Men in skullcaps drag cow-head in protest against Hindu temple

Posted on August 29, 2009

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On Thursday morning I woke up to an sms from mom to say that our beloved cat Comot has died. I was devastated to learn the news, particularly since it was only three weeks ago that I last saw her, during my recent trip back to the family home. I will miss the way she would scratch my face as I incessantly kiss her, the way she bites my hand with her small set of teeth as I vigorously pat her head, unable to contain myself over how adorable she is. She grew tired of me after five minutes on my lap but I never tire of her.

As sad as it makes me feel, I take her death as an inevitable part of life, for despair is the matching partner of happiness. If we had never taken her into our home we would be spared this pain, but we would also be bereft of the joy her presence brought us. Other than the sad news, the first week of Ramadan has been a spiritually enriching journey for me, as I join Muslims the world over in our individual and communal effort to increase our good deeds and try to be a better person in the remembrance of God.

Therefore, it was with extreme outrage and disappointment that I read in the Malaysian news that earlier today, on the holiest day of the week in the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, a group of zealous Malay Muslims chose to protest against the relocation of a Hindu temple to their neighbourhood by parading a severed cow’s head during their demonstration after Friday prayers. Already there are suspicions that the demonstration is a perverted ploy by interested parties to stir racial unrest among the Indian Hindu and Malay Muslim communities in Malaysia, and that the protesters weren’t in fact residents of the neighbourhood known as Section 23. Regardless of whether it was a conspiracy or not, the protestors remain as Muslims and for that they should hang their heads in shame for publicly desecrating the Muslim faith in the holiest of months.

I am reluctant to comment about matters pertaining to Islam because I am neither a religious expert nor do I consider myself a pious Muslim. But to remain silent would be a betrayal of my conscience, for these vile actions affect me deeply as both a Malaysian and a Muslim, however flawed I may be.

The spokesperson for the protesters claim it is inappropriate to relocate the Hindu temple in a neighbourhood where 80% of the residents are Muslim. This argument is both disturbing in its simple foolishness and flawed outright. What is so inappropriate about building a house of worship for the remaining 20% of the residents who are not Muslim? If we go with the simple man’s logic, would it then be “inappropriate” to build a mosque in a predominantly non-Muslim neighbourhood? I would hope not. No one should be denied their right to perform their religious obligations, particularly when it does not intrude upon others. I recall this flawed argument being used by residents in the Sydney suburb of Camden against the building of an Islamic school sometime last year, with the rabid protesters deeply disturbed at the prospect of the Islamic school blemishing the Anglo-Saxon character of their locality.

It pains me to note the utter disrespect these Malay Muslim protesters showed to the Hindu community by dragging the severed cow’s head along the streets, wearing skullcaps and chanting “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great!) as if they were the last defenders of Islam. They were obviously aware of the symbolism, but have they forgotten that the cow is sacred in Islam too, as are all creatures created by God? They demand the meat they consume to be halal, that is, to be clean and pure, treated with dignity and respect from birth to the moment of slaughter, yet they parade the dismembered animal with the joy and enthusiasm of barbarians, thoughtless in the sanctity of animals from the Islamic perspective.

They may wear their skullcaps and parade their piety in full display, but I take heart that Islam does not condone such callous acts of disrespect towards those who do not profess our religion from these verses:

Say, O you disbelievers
I do not worship that which you worship
Nor do you worship what I worship
Nor will I ever worship that which you worship
Nor will you ever worship what I worship
For you your religion, and for me my religion

Surah Al-Kafiroon (The Disbelievers), verses 1-6
109: 1-6

Follow what is revealed to you from your Lord, there is no god but He; and turn aside from those who join gods with Allah;
And if Allah had pleased, they would not have set up others (with Him) and We have not appointed you a keeper over them, and you are not placed in charge of them;
And do not abuse those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits they should abuse Allah out of ignorance. Thus We have made fair seeming to every people their deeds, then to their Lord shall be their return, so He will inform them of what they did

Surah Al-An’Aam (The Cattle, Livestock) verses 106-108
6: 106-108