Religion Tolerance vs. Religion Understanding

I'm surprised. Really.

Malaysians are so superficial in claiming that they understand each other. Recent comments by certain individuals in newspaper reveal that Malaysians have yet to reach that level of understanding. We merely tolerate each other.

I'm not criticizing anyone here. I'm just making a remark on what I found about attitudes among Malaysians regarding this oh-so-sensitive issue. I feel that there's more that needs to be done to make Malaysians become what they really want to be - truely Malaysians.

I'm making this statement because last night, I went to my friend's house because she's having a birthday party. I went there with a couple of my Malay friends, and a Chinese friend. Our friend who's throwing this birthday bash is an Indian girl. So you get the perfect scenario here - 3 Malay girls who are Moslems, one Chinese who is a Buddhist, and a family of Indians who are Christians. We are joined by a few Indian friends who are Hindus as well.

My Indian friend has invited her Christian prayer group as well. At the start of the birthday party, one of them got everybody to introduce themselves, with an additional comment or introduction. After the introduction, he announced something that made the non-Christians looked among themselves, at loss.

The man had invited everybody to join in singing praises to the Lord. That made the visitors of other beliefs rather awkward as to what they ought to do in the mean time. As much as I respect their religion, I know that I'm not supposed to join in the singing but I could just stand up with the rest to show respect and to wait until the singing is over. The rest had never encountered anything like this before and had no idea what to do. In the end, everybody just stood up as well.

The same thing happened when our friend blew off the candles on the birthday cake. Again, they had another prayer for her and prayer before eating. I couldn't help noticing that some people took care not to eat the meat and chicken served, despite the assurance by our friend's mother that the food is halaal. I wonder how they are going to survive outside Malaysia.

I took the word of my friend's mother and proceeded to enjoy the food. After all, I've been in the same situation in the past, eating food offered by my non-Muslim friends. My only question before I took the food is this - 'Did you buy the chicken from supermarket at the halal section / buy the chicken from a Muslim butcher?' If they are not sure, then I would decline the food in a respectful way. If otherwise, then I trust their words and cease worrying about it. I believe they are not out to be disrespectful towards me as to feed me something they know I should not take.
In the end, I guess this is not their fault. It's the fault of the world leaders who are making everybody paranoid of everyone else. When a certain religious group are being misunderstood, they couldn't help misunderstanding everyone else. Somehow, the question of who should first begin the first step towards gaining more understanding should not be raised. Instead, everybody should take the step and play their role. After all, each and everyone craves for peace and harmony. Just like you and I.

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