Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Man's best friend and religion

Dogs and IslamSome things never cease to amaze me. And I thought I understood my fellow Muslim citizens and friends. After all, I lived among Malays and Indians most of my school days in the Naval Base and made many Malay, Indian and even Sikh friends, some of whom I am still in contact with. Heck, I even had a Malay friend sit beside me for two years while I was in Secondary 3 and 4, so I thought I understood or at least was sensitive to their customs and beliefs. I know they fast during the month of Ramadan. I know they are forbidden from pork (as the religion considers pigs as unclean). I know that they can only eat halal food - food prepared according to Islamic rules. I know they attend Mosque on Friday afternoons and I know they face Mecca when they pray. I also know that they are obliged to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca (the Haj) at least once in their lifetime. I know their Holy Book is the Koran and I know it is originally written in Arabic. Actually I know all these by living amongst them for many years although I am not a Muslim. All these are well and good. Every religion has its own rules, obligations and restrictions. This does not stop anyone from having Muslim friends. It certainly hasn't stopped me.

Now, after many of those years, I learnt two new things about their religion, Islam. The first is that Islam forbids the drawing of the Prophet Mohammad in the form of cartoons, and second, Muslims are forbidden to come into contact with dogs. And I thought it was the pigs only! I learnt this only yesterday, through a letter written to the press. All this while, I had the distinct impression that our Malay friends love animals, especially cats. Having lived among them for long stretches of my life, I was naturally taken aback by this rule about dogs. What other restrictions and rules are there?

I think our Muslim friends should not assume too much about others, and their knowledge about their religion. Certainly it is unfair for this Muslim lady to write, in a letter to Today (17 May 2006):

Some owners let their dogs roam freely; I often have to rein in my
toddlers. Once a dog ran off-leash and came close to my two-year-old. When I pulled my son away, the owner smiled and said: "It's okay, no bite."

I was angry. With my attire, it was obvious that contact with dogs is prohibited.

Well, to us non-Muslims, nothing is obvious about Islam anymore, not even for me, an old Sembawang Naval Base resident. I believe in multi-religiosity, but are there any more Islamic rules that non-Muslims like myself should be aware of? The impression nowadays is you don't want to offend Muslims. You never know what will befall you, given some of their extreme behaviour in recent times.

1 comment :

Lam Chun See said...

Maybe I shd warn you that if you go to other countries, their Muslim standards may differ from ours. Once I went to Petronas to conduct some trg. At the end of the class, I was asked to hand out the certificates of attendance. A Malay-Muslim lady came forward. She was wearing a tudung. She was quite talkative in class. As she held out her hand, I thot she wanted to shake hands like the others. So I put forward my right hand to shake her hand. Instead she withdrew. She actually wanted to receive her cert. Quite embarrassing for me. But she realised my ignorance and tried to put me at ease and continued to be chatty as if nothing happened

It's rather confusing for us. On tv I often see the MP Halimah shaking people's hands even tho she was wearing a tudung. Anyway, to be safe, nowadays, when I am introduced to Muslim ladies, I never offer my hand before them.