By Thomas Lee
More than 40 Muslim senior citizens have returned cash aid from the Penang state government due to suspicion and uneasiness over the sources of the funding.
Bernama quoted an imam from Pulau Mertajam, Saidin Chik, 72, as saying that he decided to return the money as he learned that it was from non-halal activities.
“I received a RM100 aid sometime this year, but I heard over television and read in the newspapers that the money was from gambling activities. We have been praying everyday and suddenly we get a cash aid from non-halal sources and spent it. What is going to happen to our prayers?” he said.
Saidin told reporters this after handing over the money to Penang Umno secretary Azhar Ibrahim on Wednesday 29 September 2010.
According to Azhar, who is also the Penaga state assembly member, the Muslim recipients suffered mental anguish and emotional distress after knowing that they had received cash aid from non-halal sources, and are terrified at the thought of spending the money.
Azhar said more Muslim senior citizens are expected to hand over the money to the Umno Youth to return it to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
The Umno Youth had earlier claimed that the state government was using a contribution from the Penang Turf Club to fund its hardcore poor eradication programme.
The Penang state government has acknowledged receiving RM500,000 from the Penang Turf Club, but said the money would be used to help poor non-Muslims.
Certainly, due respect must be given to our Muslim friends whose religious conscience does not permit them to accept money originated from non-halal source, but the unwitting and inadvertent incident should not exploited into a religious and political issue.
Guan Eng should not be lambasted for something which he probably assumed is proper and harmless, since over the years, the Barisan Nasional federal government has been using tax monies from the gambling corporations and haram businesses like pubs and non-halal restaurants which serve alcoholic drinks, and also from workers in haram professions such as pork sellers, to fund government and public projects.
Now that we know that it is forbidden (haram) for our Muslim citizens to accept and use monies derived from non-halal sources, then the federal government should rectify the matter, and have a special separate account for all tax monies collected from the haram sources such as Sports Toto, Magnum, the Genting casino, the pubs, and the entertainment joints and restaurants selling alcoholic drinks. These monies must never ever be used in anything associated with Islam, or in projects which may involve the Muslims.
No, I am not being cynical, just respecting the religious conscience of my Muslim brothers and sisters. Their right to practise their faith without impediment and hindrance must surely be upheld and given the utmost due respect.
Even in my own Christian faith, there are some followers who will not eat food that had been used in a worship ceremony of another religion. Although many of us who are more open and liberal do not feel restrained by our conscience on such matters, we do respect the wish and aspiration of the others who believe in the abstinence.
As for the tax monies collected from the haram sources, the federal government could use them for the building of Chinese and Tamil schools, temples, churches, cemeteries, or even scholarships for the non-Muslim students.
The totally unpremeditated “mistake” of the Penang state government should not be exploited by Umno to undermine the good and people-friendly scheme of helping the poor and needy of the state. Perhaps, Guan Eng should reoffer the cash aid to our Muslim brothers and sisters from a more acceptable source, such as rentals from Komtar or other state buildings.
Let us look at the positive side of this incident, and learn from it. Don’t aggravate the situation to turn it into a religious issue, like holding demonstrations against Guan Eng. I know Guan Eng personally for many years and firmly believe that he is a very good man with a good heart, with no malice or spite toward anybody, especially the Penangites of all races and religions under his tender care. And he is definitely not anti-Islam or anti-anybody, only anti-corruption and anti-discrimination.
Don’t exacerbate and exploit this cash aid matter, which any sane person will know and understand, has been done without any ill-intent.