Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz in his column Abiding Times, The Sun  (July 24) concludes the discussion on religious trust and understanding “Believing in Malaysia” thus:

In 1968, the then Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan, Tan Sri Datuk Dr Mohd Said Mohamed, laid the foundation stone, blessed by a bishop, of St Mark’s Anglican Church in Seremban. It was being rebuilt after a fire had gutted it, and the federal and state governments made a donation to help in the construction work. That, surely, is what our first RUKUN NEGARA is all about.

Knowing the life and times of Dr Mohd Said well, I would like to add that the first elected Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan was rather broadminded in his thoughts and beliefs. By today’s standards he would be considered an unconventional Malay/ Muslim for  having the highest esteem for and knowledge of  the world’s great religions – Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism.

From an early age he was tutored in the Quranic traditions in a home and kampung environment that was deeply religious, as most rural Malay kampungs would have been then. But his exposure to other peoples and their faiths started early. As a schoolboy he was taught by the most caring and dedicated English Christian schoolmasters. As an undergraduate medical student  he was mentored and trained by the best Western Christian professors alongside his Hindu and Buddhist course mates in King Edward VII College, Singapore. As a young government doctor serving out his first posting in Pahang, he saw the sufferings of the rural Malays and Indians still bound by the orthodox teachings and practices of their respective faiths and cultures. His post graduate medical studies was a two year stint in England and Ireland with their deep rooted Protestant and Roman Catholic basis.   As part of his service to the outer community he gave of  his time to look after the health of the Christian orphans in a Convent school and gave night lectures to the multiracial science club of a government school.

His friends and acquaintances were multiracial and multireligious but his true understanding came from his readings and constant delving into the great books on these religions. He admired some of the rites of passage and practices of other religions which he thought were more practical and conducive to living. Among these were the male circumcission practices of Judaism and Islam, the Hindu cremation and the Muslim pilgrimage. He held them in awe and did not think it was wrong to acquire knowledge and be informed about them. He did not think it was sinful for his children to do Scripture as a subject in school or to score an A in Christian religious knowledge.  Through this he believed they would have a compassionate understanding of Christianity while remaining staunch Muslims. 

His children were brought up not to think it was haram or blasphemous to enter a church or temple to attend social/communal events held there. Or to stand in line with their schoolmates at assembly when Hail Mary and Our Father were being chanted. At such times what was foremost was the regard and respect paid to the other faiths and their believers. 

Thus, Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz’s religious and cultural experiences are to be commended and emulated for the interfaith understanding and compassion they instil in the young Malaysians who are fortunate enough to have been exposed to them at home or abroad.

It is the kind of socio-cultural and educational environment that ONE MALAYSIA must aspire to and Malaysians must nurture in order to rid ourselves of the ethnic-racial-religious bigotry and chauvinism with their accompanying prejudices and intolerance and judgements! The implications for national politics are obvious!


4 Responses to “”

  1. 1 Salvador
    July 28, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Ms. Nini! This is a very nice article and I have read this on today’s edition of The Sun as well. I was searching the internet whether The Sun has an online copy of their news because I want to post this article in my blog as well and I found your blog. I was astounded by how open-minded Dr. Mohd Said is. And i hope every malaysian would have such attitude.

    I am from the Philippines but i’ve been working in KL for more than 2 years already. When i first came here, I was amazed on how Christians and Muslims are living peacefully in KL. Although I know that there are still some arguements going on at the background between these 2 religions, I consider the relationship generally peaceful. I’m sure you are aware that there have been a longtime conflict between our government and the leftist Moro Islamic Group and Abu Sayaff in the Mindanao Islands. Because of these groups, most Filipino Christians in our country are scared of our Muslim brothers. I am quite sure that 95% of Filipino Christians have not seen a Masjid or doesn’t know what a Surao is or the fact that Isa is also part of Qur’an. And same is true with our Muslim brothers. They may not have been inside a Christian Church. It is sad that we don’t have the same christian-muslim relationship that you have here in Malaysia.

  2. 2 ninitalk
    July 28, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you Salvador for your keen understanding!

    It’s true that open-mindedness is a result of knowledge, exposure and experience and, in the past, Malaysians have had no problems living with one another’s ethnic-racial-cultural-religious differences. It’s only when things go bad politically that these issues are played up by extremist community and religious leaders disguised as politicians. And when this happens things can get out of control as it is happening in your country.

    There must be more people like Dr Mohd Said, you and me to speak up/write about genuine interfaith understanding and promote multiethnic/multireligious activities. You are so right – we get along very well at the level of our everyday lives but the weaker and less educated/exposed among us get confused when things get twisted out of context or misinterpreted!

  3. July 31, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Thank you for inspiring me Ms. Nini. I wrote an entry on my blog regarding your article and my views regarding interfaith understanding. I have put the link of your blog so I can share your thoughts to other Filipinos who shares the same point of view.

  4. 4 charlie chan
    August 3, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    question: why are there so many religions in the world if there is the One only?

    Sri Ma : He is Infinite. there is an infinite variety of conceptions of Him and an endless variety of paths to Him. He is in everything, every kind of belief and also the disbelief of the atheist.
    your belief in non-belief is also a belief.
    He is in all forms and He is formless.

    question: are all paths of the same merit?

    Sri Ma : every dispensation of the Truth is an unique event.
    not one may be compared with another.
    The Infinite has infinite ways of revealing itself.
    why should anyone be called upon to say: “it is thus and thus only?”
    although strictly speaking, such a creed is also readily allowable because every perspective is true-where after all is the scope for rejection within the entirety of Truth? Moreover, distinct brotherhoods are necessary for one-pointed progress towards the goal. a brotherhood lends vigour and support to flagging spirits: it is the source of hope and sustenance. it is a good idea to belong to one brotherhood and follow its guidance for enlightenment.
    God is ever merciful. if you walk one step towards Him, He is ever with you. your effort is necessary because ordinarily you use your will toward achieving of goals in the world, so the same will could also be harnessed toward carrying you out of the world.

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