School canteen, ‘Allah’ on socks firestorm underscores Ramadan’s lessons in tolerance, understanding, forgiveness

Two issues pertaining to Islam flared up during this holy month of Ramadan in Malaysia. They are, the opening of school canteens for non-fasting students throughout the fasting month, and the word ‘Allah’ printed on socks, which were sold at a KK Super Mart store in Bandar Sunway, Selangor.

Two opposing Malay parties, Pas and Umno quickly weighed in. Pas usually focuses on religious edicts, rituals, and the punitive, and not the humanitarian aspects of Syariah laws, as well as other ‘trivia’.

One such ‘trivia’ involved Pas ulama chief Datuk Ahmad Yahya and his objection to a government directive that ordered school canteens to remain open throughout the fasting month to cater to students who weren’t fasting. The inane reason advanced by Ahmad was that it would be disrespectful and offensive to Muslims, and adversely affect the faith of Muslim students who were fasting.

He wanted the canteens closed, and for the non-Muslim students to be sequestered in a secluded place to eat their meals. This reasoning is humbug and a sham, and unbecoming of a political party leader.

It is good that sanity prevailed and that Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek brushed aside Ahmad’s cheap, publicity-seeking stance.

Then there is Umno, trying to outdo Pas with its ‘extremist’ posturing, by exploiting the Allah socks issue to gain political mileage. The case hinged on the revelation by Firdaus Wong, a Muslim convert preacher who found the socks with the word ‘Allah’ printed on the sides, at a KK Super Mart outlet, and decided to go public on social media.

It provoked the wrath of the Umno Youth chief, Dr Akmal Saleh, who without justification and mandate, arrogantly arrogated unto himself the role of champion for all Malays/Muslims, in defending Islam. Without even looking at the overall picture from a logical perspective, Umno secretary-general Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, and Umno president, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, along with the party’s Supreme Council, sanctioned the actions of their Youth chief, who called for a national boycott of all KK Super Mart stores, and demanded an apology.

Those in Umno seem to believe that its leaders can do no wrong, as evident in Dr Akmal’s cheap publicity stunt.

In this particular case, the police found only five pairs of socks with ‘Allah’ printed on them, from a consignment of 18,000 pairs. It seems inconceivable that the management of KK Super Mart had premeditated this act of insulting Islam and Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, and were totally unaware of the ramifications of such an action and the firestorm that would ensue. It seems inconceivable that they would risk their business this way.

It is unethical for Umno to abet in its Youth chief’s call for a boycott of KK Super Mart. This is inane and unIslamic, as it is against Islam to undermine the livelihood of others without determining first the circumstances, the evidence, and the veracity of the incident.

The episode has taken an ugly turn as petrol bombs were hurled at three KK Super Mart stores – one in Bidor, another in Kuantan, and the latest in Kuching.

Islam is a religion suffused with tolerance, forgiveness, and the concept of sharing and respect for others, and forever ready to extend a helping hand to all, irrespective of race, religion, or creed. It is a religion of universal brotherhood. Forgiveness and tolerance are its defining hallmarks.

In the KK Super Mart episode, one must first determine the veracity and intentions of the actions, if it was inadvertent, or premeditated. Even if it is proven to be intentional, as a Muslim, one should educate the other party about the sensitivity of the issue. If the other party apologises, shows remorse and regret, he should be given a fair and reasonable sentence, if not a warning, in the spirit of forgiveness, especially during Ramadan. What more if it was unintentional!

But now, the outlet’s founder and his director wife have been charged with intentionally wounding the religious feelings of Muslims.

Let us hope that justice will prevail in the spirit of Islam, especially during this holy month of Ramadan.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.

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