Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sensitising Our Children

It is interesting how the infusion of religion into our national schools by principals results in sensitising our children to issues which were not sensitive in the first place. As reported in the New Straits Times last week, the administrators of SK Bukit Jelutong have told non-Muslim pupils that they can't bring "wet food" to the Children's Day celebrations, only snacks like murukku or chips are allowed.
The school's senior assistant for curriculum, Ishak Mohd Zazuly, confirmed
the directive and said the decision was made "to respect each other's
religions. We are just worried that there may be non-halal ingredients in the food.
That's why we allow them to bring snacks, while Muslim pupils can bring wet
food. That way, everyone can eat," he said.

Ishak said if non-Muslim children, for instance Hindu pupils, could not eat
beef and had problems with the food brought by Muslim pupils, they should
not eat it.
Err... umm... why the double standards? If non-Muslim students not bringing "wet food" to school is a mark of respect for Muslim students, why isn't it applied vice-versa, whereby Muslim students should not bring "wet food" as well, in case they brought beef? Shouldn't then all students just bring "murukku and chips"?

But I believe that the whole argument is besides the point. Why sensitise the issue in the first place? Now, these young children, will just be inculcated with the unhealthy you versus me concept, instead of focusing on everyone being "Anak Malaysia", irrespective of race, colour or religion.

After close to 50 years of independence, we appear to be trying to move backwards in terms of national unity, instead of moving forward. We are supposed to promote understanding, respect and tolerance, not making every issue under the sky, however trivial, a sensitive religious issue. As blogged earlier in the year, we are just converting our multi-ethnic national schools into mono-ethnic religious national schools.

I'm curious to know what is the stand of our Minister of Education on this issue.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's why most non-Muslims parents decide to enroll their children to vernacular schools instead and thereby creates a situation of overcrowding in the schools they apply for, especially in the urban areas. They fully understand that only the vernacular schools, the chinese veracular in particular can give the best education in terms of quality and competency to their children. Another plus point is that with China and India coming up as economic powerhouses, learning an additional language (some just treat it as a mother tongue which is a necessity) will definitely help the children tremendously in the future besides English.
Sadly, no Budget has been allotted to build new vernacular schools to cater the demands of the public.

Penghulu said...

This shouldn't be seen as a new phenomenon.

I came from a missionary school in Sarawak. I particularly remembered Teacher's Day when I was in Form 4. I went over to my Muslim's friend's table to savor whatever they had brought to school that day. One of them courteously told me not to eat the food from their portion as it is one of the few halal servings around. If I take it, they would have less to go around for the other Muslims as they cannot take anything from the non-Muslims. I emphatized with their plight. My class was approximately 70% Christians and 30% Muslim.

Unfortunately , I believe what that Principal's direcitve is a mere reflection of the Muslim sentiments on the ground. The hard cold facts is that they can't eat non-muslim cooked food. A gastronomical apartheid is just one of the dimension among many that divides fellow Malaysian

Anonymous said...

I have a friend married to a Lebanese Muslim - her husband has no problem with her eating pork and drinking alcohol or any of their children. I asked them about it and they said that its not really a problem because halal food is a personal observance. Its those that believe in state intervention in religious matter that interpret them otherwise.

Abu said...

Dear Anon Wed Nov 08, 08:15:59 AM,

I would be best for you not to comment on something that you have no knowledge about. Talking about halal is very sensitive issue to Muslim.

On the other hand, I agree with you Tony that this issue should be sensitised and been discussed out of propotion. However, the authorities should take this as a lesson and handle the same in more diplomatic way.

Thanks.

Abu said...

Sorry, in para 2, I mean 'should not be sensitised'.

jonoave said...

It's good to observe each other's sensitivites to food, but one shouldn't go overboard. I've seen some Muslims who stay away from non-halal food like a plague, not even daring to sit on the same table.

But in my observations, double-standards do apply. Although we generally tolerate the Muslims' abstinence from pork etc, in a lot of cases they do not seem to be observant of other's. Like for example, I'm a Buddhist and I abstain from beef. Once I was in a camp and the only meat they had was beef. So I kindly declined and told them the reason. Their reaction was quite comical - kinda like if someone told them the sky if falling. When I asked them what about some of the Indian students who were also present, they were dumbfounded. In another instance, a Hindu friend of mine told how they were served beef. When they declined, the organisers said, "Tadi tanya ada vegetarian, cakap takde." Sigh... After almost 50 years of independance, we're still a long way from fully understanding each other.

Anonymous said...

Personally, i agree with Dear Anon Wed Nov 08, 08:15:59 AM. It has to come from self-observance and not being force to comply with the practices of any religion. But somehow i don't see this in Islam, particularly the Malays in Malaysia.

They have been labeled Muslim since they are borned, without understanding the true meaning of it. They don't even have the right to observe other religions. I feel pity for myself and other Malay friends in Malaysia with no freedom at all, but as a tool for government propaganda.

All these came to me after spending years outside Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

Muslims are ever so eager to project the supremacy of Islam as a way of life. Similarly, Malay (mainly UMNOputras) on Ketuanan Melayu. For most non-Muslim/non-Malay no-one really has a problem with that until it encroaches on their right.

I wonder if the Hate Ideology spread by the Saudi’s Wahhabi ideology is slowly seeping into Malay’s mind. The Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology is well documented by the Center for Religious Freedom (http://www.freedomhouse.org/religion/publications/Saudi%20Report/FINAL%20FINAL.pdf)

Religion is ever so convenient as a tool to control the populace and for that to be effective the govt must produce subservient/mediocre citizen through poor education. Hence, we do not want our students/rakyat to be able to think critically.

Why is there so much “hate” along religious lines recently? Influence from the Arabs? Seems like Malays are becoming more Arab, hence the lost of Asian values? What a transformation since the 70s!

What A Lulu said...

the problem is not what the moslem can or cannot take.
the problem was that the school kononnya "to respect each other's
religions" took care of the moslem students restrictions but told the other kids who may have religious restrictions to take care of themselves.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tony,

When will your Forum at Astro AEC Channel 19 be shown?

Any highlights on that day?

DKR said...

Once again, there seems to be no give and take in the country. There seems to be one set of rules for one group of people and a totally different set of rules for others. I think they should ban wet food all together!! Actually, why can't anyone realise that it's just food we're fighting over. Unbelievable! As for Abu's comments about halal food being a sensitive issue for muslims, the same can be said about hindu's being sensitive about not eating beef. So i think it is a good subject to discuss with an open mind. Personally I don't really care either way coz I eat just about anything, even though, technically by religion, i may not be allowed to. So in conclusion, I think the moral of the story is to have a set of rules that apply to everyone. If non-halal wet food is not permitted, then maybe the powers that be should not permit non-halal wet food with beef in it as well, just to look out for the other students best interest. My 2 sens worth!

Anonymous said...

I really hope that those who are not well informed about Islamic ways of life, to stop making sensitive statement about Muslims. I always respect other people's beliefs,and therefore would appreciate it if others would do the same. Thanks
P/S: I agree with Tony that the school administrator should not discriminate students by allowing Muslim students to bring wet food while others cannot..ask ALL of them not to bring any wet food..so all Muslim, Hindus and Jews can eat at peace.

Anonymous said...

Hello Bloggers,

We are living in a multiracial country. So we have to respect each other especially when dealing with something that we know will offend others. We go to mamak shop, we can see all races having their meals. We go to indian restaurant, we can see all races having their meals. We go to chinese restaurant that have halal logo, we can see all races having their meals.

We have our open house for festive celebration and invited all of our friends regardless of their races. BUT as the host we do abide to their religios restriction. It shows that we respect each other. To me, if you respect each other there should not be any problem.

As echoed by Thu Nov 09, 10:03:33 AM, please do not talk about something that you didn't know or what you think about Islamic ways of life if you yourself have no idea about it.

Good day

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the anon above. The issue of islamic requirements and halal haram should best be talked by those who really knows about islam.

It is not easy for non muslims to fully appreciate what is halal and haram. It goes beyond refraining from eating pork..

Anonymous said...

We DO indeed live in a multi racial country, but sometimes, talk about being "considerate" is often one sided. While we non-muslims are expected to cater for Muslim's needs, they are often ( but not always)ignorant about other religions. Tolerance and education has to work both ways in order to be effective. Like jonoave above, I've also attended camps where only beef was served ( and when supervisors were notified, they tried to insist that the meat was chicken). My Hindu and Buddhist friends literally lived on chips and gardenia's cupcakes until parents were notified to drive all the way just to bring food for them.

I think, in schools especially, it would be the way these religious differences are introduced that are key to how successful and tolerant the children turn out to be. I for one, am lucky to have attended a government school with Malay teachers who during the fasting month, instead of banning foodstuffs outright, told us to "please be considerate to your friends, and try not to eat or drink in front of them. Do so discretely, but understand that this makes it difficult for them to fast" etc etc. EXPLAINING why something is should not be done is a lot more effective in the long run than just telling them "NO. You can't do this".No one ever likes being told what to do, but by making it a choice, children especially would generally want to make the "right" choices.:D

So, to anon above, please stop telling us that we are not Muslims and thus don't appreciate what is halal and haram. We in this country are unfortunately acutely aware that we are non-Muslims. Explain the facts to us. The key to solving these so-called "sensitive" issues is through not stopping dialogue altogether on it as is wont by our leaders, but through open discussion and education. It is way time we actually had the inter-racial harmony our leaders keep harping on about instead of a mere thin sheet of tolerance hiding the storm of discontent underneath. All because of the lack of education.

iamyuanwu said...

I'm a food science student, so I was fortunate to have a little knowledge about halal/haram from a scientific point of view. However, previous comments by Muslims tend to think of halal/haram as a sensitive issue. While I agree that it is a religious issue, I wonder whether it qualifies as sensitive issue... Non-muslims that have commented here have not sounded condescending towards this issue (despite our lack of knowledge regarding halal food) and they commented in a positive note. If we cannot discuss it in a positive way, how are we supposed to understand it?

In fact, no one has bothered to explain to non-Muslims what does halal/haram constitute. All I hear from our Muslim friends here are: you are not a Muslim, you do not know. It explains nothing. We would appreciate some explanation from Muslim out there. Tell us what halal/haram is all about. As you are prone to say: we are not Muslims, we do not know; we need you---Muslims to enlighten us about your religion---Islam, not to keep us in the dark and continue to keep us guessing/wondering. You simply cannot expect us to respect your religion if you refuse to enlighten us about it.

Anonymous said...

The problem is why make remarks without understanding the issues. If one asked a Muslim, they will tell you. Why not asked 'May be Muslim bloggers can enlighten us on this issue'.

BUT when one starts to make remarks without knowing what it is and purely by one experiences or perceptions then the answer will be 'do not talk about something that you didn't know'

Secondly, may be one can specified that there are religious restriction for them when they attend any programs. the organiser will know and prepare accordingly. AND if they failed to do so, you can report. Experiences shows that the organisers and caterers will accomodate with prior notice.

Anonymous said...

respect is to be earned. Generally, do you guys agree that non-muslim in this country seems to be more accomodating and respectful of religion sensitivities of muslims rather them showing the same to other group of people from another religion? that i attribute it to the success of our education system (ie, Kursus Tamadun Islam etc) but it wouldn't it be more helpful if the sensitivities towards other religion should also be included? interaction is not a one way traffic...it takes two to tango.

Anonymous said...

It takes ages for the M***ys to realise that "it takes two to tango". That's their nature. Selfish and arrogant i would say, but then, "tin kosong." Well, i admire tin kosong though. Ilove to knock on them.

Anonymous said...

OK .... I am asking here ...

May be Muslim bloggers can enlighten us on this issue?

I really would want to know from the Muslim's point of view:
- Do you think that canteens should stop serving beef?
- Do you think all public camps or activities (like rakan muda or youth camps) should stop serving beef?

While I truly acknowledge that we should respect the muslims and ensure that all food are halal in any public functions, I wish to also highlight that the Hindus needs their due respect too.

Any Muslim friends here would like to state your thoughts?

Oh by the way, let me enlighten some of you on my understanding of the "true vegetarian" way of preparing food:
- Cooking utensils that has been used for preparing meat before cannot be used for vegetarian.
- Garlic & Onions are not vegetarian for Buddhism.
- Eggs & fish are also not vegetarian.

So now that halal is more than not eating pork, I would like to highlight that vegetarian is more than not eating meat. Are we gonna make sure that all canteens with what they call as "vegetarian corner" prepare their food in the exact ways too? Need your opinions in this too.

jonoave said...

Anon Nov 13, 01:07:20:

It will be almost impossible to cater to everyone's needs at one time, so understandably some generalisations has to be made. Here are some of my suggestions, from what I observe in large gatherings and such:

1. In large events, where abundant food is provided: It's alright to serve some beef, and yes even pork too (though I don't think most organisers are willing to.) Just make all of them are labelled clearly, along with the many types of chicken/seafood/misc dishes served. Then another 1 or 2 pure "vegan" dish, labelled clearly.

2. In small events, where basically only 1 type of food is served. The organisers have to be practical. Considering that any multiracial event would typically have a few Buddhists/Hindus/misc, the meat dish should be chicken/fish. Vegans are extremely rare, so unfortunately they'll have to inform the organisers before hand as most organisers don't really cater for them.

An extra note, most pure Vegans when eating out, give the benefit of the doubt that the food handlers prepare the food in the proper vegetarian way (though I'm highly doubtful). They have no choice really, seeing as most food outlets do not really cater to vegans.

Anonymous said...

lets eat kosher

Anonymous said...

Excuse me! Is this blog about:
1) Wet food versus dry food?
or it about
2) Halal versus Non halal food?

iamyuanwu said...

Dear Anon Fri Nov 10, 12:11:05 PM,

"BUT when one starts to make remarks without knowing what it is and purely by one experiences or perceptions then the answer will be 'do not talk about something that you didn't know'. "

It is this kind of arrogance from many Muslims in Malaysia that pisses people off.
We humbled ourselves and said that we are not as knowledgable in halal/haram issue as you are. If you don't explain it to us (for whatever self-glorifying reasons), then who will? The Bhuddist monk? The Hindu priest?
It seems to be the attitude of "I don't want/need to understand your religion, so I'm not going to tell you about mine". Since you are not happy to share your knowledge willingly (unless we ask with all politeness) and discuss it openly, then we can only base our understanding on our observations.

By the way, you still had not 'enlightened' us. I want to learn about this issue so that I can better respect you and your religion. Instead, I got a lousy excuse justifying why we should stop talking about it. Tell me, what kind of respect am I suppose to give you with a statement like this?

You have to remember: respect and understanding is to be earned, not demanded.

Anonymous said...

Dear iamyuanwu,

Please read the whole postings about this topic then you will understand why Anon Fri Nov 10, 12:11:05 PM make these statement.

"BUT when one starts to make remarks without knowing what it is and purely by one experiences or perceptions then the answer will be 'do not talk about something that you didn't know'. "

Pls note that there were more than 20 postings all together on this topic. Kind enough to peruse them one by one. Normally we make conclusion after taking into consideration all the discussions. BUT never to make a conclusion based on one comment.

You are right that respect is to be earned not demanded. BUT respect must also be MUTUAL. That the reason why you need to ask politely. After all, we are in the learning process.

To Bloggers,

Share one experience in 2 separate conferences. One outside Malaysia, questions post to the speaker really shows that the audience want to know more about the issue raised by the speaker. Another in Malaysia, question post to the speaker with the intention to shoot down the speaker. May be some of you have this experience. Foreign audience saying 'excellent talk', 'very good' etc. You start to wonder, wow am I really good. How about local audience? 'what la like this I also can do'.

well, well.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tony P said...

OK guys. I think I'd really need to put this discussion to a stop before it gets out of hand.

As far as I'm concerned, there are the tolerant and respectful, and the intolerant and disrespectful people existing in all religions, be it Christianity, Buddhism, Hindu, Muslim or even the free thinkers.

Hence the discussion here isn't about which party is more respectful than the other. It is about the fact that we want to promote mutual respect and tolerance for each other.

iamyuanwu said...

Sorry Tony. I apologise for going off tangent.

Dear Anon Wed Nov 15, 12:34:59 PM,
I apologise for being a little too harsh and too rash.

But, err... still no explanation yet. (",)??
Seriously, can any Muslims please explain the issue at hand - what is Halal and what is Haram? Instead of just shooting me back with excuses and requests for respect. I have very high regards for Islam, that's why I want to know more about this issue. So don't-lah be so kedekut with your knowledge, ya. =)

As you said it so well... "After all, we are in the learning process."

Anonymous said...

Dear iamyuanwu,

pls go to this web http://www.halaljakim.gov.my/. I think may be you can get some answer.

I've little knowledge about this issue but in Islam, halal and haram is not confined to only food but other aspect of life. Eg. in riba or interest. The concept also applicable in marriage. Where there are several categories of relationship that are prohibited to get married.

Dear iamyuanwu,

It will be a long list. But what i mentioned is only an example. Should you have any queries, just raised it. Maybe our friends out there can also assist.

Thank you.

iamyuanwu said...

Hey, thanks for the web address!

BTW, how about Wikipedia's explanation on Halal? Can it be trusted?

Anonymous said...

In term of food

halal is meat (poultry meat excluding pork) that has been properly slaughtered meaning that there is certain thing observed before slaughtering the animal.

When I was in school I realized that my buddhist and hindu friend don't eat beef and so as respect towards them I don't eat beef as well when I was with them.

My canteen properly separate all the utensils and I don't think that we have problems at all.In fact I remember sharing my meal with my non-malay friends.

My mom also has no objection me eating lunch at chinese or hindu friend's house.

If we're willing to tolerate or learning about each other than rather to brush off issues like this I'm sure this all could be settled.

Sure most malay is ignorant and it's because they are not exposed toward all of these.This problem is far more deep rooted than we think