity. I learnt that just as we Muslims categorise ourselves according to the four different schools of thoughts of the four Imams (Imam Malik, Imam Al Shafi, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Ahmad Abn Hambal) and are either Sunnis or Shias, so Christians too are divided into different sects or churches.

Going to church did not make me less of a Muslim when I was a young girl, and neither does saying "Merry Christmas" make me less of a Muslim now. My faith has not been shaken just because I wished some friends a time of joy with their families. Neither will I suddenly suffer from amnesia and forget what my religion is.

What I do not wish to forget, however, is that there are good, kind people who are not of the same faith as me.

As Harun Yahya, the Turkish writer (he was selected last year as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Isla mic Strategic Studies Centre of Jordan ) noted:

"Islam is a religion of peace, love and tolerance".

Today, however, some circles have been presenting a false image of Islam, as if there were conflict between Islam and the adherents of the two other monotheistic religions. Yet Islam's view of Jews and Christians, who are named `the People of the Book' in the Quran, is very friendly and tolerant.

"This attitude towards the People of the Book developed during the years of the birth of Islam. At that time, Muslims were a minority, struggling to protect their faith and suffering oppression and torture from the pagans of the city of Mecca . Due to this persecution, some Muslims decided to flee Mecca and shelter in a safe country with a just ruler. The Prophet Muhammad told them to take refuge with King Negus, the Christian king of Ethiopia . The Muslims who followed this advice found a very fair administration that embraced them with love and respect when they went to Ethiopia . King Negus refused the demands of the pagan messengers who asked him to surrender the Muslims to them, and announced that Muslims could live freely in his country.

"Such attitudes of Christian people that are based on the concepts of compassion, mercy, modesty and justice, constitute a fact that God has pointed out in the Quran."

I do not wish to be a self-centred Muslim who expects friends of other faiths to wish me Selamat Hari Raya or, for those who are not Malaysians and therefore do not know about Hari Raya, a Happy Eid and yet do not return their goodwill when it is Christmas, Chinese New Year, Deepavali or Vesak Day.

Every year, friends who are Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs or those without any faith come to our home to celebrate Hari Raya with us. They do so with sincerity and as a mark of respect for one of the most important days in the Muslim calendar. Why should we not reciprocate their kindness, show them the same mark of respect for their religion and wish them the same joy on their holy days of celebration?

An Isla mic scholar and lecturer also reminded me that as Muslims we must remember the importance of both the five Pillars of Islam and in the six Pillars of Iman (Faith), which are:

Belief in Allah;

Belief in the angels;

Belief in the revealed Books (which include the Bible, the Torah and the Holy Quran);

Belief in the Prophets (May Peace be Upon Them);

Belief in the Resurrection and the events of Kiamah, the Day of Judgement; and

Belief in the predestination (Qada' and Qadar) by Allah in all things.

The prophets include not just Muhammad (May Peace Be Upon Him) as the last prophet and as the Messenger of Islam, but also in the 24 earlier ones who are mentioned in both the Bible and the Quran. Four of them are Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Daud (David), and Isa (Jesus).

So, if Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Isa (Jesus), a prophet respected and revered in Islam, is it so wrong to wish a blessed day for those who celebrate it?

We are now in the second decade of the 21st century. Surely, we should, now more than ever, be far more enlightened at a time when information of any sort and of all kinds are so readily available to us.

What is most important is that we regard one another as fellow citizens and treat each other with respect, regardless of our race or religion.


The writer is Royal Fellow, School of Language Studies and Linguistics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), and holds a BA (Honours) degree in Chinese Studies, University of Oxford .


[The writer is also the current Sultanah of Johor]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Eyeing the other side of Gaddafi

HOW MUCH OF THIS IS TRUE?
The international media, influenced by the Americans, has successfully painted Gaddafi as a hard-core dictator, tyrant or whatever you want to call him. However, the media as usual has also failed to show the kind, giving Gaddafi we never heard of. Gaddafi unlike most dictators has managed to show his humane side, the very side we dream of seeing in other dictators. I consider Libyans lucky to a certain extent and one wonders with the new democratic rule they cry for will it improve or worsen life for them. Yes, Gaddafi has spent millions of Libya`s money on personal ventures but is the average Libyan poor? We know others who take a country and destroy it until you feel like there is no hope of restoring this country… looting some prefer to call it. Did Gaddafi loot Libya in any way?
Now let us get to the unknown facts about the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi:
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1. There is no electricity bill in Libya; electricity is free for all its citizens.
2. There is no interest on loans, banks in Libya are state-owned and loans given to all its citizens at 0% interest by law.
3. Home considered a human right in Libya – Gaddafi vowed that his parents would not get a house until everyone in Libya had a home. Gaddafi’s father has died while him, his wife and his mother are still living in a tent.
4. All newlyweds in Libya receive $60,000 Dinar (US$50,000) by the government to buy their first apartment so to help start up the family.
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Traditional wedding in Tripoli, Libya
5. Education and medical treatments are free in Libya. Before Gaddafi only 25% of Libyans are literate. Today the figure is 83%.
6. Should Libyans want to take up farming career, they would receive farming land, a farming house, equipments, seeds and livestock to kick-start their farms – all for free.
7. If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need in Libya, the government funds them to go abroad for it – not only free but they get US$2,300/mth accommodation and car allowance.
8. In Libyan, if a Libyan buys a car, the government subsidized 50% of the price.
9. The price of petrol in Libya is $0.14 per liter.
10. Libya has no external debt and its reserves amount to $150 billion – now frozen globally.
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Great Man-Made River project in Libya… $27 billion
11. If a Libyan is unable to get employment after graduation the state would pay the average salary of the profession as if he or she is employed until employment is found.
12. A portion of Libyan oil sale is, credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens.
13. A mother who gave birth to a child receive US$5,000
14. 40 loaves of bread in Libya costs $ 0.15
15. 25% of Libyans have a university degree
16. Gaddafi carried out the world’s largest irrigation project, known as the Great Man-Made River project, to make water readily available throughout the desert country.