All I want for Christmas


Mariam Mokhtar | Dec 26, 2011
Malaysiakini

The spirit of Christmas lives on in Malaysia, regardless of race or religion. I know of several non-Christians who have not forgotten the joy of giving and thinking of others before themselves. Some find solace in singing carols in a group. Others delight in thinking about what to get for friends, family or colleagues.

A few join in the season of goodwill by the simple act of volunteering, while others help relieve Christian colleagues who want the day off to celebrate Christmas. Perhaps, there is something about the magic of Christmas, which even diehard Muslim extremists will never destroy.

When I was in primary school, Lembaga Letrik Negara (LLN), the pre-cursor of Tenaga National Bhd, used to hold Christmas parties for children, principally of its employees.

It was an event that every child looked forward to eagerly. As Christmas fell during the school holidays, it was another happy occasion that children and parents found welcoming.

It did not matter if the child was Malay, Chinese, Indian or Eurasian. No one bothered if the child who went was Christian or not. It wasn’t just the children who were excited. The accompanying parents enjoyed the get-together, which was always held at the Kilat Kelab.

Every child looked forward to receiving a present from Father Christmas. Newcomers would feel intimidated at first, but their shyness would melt away once they were told that Santa was approaching. His noisy arrival was not by reindeer and sled. LLN’s Santa came in a bright red “cherry picker”, garlanded with tinsel.

The cherry picker would be lowered and Santa would exit with his big sack of goodies. The children would crowd around Santa before rushing off to open their presents.

I believe those care-free days are gone now.

A young relative whose birthday falls on Christmas day always persuades her parents to buy a Christmas tree to place her gifts under it. It is all harmless fun but the vitriol she received from social network sites when she proudly showed her decorations online last week, has caused her to question why people can be so nasty, to accuse her of “going against Islamic teachings”.

Similarly, a Malay friend who tweeted to his Christian friend “Merry Christmas” received abusive and threatening responses from others who charged him with deviating from Islam.

I’ll not be cowed by bigots

Once, when I played Handel’s carols on the piano at a friend’s house, I received a telling off for playing “Christian” music. I carried on regardless, I refuse to be cowed by a narrow minded bigot.

Although many of my Malay friends and family happily go about celebrating Christmas with our Christian friends, it is alarming to find that in 21st century Malaysia, there are many insecure Muslims. Do they believe that a Muslim who enjoys singing ‘O Come All Ye Faithful”, who relishes turkey and stuffing, or the child who delights in decorating Christmas trees, has all but embraced Christianity?

If Muslims who choose to celebrate Christmas with their friends are given a hard time, the Christians in Malaysia must be going through a trying period. They have suffered “persecution” in one form or another, despite Article 11 of the Constitution which guarantees religious freedom for all Malaysians (bar Muslims).

Earlier this year, a furore erupted when Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak attended the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Murphy Xavier Pakiam’s Christmas (2010) tea party. Prior to the PM’s arrival, church officials had to remove crucifixes and other religious symbols, and told not to sing hymns or pray, in Najib’s presence.

In the following months, two consignments of 5,100 and 35,000 copies of the Bible, which were confiscated at Port Klang and Kuching, respectively, in 2009 were released after much wrangling and publicity.

Although Najib ordered Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein to release the copies of the Bible, the Holy Books were defaced, to satisfy two conditions set by the government.

Had the boot been on the other foot…

If the boot had been on the other foot, would the Muslim backlash have been as controlled as the one from the Malaysian Christian community? Would Perkasa have run amok?

There have been other incidents directed against the Christian community, such as the ban on the word “Allah” and the torching of churches.

In this year’s Christmas message, Najib reminded Malaysians to “spread goodwill and cheer, just in time to usher in the New Year and make a fresh start” and added that “We could all use a little reminder….”

He told Malaysians to “seize every opportunity to forge better understanding between Malaysians of different cultures and faith”.

Describing his courtesy visit in July to Pope Benedict XVI at his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, Najib hoped that the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican City and Malaysia, would forge “closer links and inter-faith dialogue”.

Najib’s Christmas message further described his commitment to “strengthen the interaction that has long exists (sic) with the Christian community. I have always made a special effort to meet with people of all faith (sic). I look forward to continue this practice to seek your ideas and hear your thoughts for the betterment of our society.”

The PM said that Malaysia’s celebrations were “specific to cultural and religious communities” such as the “gift-giving custom commonly practised during Christmas”. He described his fascination with how “the nation’s multi-cultural…. multi-religious practices blend into the society”.

Najib encouraged fellow Malaysians to understand one another better, and to “appreciate them for the diversity and strength they contribute to our beloved nation”.

Perhaps Najib’s new attitude in the Christmas message is the result of a blessing from the Pope?

Despite all the trials that Malaysian Christians have undergone in recent times, what they do not lack is the spirit of forgiveness.

Events in Malaysia have tested the patience of the rakyat. The faith and trust that we placed in the leaders has been abused and lost.

The bond among the races is strong despite the attempts of the Umno/BN politicians to break it.

But like the message of goodwill, we have not lost the hope that a better Malaysia will evolve.

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MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

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  1. #1 by monsterball on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 11:21 am

    True Muslims rejoice at the birth of Jesus the greatest Messiah or Prophet of all.
    They only disagree with Christian he is the son of God.
    Najib had his chance to get some Christian votes….but he blew it.
    He had to ignore by going on vacation.
    It is either for Ibrahim Ali ….trying to upset the country or promote peace and harmony to no use for UMNO b at all.

  2. #2 by dagen on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 11:48 am

    /// Earlier this year, a furore erupted when Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak attended the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Murphy Xavier Pakiam’s Christmas (2010) tea party. Prior to the PM’s arrival, church officials had to remove crucifixes and other religious symbols, and told not to sing hymns or pray, in Najib’s presence.

    In the following months, two consignments of 5,100 and 35,000 copies of the Bible, which were confiscated at Port Klang and Kuching, respectively, in 2009 were released after much wrangling and publicity.

    Although Najib ordered Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein to release the copies of the Bible, the Holy Books were defaced, to satisfy two conditions set by the government. /// Mariam.

    According to umno’s great ketuanan rules these are instances of challenge mounted by christians against umno’s ketuanan rights – an act of anti-agung, anti-sultan, anti-islam jenis umno, anti-melayu (actually umnoputra), and anti-gobermen; and is unpatriotic and ungrateful, and hence they may have their citizenship revoked and they may also be ISA-ed.

    If umno is allowed to form the next gobermen, I suspect that it would pass laws to chop down all pine trees in the country as they are associated with christmas and christians; and to require that all churches and temples (indians and buddhists) be concealed from umnoputras’ view by way of a 50ft high perimeter wall.

  3. #3 by Cinapek on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 11:59 am

    “…Perhaps Najib’s new attitude in the Christmas message is the result of a blessing from the Pope?…”

    Mariam, you kidding or imbibe too much tuak?

    Remember what Najib proclaimed soon after returning from his Vatican visit? “Christians must respect Islam……..”. He never said anything about mutual respect.

  4. #4 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 12:05 pm

    We should ask ourselves when did this Christian fearing start in earnest, and why? Is it because Christianity is the fastest growing religion in 1Malaysia (by conversions) and the Muslims (the mullahs) fear the loss of power and influence should the floodgates be opened and people voluntarily leave in droves? Why, the country might even become a Christian country overnight !

    I know of many non-Christian Malaysian students in UK universities who are sympathetic and attracted towards Christianity but to convert into it would mean they would face considerable problems when they return to 1Malaysia.

    They would not be allowed to practice the religion of their choice but would need to be re-educated to ensure they revert back to their former religion. There would also be strong community and family pressures about how they should lead their lives.

    One of them (a couple) told me there will not be any freedom and peace of mind should they return which they very much like to do. So they keep their secret and lead double lives when they go back for visits. They are fortunate because they know deeply about other religions and they have freely made their choice which makes them happy.

  5. #5 by HJ Angus on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 12:58 pm

    I think it was a mistake of the church officials to remove the crucifix before the PM’s arrival….such compromises/capitulation only reinforce the extremists calls.
    I met a Muslim couple from Turkey and they were astounded at how Malaysians are being ill-treated on religious issues.
    It seems in Turkey Muslims are allowed only one wife and the secular system is practised; with no religious enforcement by the state.
    So we had a hilarious discussion of COWs and the Allah issue.

  6. #6 by yhsiew on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 1:08 pm

    ///it is alarming to find that in 21st century Malaysia, there are many insecure Muslims…..///

    Putting fear into Muslims hearts has long been Umno’s tactic of garnering suppport from the Malays. Umno does not care whether the country will be racially divided by playing out the religion card, as long as it can garner support from the Malays.

  7. #7 by dagen on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 2:35 pm

    All I want for christmas is “ABU”.

  8. #8 by monsterball on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 2:46 pm

    All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth…so said the child and fishing guys may want an ABU fishing rot.
    Girls may want money to go shopping.
    Mothers shopping days are over…stay home and plan good dinner.
    Fathers that do not fish…have headaches spending more that he can afford to keep everyone happy.
    True Malaysians work overtime and harder to earn the extras.
    UMNO b guys plan how to steal more to be happy like before..no sweat..no need to work at all.

  9. #9 by monsterball on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 2:50 pm

    Christmas is over…and now……
    2012 New Year celebration.
    Soon Chinese New Year.
    Corruptions working double time secretly.
    If Jaws can steal millions….why can’t small fishes steal too?
    Who is Mhiyuddin trying to fool…catching crooks?

  10. #10 by sotong on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 3:26 pm

    They will exploit anything to get support and retain power…..they don’t care the permanent and long term damage it has on the country and her ordinary people.

  11. #11 by HJ Angus on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 4:28 pm

    I think it was a mistake of the church officials to remove the crucifix before the PM’s arrival….such compromises/capitulation only reinforce the extremists calls.
    I met a Muslim couple from Turkey and they were astounded at how Malaysians are being ill-treated on religious issues.
    It seems in Turkey Muslims are allowed only one wife and the secular system is practised; with no religious enforcement by the state.
    So we had a hilarious discussion of COWs and the Axxah issue.

  12. #12 by undertaker888 on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 5:53 pm

    Malaysian Muslims born during the reign of the evil sith lord mamak onwards have been programmed to be bigots and intolerable. This is the work of mamak Satan.

    His superiority definition is to suppress, oppress the other races. Superiority in Education, skills development, knowledge, technology do not count. His formula is to keep the malays uneducated, bigots, corrupted and lazy so that they will all need to kneel to him and his future kings to be fed.

  13. #13 by Loh on Thursday, 29 December 2011 - 7:09 pm

    ///In this year’s Christmas message, Najib reminded Malaysians to “spread goodwill and cheer, just in time to usher in the New Year and make a fresh start” and added that “We could all use a little reminder….”

    He told Malaysians to “seize every opportunity to forge better understanding between Malaysians of different cultures and faith”.///==Mariam Mokhtar

    All the talks about spreading goodwill and understanding about cultures and faith of other communities would not have been needed as without government sponsored racial polarization, goodwill among humans grows naturally. There is no need to create impression of harmony on occasions of festivity. Najib could have helped healed wounds brought about by the cold war between different communities since NEP if Najib had really meant that 1Malaysia to be Malaysian Malaysia. But Najib’s one Malaysia has always been a binary concept of us and them: Malays and non-Malays, privileged and oppressed, rule by law, and merry in lawlessness.

    Malaysians of any faith are not more religious than their counterparts in other countries. Yet Muslims from abroad seem to think that Muslims in Malaysia are over sensitive in ensuring that they are not considered less religious than others. Thus people who practice the Islamic faith in Malaysia are more concerned about how religious other perceives them to be than would they themselves care with regard to self discipline. Hence there are people who cried out loud in protecting Islamic religion as if they harbored the fear that their religious credential is wanting.

    Why religion should play such an important part in the life people, and particularly Islam to Muslims in this country? The answer is religion to the people means more than their personal faith. It has the added value of political capital. That capital adds value to people who wanted to show outwardly that they are champion of the religion and along with it the persons who practice that religion. As Malays must be Muslims, and leaving the faith leaves the race, people who are afraid to be taken as not-so-Malay would have to redouble their effort to be champion of the religion. Imagine normally mortals need blessings from God of the religious belief and now mortals declare that they have to protect the religion, and by extension the God.

    That is amazing Malaysia.

  14. #14 by HJ Angus on Friday, 30 December 2011 - 7:29 am

    once upon a time in Malaysia, we had palaces but nowadays those places have become tainted with money politics…..after so many years political leaders are very adept at working the levers of patronage using taxpayers’ monies.

  15. #15 by dagen on Friday, 30 December 2011 - 1:22 pm

    /// Najib reminded Malaysians to “spread goodwill and cheer, just in time to usher in the New Year and make a fresh start” and added that “We could all use a little reminder….”

    He told Malaysians to “seize every opportunity to forge better understanding between Malaysians of different cultures and faith. /// author.

    Jib’s statements above means that all non-umnoputras must sieze every opportunity to understand and accept umnoputras’ ketuanan rights better; and never to question those rights and hopefully the country could then have a fresh start so and umnoputras could plunge their hands deeper into the country’s coffer and siphon more money out of the country.

  16. #16 by boh-liao on Saturday, 31 December 2011 - 2:12 am

    UmnoB/BNputras SING: I WANT, I WANT more SOFT LOANS (aka GIFTS fr Ah Kong) 4 something like COW farms, n they will seize every opportunity 2 jiak, jiak, jiak :D

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