Archive for the ‘Celebrating Diversity’ Category

We should always identify ourselves as Malaysians first

Saturday, August 31st, 2019
It is a right and responsibility of Malaysians to want a better Malaysia. FILE  PIC.

WHAT is patriotism? We can define it as love and respect for our homeland.

It is pride in one’s country that drives people to work hard for the development of the nation, protect its heritage and culture, and safeguard the country from being destroyed by external or internal forces.

Former United States politician Adlai Stevenson once said: “Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

Patriotism implies a sense of belonging that binds people together. It is symbolised by flying the flag and respecting the national anthem.

Under the Jalur Gemilang, Malaysia attained independence and we built our lives harmoniously.

But patriotism comes in various forms. When we speak up and defend our country, it is a patriotic act. When we refrain from committing vandalism on public property or littering in public places, we are being patriotic.

When we contribute to making our community free from crime or protecting and preserving our environment, we are being patriotic.

Being patriotic also means contributing one’s views and opinions to areas that can bring good to the country. It is a right and responsibility of Malaysians to want a better Malaysia.

Patriotism should be instilled from childhood because when children love their homeland, they will grow up appreciating their heritage, diversity and history.

Patriotism can be instilled in students through awareness, education and knowledge.

The education system should inculcate pride and belonging to the nation in students. Only through a sense of belonging can Malaysia’s younger generation be moulded into responsible and mature citizens as well as future leaders.

The younger generation must be made aware of the importance of unity as it is the cornerstone of the nation’s success. It is imperative that they forge closer relations despite differences in race, culture and religion.

Fostering unity should begin in schools where efforts can be made to instil interracial harmony, unity and peace in students.

Principals and teachers need to be creative to get students to participate in activities that boost racial integration. They must encourage students to understand one another better.

Parents need to cultivate and practise positive values to inspire their children to emulate good behaviour.

Values such as honesty, integrity, tolerance, diligence, fairness, respect for elders and civic consciousness must be upheld.

After 62 years of independence, Malaysians should be more united as we share the same dreams and aspirations for a better Malaysia.

We should identify ourselves first as Malaysians. I have always believed that to be Malaysian does not make a person less Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban.

History has proven that Malaysia was able to overcome challenges if the people are united.

Our diversity is our strength and it is the recipe for achieving development and socio-economic progress.

By TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2019/08/517165/we-should-always-identify-ourselves-malaysians-first

A Merdeka wish for peace

Saturday, August 31st, 2019
It is our fervent Merdeka hope that violence and aggression be better handled and reduced. File Pic

I REMEMBER reading a research done in Indonesia some years back that science st‎udents are more readily radicalised to commit violence and extremism compared with their non-science counterparts.

One of the reasons cited was because science is a more rigid — black or white — discipline with few grey areas in between. As a result, science students are more inclined to decide on one or the other.

Whereas the humanities students are more used to choosing the “in-betweens” and feel comfortable with it. Although they may later gravitate towards violence but there is also a chance they may do otherwise.

In other words, religion may not be the main cause for violence per se.

That said, many were relieved to learn from the International Seminar on Religious Values in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism held last week at International Islamic University Malaysia that religions are indeed innocent bystanders‎ being (mis)assigned the malicious blame.

There are many factors that drive someone towards extremism. According to an expert on religion-state-society studies,‎ geopolitical or economic influences are more likely to be the cause, although religious labelling are more often used which then makes the issues more complex. At times politicians are the culprits by using religions for their vested interest.

Professor Mark Woodward said religious leaders instead have a crucial role and responsibility to play in stopping violent extremism. Together with politicians, religious leaders should refrain from using religious hatred as political tools to advance their own interests.

Policy makers are, therefore, ill-advised to use theological orientation as a factor in assessing the violent potential of Muslim movements and organisations, he writes. Instead more attention should be paid to variables that measure political attitudes and behaviour.

In line with this, the United Nations Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) urged states “to consider ‎ways to have a more inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels in local, national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflict, including institutions and mechanisms to counter violent extremism”.

The seminar thus recommends the formation of a coordinating body, i.e. a secretariat, to facilitate the National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) under the purview of the Home Ministry.

This is to consolidate government resources towards actionable response on PCVE issues and to also involve other stakeholders and acquire expertise from educational, civil society organisations and the private sector.

As it is, a survey of existing PCVE programmes across various ministries and agencies, such as the Department of National Unity and Integration under the Prime Minister’s Department, indicates that there are significant efforts at engagement and capacity building for PCVE.

However, there are also overlapping and duplication of efforts and responsibilities of these different government agencies which may prevent effective and cost-efficient enforcement of policies. By having a national secretariat, better optimisation of resources and best practices can be achieved‎. ‎In addition, it also recommends the development of a PCVE programme package for Malaysian youths for national implementation.

This will be ascertained through a pilot study and identification of existing best practices across government ministries and agencies.

The principles of public health provide a useful framework for PCVE using capacity building especially in terms of research, collaboration, advocacy and engagement as part of more general nation-building efforts and also target segmentation of those considered to be at risk of radicalisation and violence.

By rigorously understanding the causes and consequences of violent extremism and terrorism via research and instrumentation, a more general but relevant primary prevention programme, policy interventions, advocacy; and a more focused countering of violent extremism programmes can be created.

Before all those, it also recommends that outmoded aspects of PCVE be reformed and expanded in the so-called post-ISIS period, by giving focus on the threat of far-right extremism and other religious and ideological radicalism, and the dynamics of their exchanges intra and between communities that threaten local and global peace.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/08/517427/merdeka-wish-peace

NST Leader: Celebrate our diversity

Saturday, August 31st, 2019
Malaysians, young and old, and from all walks of life, must prevail over the challenges together, regardless of race, to progress as a developed and high-income country. We need to rekindle the spirit of muhibbah (goodwill) that seems to have faded into the woodwork over time. (NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD)

MALAYSIA is 62 today. As an independent nation that has seen 14 general elections, been served by six prime ministers and two political coalitions, how have we fared? Have we achieved Merdeka in its truest sense?

Merdeka is not just about celebrating independence or flying the Jalur Gemilang. True Merdeka is about preserving a nation’s unity — the unity that guarantees the survival of a nation. Malaysia is said to be a melting pot of different cultures, races and religions; in essence it is still a young and growing nation. After more than six decades, our journey is far from complete.

As a nation, we seem to have come full circle, and the old demons that we thought we had vanquished post-independence have resurfaced, such as disunity, the race issue, income disparity and a depressed economy (although this is mostly external).

Malaysians, young and old, and from all walks of life, must prevail over the challenges together, regardless of race, to progress as a developed and high-income country. We need to rekindle the spirit of muhibbah (goodwill) that seems to have faded into the woodwork over time. Muhibbah was the theme in the campaign for unity after our dark moment in history — it was a time when camaraderie and the bond of friendship was strong among the people, and where the young were taught values of nation-building and the meaning of Merdeka. Those were Malaysia’s summer years.

Physically and economically, Malaysia has grown — reportedly, economists forecast Malaysia’s economy to grow at 4.5 per cent this year to RM1.51 trillion from last year’s RM1.45 trillion, despite the uncertainty from the prolonged US-China trade war. We have a national car, buildings and skyscrapers, but all these would mean naught if we are not united.

Things have become complicated today. Malaysians tend to forget this is a country that was built on the blood, sweat and tears of the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sikhs, Orang Asli, Kadazan, Bidayuh, Murut — all those races. We appear to have lost all sense of respect for each other.

In recent weeks, we have seen incidents of flags flown upside down, insults and slurs exchanged over the introduction of khat in schools and a fender bender turned racial. Issues have been blown out of proportion, and rumours, slanders and lies have become the norm. Rightly, we have to ask ourselves how much do we love this country and are we patriotic enough to protect our sovereignty from internal and external threats. Let’s reflect and ponder.

Building a nation is like growing a family — good parents grow a family that will always be one because each member knows he belongs. Bad parents, seen to favour some over others, usually can’t hold a family together. Leaders, therefore, must set the course, chart the direction wisely and become exemplars.

Today is Merdeka — let’s celebrate our diversity, warts and all. We have inherited a beautiful and peaceful country from our forefathers; as patriotic citizens we have a responsibility to guard this Shangri-la at all costs and make it better for future generations.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2019/08/517433/nst-leader-celebrate-our-diversity

Celebrating our uniqueness

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

With six days to go before Malaysia marks her 62nd year of independence, schools and universities are showing their patriotic spirit by celebrating the diversity and colours that unite us. StarEdu finds out what students in the Klang Valley are doing for this Merdeka season.

DESCRIBING herself as Malaysian to the core, Dr Mahaletchimi Balakrishnan always chooses to fly Malaysia Airlines when visiting her daughter who is studying in Auckland, New Zealand.

“I would always choose our national carrier whenever I travel overseas. Although I can see from the map that the plane has left Malaysia, I’ll still feel like I’m home (on the plane), ” she said.

The true-blue Malaysian is SMK Rawang’s senior assistant of co-curricular activities and Bahasa Malaysia teacher, who wanted to share her love for the country with her students and teachers in the school.

(Standing from left) Nurul Arianna, Chean, Teejes, Syahirah Medinna, adviser Navitra G. Selvakumar and Chalani with a preview of their video at Taylor’s University.

“We wanted to do something special for National Day. That’s why the biggest Jalur Gemilang in Gombak project was born, ” said Dr Mahaletchimi who has been teaching for 30 years.

“We roped in students from all races to help paint the giant flag that measures three metres in height and 10 metres in length. They started during the last week of July and completed it on Aug 2.

The purpose of the project, she added, was to ignite the spirit of patriotism when students see the gigantic flag that has been hung above the stage for all to admire during the school’s national day celebration week launch on Aug 5.

The school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), which was very supportive of the activity, donated the RM1,000 needed to fund the project.

Over 1,000 hibiscus paper flowers have been installed on the mannequin at UCSI University’s block G lobby, to signify the spirit of unity and  create an awareness on recycling.Over 1,000 hibiscus paper flowers have been installed on the mannequin at UCSI University’s block G lobby, to signify the spirit of unity and create an awareness on recycling.An appreciative Dr Mahaletchimi said she hoped the youth would grow up to be kind and responsible Malaysians who would continue to live peacefully among one another.

“Don’t get influenced by politics. Just do our part as Malaysian citizens. Our duty is to love the country and support our leader, ” she noted.

Norliza shared Dr Mahaletchimi’s sentiment.

“What makes us uniquely Malaysian is our multiculturalism and acceptance of each other, ” she said, adding that organising the National Day celebration in school was important to raise the awareness of merdeka among the young.

Usually a “silent member” in co-curricular activities – especially those held during the weekend – Tan Cai Yin, 15, made an exception for the Jalur Gemilang project.

“It brought us (students) closer together, ” said Cai Yin.

A strong believer in “live and let live”, the third former said that forgiveness and exchange of cultural information can boost understanding among races to create a more harmonious society.

Jafni Zafirah Mohd Bustamam, 17, who was involved in painting the giant flag, said showing love towards the country was the duty of Malaysians.

“Malaysia is a peaceful place with citizens who adopt good values as well as respect and help each other.

“The flag is a significant symbol and identifies us as Malaysians. Celebrating National Day in school is important because it reminds us to be proud Malaysians, ” said the fifth former.

Loshiny Ganesan, 16, who volunteered for the project, said it was carried out seamlessly.

“All students involved were cooperative and worked well together, ” she said.

Better me, better Malaysia

Dressed in a red-gold coloured cheongsam for the first time was a special moment for Mellody Nizam, 18.

“I like the cheongsam as its patterns and colours are so pretty!” said the Lower Six student from Chong Hwa Independent High School, Kuala Lumpur.

She was dressed up for Chong Hwa’s National Day celebration that was inspired by Star Media Group’s Raise The Flag campaign.

Themed “Better me, better Malaysia”, Chong Hwa’s Raise The Flag Campaign – which the school started conducting in 2017 – was organised by its English Language Department with the aim of boosting the patriotic spirit among students, teachers and staff within the school.

It was held in conjunction with the country’s 62nd National Day as well as the school’s

100th anniversary.Mellody said the national day celebration served as a reminder to all about the country’s achievements over 62 years.

The student whose parental lineage includes Filipino, Dutch, Sabahan, Sarawakian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani, said she was fortunate to be born in a place where people from different racial backgrounds and cultures could live in harmony.

“Being a Malaysian is to be able to live in a peaceful country with friends that I can make from other race

Chong Hwa Independent High School principal Cheong (fourth left), staff and guests cutting a cake to mark its launch of the “Raise The Flag” campaign in conjunction with the school’s national day celebrations.Chong Hwa Independent High School principal Cheong (fourth left), staff and guests cutting a cake to mark its launch of the “Raise The Flag” campaign in conjunction with the school’s national day celebrations.

“I believe the most important is to be open-minded, learn and respect each other, ” she said.

Chong Hwa principal Cheong Moey Lian said during her opening speech that Malaysians should be proud of how far the country has come.“Building a forever home is possible only when you belong to a country. We must continue to live united and harmoniously – which creates a safe haven for citizens to thrive, ” she said.

Celebrating National Day, said Cheong, would ignite the spirit of patriotism among school staff, teachers and students – the future leaders of the country.

“We started this Raise The Flag campaign in 2017 when The Star was doing it and we have continued it since then, ” she said.

English Language head of department Tan Choon Moi who is in charge of the campaign, was delighted with the positive response from students.

“Students were proactive and took their own initiative to prepare for this year’s Raise The Flag campaign. They came back during the school holiday to start preparation for it, ” said the Johorean who has taught English in Chong Hwa for two decades.

Elegantly dressed in a crimson red saree, an elated Poh Jing Jie, 17, was radiating excitement on the campaign’s launch day.

Fondly known as Ginger among her friends and teachers, she said this was the first time students were allowed to come to school in traditional clothing.

“I was always envious of my sister who studies in a national school as she always gets to dress up in a variety of traditional clothing for school events. Now its my turn!” said Ginger, pointing out that people take simple things like wearing traditional clothing for granted.

“National Day, to me, is a celebration of all things in my country. It’s my home and I really love it – its culture, the warm-hearted people and delicious food!” said the fifth former.

The Jalur Gemilang painted by SMK Rawang students was hung on the school stage for all to admire.

The Jalur Gemilang painted by SMK Rawang students was hung on the school stage for all to admire.

Malaysia remains the best place in her heart, added the student who has been to Japan, Spain, Vietnam, Australia and other places.

Maria Puspa Sari Dewi Rokk, 18, whose father is Malaysian-Indian and mother is Indonesian, described Malaysia as the “best place ever”.

“Besides the awesome food, the people are Malaysia’s prized treasures, ” said the student who was dressed in a colourful saree.

Patriotism through art

Students from UCSI University spent a week to decorate a mannequin with recycled paper that replicated the national flower, the hibiscus, to celebrate Merdeka.

Over 1,000 hibiscus paper flowers have been installed on the mannequin to signify the spirit of unity as well as to create an awareness on recycling. The mannequin is currently placed at the lobby of the university’s block G.

Project leader cum event coordinator, Lucas Lim, said the initiative was to encourage students to play a pivotal role in inspiring patriotism through art.

“We want to remind our staff and students that the five conspicuous petals of the national flower champion the five principles of the Rukun Negara.

“And that the vibrant colours of the flower symbolises the courage and vitality of the people. By using recycled paper, we hope to encourage recycling, ” he said.

One word for Malaysia

It’s easy for Malaysians to describe what unites them with their fellow countrymen.

Give them a minute and they can give you enough fodder to fill a chapter on this topic.

The Taylor’s Tradisi Club from Taylor’s University are on a mission to summarise this uniquely Malay-sian characteristic in just one word.

They are creating a video featuring the university’s students expressing what they believe unites Malaysians using just one word.

Tradisi Club member Chalani Ganeson, 23, said tradition is what unites Malaysians.

“Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures and traditions, ” she said, adding that having all these cultures and embracing them make us uniquely Malaysian.

Her sentiments are echoed by Nurul Arianna Fadzil, 19, who believes embracing different cultures is something special to Malaysia.“We can learn one another’s traditions through something like dancing. Even if we don’t understand the language, we can still move to the beat, ” she added.

Nurul Arianna said she will be part of the club’s cultural event and will perform a Hindi dance.

Fellow club member Syahirah Medinna Saiful Bahri, 20, said love is a big factor in uniting Malaysians.

Even though she grew up in an urban environment, she said her Chinese and Indian neighbours would often bring food for her family.

“Not just on festive occasions, ” she said, adding that her family sends food over to her neighbours’ homes as well.

A-Levels student Chean Sweet Chiao, 18, said that being Malaysian is about being inclusive while Teejes Gopala Krishnan, 19, believes that food is what unites Malaysians.

Learn from history and show strong fighting spirit in their pursuit of excellence. As students, your greatest contribution to the nation is to ensure that the benefits and opportunities given to you are fully utilised, said Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) vice-chancellor Emeritus Prof Dr Mohd Azraai Kassim.

He also reminded students and staff to be more vigilant with what they see on social media.

“Academics and intellectuals must safeguard and not take for granted the unity and harmony that we are very proud of as Malaysians.

“We are the gatekeepers in ensuring that our culture and values as a community are preserved and able to overcome obstacles so that we can continue to enjoy the peace that we have today, ” he said during the launch of the Aug 1 varsity-wide programme to commemorate the country’s 62nd Merdeka Day.

Events will be carried out in 36 UiTM campuses nationwide. Also present was National Laureate Datuk Baha Zain, whose famous works include “Dalam Lingkaran” and “Topeng-topeng”.

By LEE CHONGHUIREBECCA RAJAENDRAM and CHRISTINA CHIN
Read more @
https://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2019/08/25/celebrating-our-uniqueness#kzhtD8fp1QAJOBpf.99

NST Leader: How have we come to this?

Friday, August 16th, 2019
New Malaysia is no place for bigotry and slander

MALAYSIANS, for the longest time, have always been divided over issues of race, but never more so now. The propensity to quibble about the most trivial to the most controversial, be it in politics or social relations, is particularly trying. In recent weeks, a metamorphosis of sorts seems to have occurred.

Almost everything has a racial tone to it, from religion and education to culture and tradition. The “us-versus-them” mentality has taken over, and some Malaysians are acting with reckless abandon.

Values dear to our forefathers are set aside — we don’t acknowledge the differing views and we’ve stopped all manner of decorum. Of course, communal tensions are nothing new. But fanning them repeatedly with subliminal messages is dangerous.

How have we come to this? Where is the respect and honour? Inflammatory utterances by controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik, for instance, have further fuelled the fire of racial antagonism and diluted the cohesive unity of post-Merdeka Malaysia.

He should have known better. As a strong advocate of peace, he should remain tactful, especially when confronted with a sensitive social construct such as ours.

True, Zakir’s crusade is as sincere enough as it is with other Muslim missionaries, but it is that sincere message which is mistaken and potentially dangerous. It may be necessary to remind Zakir that Malaysians are born here, hence, he should not be allowed to offer views on our affairs, or compare Malaysia’s political landscape with India.

To cite an example, a well-known acupuncturist from Kuala Terengganu, who had been toiling Malaysian soil as one of her sons for seven generations, would be devastated at such a brazen attack, moreover by a foreigner who has taken asylum here.

To deport Zakir or strip him of his permanent resident status will lead to more controversy in the Muslim world. Malaysia has done much in providing a safe harbour for Zakir, so it is only common decency for him to keep his tongue in check.

Otherwise, a gag order may be warranted, especially on combustible issues. Let this serve as a reminder to other permanent residents that peace and harmony are essential to a nations’s security and should be protected.

And what of Dong Zong? The educationist group should live up to its name as a proponent of education, culture and development. Over the years, the group has morphed into a Chinese hardliner, insensitive to the interests of other races.

Indeed, times are exciting for Malaysians with such mercurial issues for media organisations to deliberate and publish, but industry players must bear in mind that we have a duty to disseminate fair and unbiased information, as well as good and happy news and as purveyors of peace in line with journalistic ethics.

Racial disunity will lead to a volatile climate and not only affect peace and public order, but the economy will be the hardest hit. Let our commonalities prevail over our differences and let not the introduction of Jawi or other matters divide us. Accept and embrace.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2019/08/513155/nst-leader-how-have-we-come

NST Leader: ‘Rumah Terbuka’ uniquely Malaysian

Monday, June 24th, 2019
A Hari Raya open house brings people together from all walks of life. — NSTP Archive

“NO man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” This phrase may well explain the popularity of the open house among Malaysians.

It’s human nature to want to be among people to socialise, to bond and to catch up with news, or even gossip. Human beings depend on one another to feel alive and be in harmony with their surroundings.

Nt only at Hari Raya open houses do we bond with family and friends, it is also done during other religious festivals — Christmas, Chinese New Year, Deepavali — it’s uniquely Malaysian.

A Hari Raya open house brings people together from all walks of life, regardless of religion. A smorgasbord of local favourites like lemangketupat, rendang and peanut sauce are served for all and sundry.

For the average Malay, it’s condensing time in manageable capsules to meet family and relatives to reaffirm the “silaturrahim” (bonding). In the old days, on the first day of Syawal, one visits family and friends to mend bridges, “bermaaf-maafan” (seek forgiveness) — an occasion to “zeroize” accounts.

A demonstration that relations are healed where there has been discord. In terms of symbolism, it’s about establishing peace in society. It’s obligatory too, to celebrate the first day as a sign of victory over a personal jihad (the end of fasting in Ramadan).

The parameters of the celebration are well defined: a time of forgiving, of rebuilding and maintaining relationships, and a time for charity.

Check your phone-calendar. You may be required to present yourself at an open house somewhere today. Courtesy may triumph over the horrendous traffic jam as one manoeuvres his way from the office to the venue.

At corporate open houses, huge crowds gather — time for business networking and socialising. New friends are made, old ties are renewed — a productive endeavour that requires particular traits, but necessary in today’s world.

In recent times, though, some open houses have become impersonal. Due to time constraints, monstrous ones are planned where everyone comes for the food and sights, but only a handful for the company and camaraderie.

Gone is the spirit and human touch, it has become matter-of-factly. There’s the worry the tradition may fade into the woodwork because of attachment to digital devices. If open houses cannot return us to a world where intrusion is alien, then they have no use.

The New Straits Times believes a renewed appreciation of an age-old and priceless tradition may just bring back the human touch. Plan and time the events well so they do not clash with productive hours at the office. Never mind the swollen city streets and highways on weekends, make an effort to present yourself.

At the event, praise the host, socialise, pick up some culinary skills, give exquisite comments about the food. Malaysians should attempt at least one, if not two, open house in their lifetime

A Hari Raya open house brings people together from all walks of life. — NSTP Archive
June 24, 2019 @ 12:00am

“NO man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” This phrase may well explain the popularity of the open house among Malaysians.

It’s human nature to want to be among people to socialise, to bond and to catch up with news, or even gossip. Human beings depend on one another to feel alive and be in harmony with their surroundings.

Not only at Hari Raya open houses do we bond with family and friends, it is also done during other religious festivals — Christmas, Chinese New Year, Deepavali — it’s uniquely Malaysian.

A Hari Raya open house brings people together from all walks of life, regardless of religion. A smorgasbord of local favourites like lemangketupat, rendang and peanut sauce are served for all and sundry.

For the average Malay, it’s condensing time in manageable capsules to meet family and relatives to reaffirm the “silaturrahim” (bonding). In the old days, on the first day of Syawal, one visits family and friends to mend bridges, “bermaaf-maafan” (seek forgiveness) — an occasion to “zeroize” accounts.

A demonstration that relations are healed where there has been discord. In terms of symbolism, it’s about establishing peace in society. It’s obligatory too, to celebrate the first day as a sign of victory over a personal jihad (the end of fasting in Ramadan).

The parameters of the celebration are well defined: a time of forgiving, of rebuilding and maintaining relationships, and a time for charity.

Check your phone-calendar. You may be required to present yourself at an open house somewhere today. Courtesy may triumph over the horrendous traffic jam as one manoeuvres his way from the office to the venue.

At corporate open houses, huge crowds gather — time for business networking and socialising. New friends are made, old ties are renewed — a productive endeavour that requires particular traits, but necessary in today’s world.

In recent times, though, some open houses have become impersonal. Due to time constraints, monstrous ones are planned where everyone comes for the food and sights, but only a handful for the company and camaraderie.

Gone is the spirit and human touch, it has become matter-of-factly. There’s the worry the tradition may fade into the woodwork because of attachment to digital devices. If open houses cannot return us to a world where intrusion is alien, then they have no use.

The New Straits Times believes a renewed appreciation of an age-old and priceless tradition may just bring back the human touch. Plan and time the events well so they do not clash with productive hours at the office. Never mind the swollen city streets and highways on weekends, make an effort to present yourself.

At the event, praise the host, socialise, pick up some culinary skills, give exquisite comments about the food. Malaysians should attempt at least one, if not two, open house in their lifetime.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2019/06/498553/nst-leader-rumah-terbuka-uniquely-malaysian

Unity in Raya forgiveness

Friday, June 7th, 2019

TOWARDS the end of Ramadan, there were different views expressed about the permissibility of Muslims breaking fast in buildings in (or near) non-Muslim places of worship, about Muslims breaking fast with food cooked and distributed by non-Muslims, and about a supposed general trend of events that include people of different faiths gaining in popularity that might “threaten” the faith of Muslims.

I was reminded of the story of the Caliph Omar who refused to pray in a church – not because he felt that Muslims might therefore lose their faith, but because he was afraid Muslims would then take over the building.

I also recalled examples from my travels and memories of countries where Muslims are a minority: in Cologne, Germany, where the cathedral hosted the breaking of fast for Muslims for many years before a mosque was built; the many kindnesses of my non-Muslim hosts and friends during Ramadan when I was a young student in rural England; and many dialogues and interactions involving people of different religions that have – in my experience – only ever increased understanding and tolerance while fostering greater appreciation of one’s own beliefs.

The suspicion that many pole­mics on these issues are often driven by political interests is sharply brought into focus when Hari Raya arrives.

Indeed, this Hijrah year of 1440 has seen the usual traditions being observed.

The visit to the graves of family members took place before the final breaking of fast at Maghrib, with the first takbir following Isyak prayers.

After that, greetings and tokens of appreciation were distributed to the various teams of staff that work in, and more generally support, the Istana.

Early the next morning, after familial exchanges of forgiveness, Aidilfitri prayers were performed at the Masjid Diraja Tuanku Munawir, its congregation spilling beyond its walls as a result of the temporary urban-rural shift that seizes the country during this festive season.

Every year, despite the political temperature of the country, I am comforted by the fact that for most Muslim Malays, it is the performance of these traditions (no doubt with many variations across families) that most defines what it means to be Muslim and Malay – and not the politically charged rhetoric of division and intolerance.

This fact is further exemplified by what follows immediately after the observance of these most emblematic of rituals: the open house.

In the case of Seri Menanti, that means about 12,000 people from across Negri Sembilan assembling at the Istana Besar, enjoying local delicacies in the presence of their Ruler.

And what is remarkable – though one has to think about it – is how unremarkable it is that those in attendance come from all ethnic and religious backgrounds and a spectrum of educational, career and life experiences.

But all want to share in the joy that Hari Raya provides: a vision of Malaysia encapsulated, a celebration of unity exemplified.

Yet we must be wary when others appeal for “unity”, for the word has many different meanings and applications.

Do they mean unity among a particular subset of Malaysians, or unity across all Malaysians?

Even if the former, do they mean unity that inspires and promotes cooperation, or unity in opposition to those regarded as different?

Do they mean unity according to government-mandated labels, or unity based on values that people choose to have?

Even if the latter, do they mean unity under a single political affiliation, or do they recognise that unity towards values does not necessarily mean political uniformity?

Sometimes, amidst the gorging on rendang and satay, one too easily forgets the abstentions of fasting and the true purpose of Ramadan.

The usual greeting, now reduced to #shrmzb, loses its literal but profound meaning.

Thus, as we enter the open house season, it may be beneficial to remember that Aidilfitri encourages an expression of unity that is inherently individualistic, entirely voluntary and yet, deeply profound. And it is exercisable by Muslims as well as non-Muslims.

It is about seeking forgiveness from others for the wrongdoings that one may have committed.

When offered with genuine intention, and when received with honest sincerity, a bond between two people is strengthened (or at least repaired).

When replicated millions of times in our diverse nation, it surely helps solidify the foundations of shared citizenship.

Over the last year, I know that I have made many decisions that have negatively impacted others, that my words and actions may have caused offence, and that many promises could have been better kept. To you, I say Selamat Hari Raya, maaf zahir dan batin.

By Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin
Read more @
https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/abidinideas/2019/06/07/unity-in-raya-forgiveness/#qVD6rXklBqm5×1cK.99

Unity bedrock for progress: CM

Saturday, June 1st, 2019

PENAMPANG: Unity among people of diverse ethnics, cultures, religions and beliefs is the best recipe for developing Sabah into a prosperous state, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.

He said such unity as displayed in the Tadau Kaamatan, celebrated not only in Sabah but also in other states, can enable the State Government develop the State to be much better than Korea, Japan and even Singapore.

“We want this celebration to become a platform for uniting further all people in Sabah. We use it as a foundation for us to make Sabah progress forward.

“I am confident that Sabah has this recipe in its effort to become a developed state.

“We can develop Sabah much better than Korea, Japan and even Singapore, because we are confident we have the recipe, raw materials, culture, tourism products and only that what is most important is having the right mindset in human resources.

“We have sufficient wealth to place Sabah as an industrial state. I am confident of this, when we have unity and right mindset, we can take care of our people,” he said, when closing the State-level Tadau Kaamatan celebration at the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) Hongkod Koisaan hall, Friday.

Huguan Siou, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, State Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Peter Anthony, who is also State Tadau Kaamatan Celebration Main Organising Committee head and other State and community leaders were also present.

“Unity is an important agenda. There should be no extremism in religion and racism because if there is, unity cannot be achieved. We need moderation, we are created differently but differences should not prevent us from living in peace and harmony with each other and progressing forward,” he said.

He cited China, as an example, which become a developed nation in 40 years.

“Previously China was a poor country and under communism. But now, even what was previously just a small and poor fishing village like Shenzen has become a rich place which contributed to trillions of yuan to the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Such a small place like Shenzen, which is smaller than Kota Kinabalu, can contribute greatly to the GDP.

“How did they manage to do that without having any natural resources? Because they have the right mindset, they are united to ensure they have a better life.”

Mohd Shafie said the Tadau Kaamatan celebration, which is participated by various ethnics, need to be preserved as among efforts to continue fostering unity, especially in Sabah.

“This is not only celebrated in Sabah, but throughout the country.

“It also shows how important it is to preserve and pass down the cultural heritage so it will not be forgotten in the people pursue for modernisation,” he said.

He hoped families have also made use of the celebration for strengthening family bonds, apart from continuing with the tradition passed down by their ancestors.

The Chief Minister was also pleased to see the colourful traditional wear by the various communities, saying he encouraged the people to continue such practice not only to promote the ethnic diversity in Sabah but become an industry that can generate income to people in the State.

By: Larry Ralon.

Read more @ http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news/135978/unity-bedrock-for-progress-cm/

Mass buka puasa at Dataran Merdeka draws the crowd

Sunday, May 26th, 2019
The Iftar@KL programme, held for the fifth consecutive year, has become a major attraction not just for Muslims but also Non-Muslims and foreigners alike. Pic by STR/OWEE AH CHUN

KUALA LUMPUR: It is only during the holy month of Ramadan that you can see city folk and tourists breaking fast together, next to the historical backdrop of Sultan Abdul Samad building, Royal Selangor Club and Dataran Merdeka.

The Iftar@KL programme, held for the fifth consecutive year, has become a major attraction not just for Muslims but also Non-Muslims and foreigners alike.

Sitting side-by-side on a mat, everyone was served with popular ‘buka puasa’ dishes such as ‘bubur lambuk’ (spiced rice porridge), dates and cakes distributed by Tourism, Art and Culture Ministry.

For Mohd Rossi Yusof and his family, Iftar@KL has become somewhat of an annual event.

The 45-year-old father of one said he would make it a point to be at Dataran Merdeka at least once during Ramadan to break fast.

“I will come with my wife, Nor Meme Ahmat, 44 and son Adam Haikal, 15. I will also invite my siblings who are from different parts of Klang Valley to join us. It’s like an annual family gathering for us.

“This year, I am here only with my wife and son as my other siblings are busy. I look forward to this mass breaking of fast event organised by the Ministry,” he said when met here, today.

Rossi, from Puchong, said he started the tradition because he wanted to create something unique for the family.

“Every year, rain or shine I will make sure I will be at Dataran Merdeka.

Pic by STR/OWEE AH CHUN

“This year, the bazaar was relocated to Jalan Raja, which I think is good. People can do their Raya shopping at the bazaar after the mass buka puasa event,” he said.

Noor Shamimi Iskandar, 24, from Ampang said she was excited to be able to break fast in the huge crowd, with the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad building in the background.

Like Rossi, she too has made it into an annual event with her friends from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM).

“It’s just our way of catching up with one another, especially since some of them are working in the city centre.

“Besides, this is more strategic (in terms of location) and cost effective rather meeting up at a high-end eateries,” she said while waiting for the arrival of her three friends.

Fauzieha Wan Kamaruddin, 38, said this was her first time breaking fast at Dataran Merdeka since she started working in KL more than 10 years.

“I went to the bazaar searching for Raya clothes for my 3-year-old daughter.

“Since I am already here, I thought why not experience the mass buka ouasa event with other people here,” she said.

Meanwhile, Kanae Mizuno, 31, from Japan, said this was her second time taking part in Iftar@KL.

“My friend invited me to join them last year, so I came.

By Kalbana Perimbanayagam and Teoh Pei Ying.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2019/05/491396/mass-buka-puasa-dataran-merdeka-draws-crowd

A blissful Wesak Day celebration

Monday, May 20th, 2019
KUALA LUMPUR: On Wesak Day, Buddhists began to visit temples nationwide early in the morning to carry out religious rituals and pay tribute to Siddharta Gautama, the founder of the religion.

Many also took the opportunity to donate in cash and kind to the underprivileged.

A lively yet modest atmosphere filled the air when some 3,000 devotees visited the Maha Vihara Buddhist Temple in Brickfields yesterday to conduct religious ceremonies by lighting candles and bringing flowers to symbolise the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha.

One of the devotees, Tham Swe Loong, 68, said the Wesak Day celebration was not only for religious observation but also to serve as a day to help those in need.

“We are very lucky to celebrate Wesak Day in harmony.

“It shows that we are living in a peaceful multiracial country,” he told Bernama.

Other Buddhist temples here were also packed with devotees carrying flowers as well as other basic necessities such as rice, bottled drinks and canned food to be donated to the deserving.

The celebration also attracted Australian tourist Olivia Brown, 27, who said it was fascinating “to witness such a spiritual ceremony, full of tradition and rituals which shows their (Buddhists) faith and belief”.

There were also volunteers from various welfare bodies and non-governmental organisations at the temples to ensure the celebration went smoothly.

In Selangor, Buddhists converged at the Fo Guan Shan (FGS) Dong Zen Temple in Jenjarom, Banting.

One of them, Lee Mun, 45, said the family wanted the children to learn more about Buddhism so that they can have a stronger grounding to become better individuals.

The temple, which houses the largest Buddha statue in Selangor, is also a tourist attraction as well as an important cultural and educational centre.

In Negri Sembilan, devotees began to converge at the prayer hall inside the Malaysian Buddhist Associa­tion of Negri Sembilan branch building in Jalan Tan Sri Manickvasagam as early as 9am.

Hundreds of devotees performed religious rituals which took place until the afternoon.

In Melaka, the Seck Kia Ench temple in Jalan Gajah Berang was the focus of more than 3,000 devotees.

Melaka Chief Minister Adly Zahari was also present to wish the devotees Happy Wesak Day as he mingled with those at the temple.

The shopping malls in the city were also crowded with people who took advantage of the public holiday today.

Some were there to make early preparations for Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

In Johor Baru, overcast weather did not prevent 40,000 Buddhists from gathering at the Fo Ghuang Shan Hsingma Si Bathing Temple in Skudai since early morning to perform religious rituals.

The ceremony, attended by state executive councillor Liow Cai Tung, also featured a dance performance by Guang Ming Institute of Performing Arts-Cebu from the Philippines.

In Penang, heavy rain did not dampen the spirit of the devotees, including Tang Kwang Seng, 45, a Grab driver, from fulfilling his

religious obligation at the Penang Buddhist Association in Jalan Burma.

“Regardless of the weather condition, we will always come to pray, to fulfil our obligations,” he said.

In Perak, Deputy Health Minister and Gopeng MP Dr Lee Boon Chye joined other devotees in performing religious rituals at the Malaysian Buddhist Centre Perak branch in Pasir Puteh.

He told reporters later that Wesak Day symbolised the harmony and unity that existed in the country’s multiracial, multireligious society.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/05/20/a-blissful-wesak-day-celebration/#Ea9G8OFsUuC2xj4r.99