When the lifts in our hotels are labelled halal or non-halal, one wonders how far we have sunk into a world of absurdities.
Surely, whether or not a lift is halal is really not critical when we may have irreversibly corrupted the boundaries between what is morally, ethically and spiritually right by ignoring the real issues plaguing our country.
So, what next? Separate halal or non-halal staircases, air wells and public toilets? Will we have to wear gloves next, to separate our hands – that touch the food we eat – from turning door knobs or pressing doorway keypads? Will there come a time when we may need to consider separating the air that we breathe into halal and non-halal air?!
We are veering on the edge of absurdity! But then it would seem that in Malaysia, even pigs can fly, judging by how we have pushed the boundaries between reality and the impossibly absurd in just the last two months alone.
Oops! Did I err here? Pardon the reference to pigs – for I wonder now if such idioms too are haram in Malaysia. It is hard to say these days if even mentioning a pig or seeing an image of a pig is also haram.
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When we contemplate this absurd, nit-picky fuss over haram and non-haram lifts, let’s be aware that more serious issues such as corruption, abuse of power and injustice have been glossed over or ignored by the various religious policing squads, including Jakim (Malaysian Islamic Development Department) and Pas.
Their views on these larger matters have been anything but clear. Perhaps they have been blindsided by ‘small’ matters like lifts, to find time to pursue the bigger issues of corruption and abuse of power that continue to stare them in the face.
By failing to tackle these issues appropriately, as expected by the law and the Constitution and by the spiritual frameworks of religion, we may have compromised the entire nation. There will be no end to the ripple effects such oversights could have in the coming years.
I believe non-Muslims do not need to be Muslims to know what is morally right or wrong (regardless of what Hadi Awang believes of non-Muslims). All of us, both Muslims and non-Muslims, can easily tell you that allowing Najib Razak, a convicted felon, special treatment in prison is morally wrong!
If a large budget of hundreds of thousands of ringgit has been allocated to pimp up Najib’s ‘living quarters’ in prison – as alleged – at the expense of taxpayers, that too would be morally wrong.
When we see a policeman kissing the hand of a man who stole billions from public funds, it is not only disturbing at one level but morally wrong at another.
Every crime needs its punishment. Yet Najib is unable to abide by the consequences of his own crimes. No child should ever be brought up like that – but this man has been, and that is morally wrong.
Worse, the prison system and the hospitals seemed to have bent over backwards to accommodate this felon. Where are the religious guidelines against this by Jakim and other religious bodies? Clearly, for them, lifts are more important.
And when Najib asked to be allowed to ‘serve’ his constituents in Pekan, it was as if a scene from an absurd fictional drama had unfolded. We know that Najib’s audacity was recharged by an equally accommodating House Speaker.
But of course, we know that this cannot happen! We are guided by the law of the land and a moral code of ethics.
The implications are hard to miss when a criminal easily forgets that he is a convicted prisoner. However, he would have remembered if he had been transported to court both handcuffed and dressed in prison garb like any other prisoners.
When this was not done, have we not compromised our values to favour one man among thousands of others? This is unfair to the other prisoners and it is morally wrong. But who is asking? Certainly not any religious squad on the prowl.
The bottom line is that there has to be visible consequences for crimes, without which there can be an absence of moral learning. If this is the way a criminal who stole billions is treated, what are we really saying about our spiritual and moral values?
The far-reaching consequences of ignoring the religious and moral implications of Najib’s guilty verdict will have a spiralling effect on other leaders and would-be felons. It could even be the undoing of our national integrity at a macro level.
Najib’s sentencing saw Zahid Hamidi in an unbelievable frenzy, apparently to escape the clutches of the law. Now Zahid is pushing for early elections in a bid to change the government – and possibly the attorney general.
Perhaps Zahid sees the eroding popularity of Umno. Perhaps he believes that the party that forms the government of the day gets to manipulate the administration of justice? Perhaps this might enable him and certain other political bigwigs of the ‘court cluster’ to win a get-out-of-jail card?
However, this rush for an election – when the ringgit is plunging, when oil prices are falling and all other prices are soaring, and when dark clouds are already gathering, warning us of heavy rains and floods – is selfish and morally despicable.
Isn’t such selfish thinking wrong when those who should eat last think of themselves first? Isn’t it also haram if leaders think they can abuse their powers to manipulate the administration of justice?
I am not a Muslim, but I know that Islam is inherently fair and good. It should not be allowed to suffer any manipulation by certain individuals who may be bent on using race and religion to win the election, just to save themselves from prison.
Whether it is haram or halal, fair or unfair, just or unjust, moral or immoral, wrong or right, I am certain we can all tell the difference. Yet, there are those who will turn a blind eye and compromise on what is right to try to save their skin, their race or their religion.
Elections should not be won by polarising the people. That is the lazy, irresponsible way. Instead, they should be won based on what is morally and ethically right. It should be based on what needs to be done to ease the pain of the people and to build a stronger, more resilient and cohesive people.
Within this context, these religious guidelines on lifts (absurd though they may be) by these Islamic officers can easily be viewed as nothing short of hypocrisy. No amount of halal labels on lifts will ever be able to correct the compromises that have been made to our inherent national moral and ethical values.