The poco-poco dance has apparently been decreed as haram in Perak. The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, has asked everybody not to question such decree.
Well, knowing how hyper-sensitive all of us are when it comes to everything religion lately - and this applies to ALL of us, regardless of our religion - nobody in his or her right mind would be questioning such decree, Datuk Seri Minister, rest assured.
You will note that I am not even using inverted comas for the word haram anymore. That is because haram has become a generic word in Malaysia. It is already accepted as a Malay word as well as an English, Tamil and Chinese (all dialects) word. If you mention the word haram in Malaysia, everybody, regardless of his or her race or faith understands the word.
This propensity to decree anything and everything with the slightest connection with different faith or religion as haram in Islam is however a very interesting trend, if not a cause for concern.
As a citizen, I am horrified - and fearful - at the prospect of the State trying to regulate my private life. Laws should regulate actions which threaten the society as a whole. Laws should never be an instrument to govern private life or to foist upon anybody any moral value or any code of moral behaviours, unless such behaviours threaten the society as a whole.
In Malaysia, all sorts of decrees have been made and imposed on Muslims lately. These decrees run from the most trivial - such as the prohibition against wearing Manchester United and England football jerseys - to that which smirks of institutional xenophobia - such as that which prohibits Muslims from "celebrating" other religion's celebrations or festivals.
Almost invariably, the reasons proffered for such prohibitions would be that such act, if done by Muslims, would affect their faith, or the preferred word, "akan merosakkan akidah mereka" (loosely translated, "such acts would affect their faith").
Malaysians Muslims cannot therefore wear England and Manchester United jerseys because the logo on the former has a crucifix and on the later has the depiction of the devil (although of course, nobody in Malaysia could seriously testify how the devil looks like, as yet). As the rationale goes, if I wear the jerseys, my faith might be affected and I would convert to Christianity after I take three steps forward and turn to the left to the left while wearing the jersey.
Velentine's day is a no no. Because it may lead to sex. Wearing Santa Claus apparels is also a no no because apparently Santa Claus is a Christian thing. Now the poco-poco dance is also a no no in Perak. Why? Of course it is because the dance has elements of other religions/faiths.
To top it up, according to the Home Ministry, Malays are not to read the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia.
Coincidentally, some months back, my wife attended a wedding in Mukah, Sarawak. It is a small village where the people live happily although life is obviously quite hard. These village folks are the forgotten people of Malaysia. However, what they lack in materialistic possessions, they more than fully make up with their attitude towards life.
I have seen video of the wedding. They had a karaoke session after the khenduri and the whole vilage jumped up to sing. Then of course they had the poco-poco. The whole family danced, including the 70 year olds! All in name of fun and merriment.
I do not know whether they have changed their religion since. I better check.
In a democracy, the power to legislate is with the Parliament. The Parliament consists of our representatives, whom we lawfully elect in an election. Their voice, while legislating and enacting laws, theoretically, reflects and represents your voice and my voice.
It is thus an anomaly that our private life could be regulated by some people who are not legally elected by the people of Malaysia as their representatives in the Parliament or the State Legislative Assembly, as the case may be.
Frankly, I am not able to grapple with the fact that somewhere in an air-conditioned room, some people who are totally bereft of authority, moral or legal, meeting and trying to regulate my life, let alone my private life! It is an aspect of my life that I find no room for negotiation and I find this hard to swallow.
Sometimes I wonder - in fact I always wonder - why are we so transfixed over people's private life. The recent sex video scandal is just but an example of how transfixed we are with a person's private life. We do that with impunity. With no regard to morality and good conscience. Is that Islamic?
I would love if our Islamic scholars could meet, discuss and make pronouncement on, for example, the followings:
i) whether it is Islamic and not haram for suraus and mosques to accept "budget" for renovations and what not during a period immediately preceding a by-election or general election. These "budgets" seem to miraculously appear from God when immediately before a by-election or general election when previous to that, the suraus or mosques could have been left dilapidated without anybody showing any care in the world about them. I would love to know whether such practice is Islamic and therefore not haram.
ii) whether detaining people without trial is not haram?
iii) whether embarrassing people in public is not haram?
iv) whether "Islamic banking", as practised in Malaysia, is really really really not haram?
I was doing some reading last weekend about Christian tradition. I found out that Jesus Christ was believed by the Christians to have been crucified on a Friday, based on details of Canonical gospels and also astronomical approach grounded upon a lunar Crucifixion darkness and eclipse model. That day is remembered until now as the Good Friday by the Christians.
On the third day after the Good Friday, it is believed that Jesus rose from the dead (resurrection). That day fell on a Sunday. Until now, that day is celebrated as Easter Sunday, metaphorically marking a day where Jesus and therefore all mankind were freed of Earthly burden.
That day also coincided with Passover day, namely, the day the people of Judaism faith believe to be the day the Israelites were freed by God from slavery when Moses led them out of Egypt from the evil clutches of the Pharaoh.
Jesus, himself a Jew, was believed to have been crucified during Passover time. It is even said that the last supper was a Passover seder (a ritual meal that commemorates the Biblical accounting of the Jews escape from Egyptian slavery).
Metaphorically, both Easter and Passover are regarded as symbols of freedom and liberty, The Easter was a liberation for Jesus Christ from Earthly burden which led to Christianity being born while Passover was the physical liberation of Israelites when led to the birth of Judaism.
The thing is, all these events took place in April (the Easter varies between March 22nd and April 25th).
Meanwhile, the month of April in itself, has its origin from the Greek goddess, Venus. It is believed that the word April is derived from Aprilis, which was associated with Venus' Greek name Aphrodite (Aphros), or from the Etruscan name Apru. Jacob Grimm suggests the name of a hypothetical god or hero, Aper or Aprus.
If connections with other religions or faiths is to be the criteria for decreeing that a certain act or event is halal or haram as they would otherwise be agents which could affect the "akidah" of Muslims, I wonder whether Friday, Sunday and in fact the whole month of April ought to be outlawed and removed from our calendar? What about the Easter bunny? And the eggs which are distributed during Easter?
I must state that it is not my intention to challenge any fatwa or sacrosanct decree. I just want to understand the concept of faith and the rationale of all these decrees which seek to govern not only my private life but also designed to make me feel small, childish and impotently brainless.