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The man who hugged trees

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A tribute to the late SM Mohamed Idris, by Khoo Salma Nasution.

Uncle Idris was a man who loved trees
They provide oxygen, shade and comfort
to everyone, whether young or old, rich or poor, strong or weak
They provide nourishment and homes to all creatures great and small,
animals, birds, insects, even microorganisms
Trees perform sadaqah* and tasbih**
They stand alone and together, in the city and in the forest
The man who loved trees
taught us to see the interconnectedness of things,
the web of creation that glorifies the Creator

Uncle Idris not only loved trees, he planted them
As a councillor, he planted trees all over his city
silent sentinels that support and shelter life
As an activist, he planted ideas and institutions,
which were always there when we needed them
Many young people passed through, worked there briefly,
caught the fire of his ideas, the methods of his madness
They, too, learnt to see the interconnectedness of life
how our every choice and act as consumers or producers
multiplies into processes and patterns that reaffirm or destroy life itself

Uncle Idris not only planted trees, he hugged them
He stopped those who came to cut them down
The grand old man was there to say, No!
no, to the corporations, to the powers of the day
No, you shall not ruin lives with impunity
No, you shall not destroy nature with impunity.
He understood that by destroying creation, we bring about extinction
and when the lives of the weak are ruined, our society will rot from within

READ MORE:  Incorporate healthy, clean environment as fundamental right

The man who hugged trees saw it coming
the climate crisis and our environmental crisis
the strong winds created by our own choices and actions
brutal displays of nature that show us how everything and everyone is connected

The man who loved trees tells us
now is the time to plant trees and seed the acts of hope
now is the time to hug trees and rebel for life

* voluntary charity
** praise to God

Khoo Salma with Idris at a demonstration on 1 March 2019

Khoo Salma Nasution is vice-president of the Penang Heritage Trust and steering committee member of Penang Forum.

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