It is a common reaction for Muslims to address uncertain area in their practise with tawhid or faith implication by avoiding it. For the unfamiliar, heresy, apostasy and accomplice to it (subahah) are act most condemned in Islam.
For those non-Muslims sincere in their gesture for Tun, their displeasure to such comments is understandable for it implies as though non-Muslims are insensitive and totally ignorant to the Muslims ways. Perhaps there should have been more diplomacy in expressing ones reservation openly. In the Newtonian world of Internet discussion, every action could sometimes bring about an opposition an equal reaction.
The way it is with religion, each comes with various strains of interpretations and orthodoxy. Its best left to within the realm of the particular faith to determine and even deal with it.
The benefit of doubt must be given to those Muslim taking a conservative stand to refrain from such Multifaith ritual. In the final analysis, the ultimate decision maker in the practise of religion goes to the individual. The long and short of religion is as one commonly said words amongst the Malays, “kubur masing-masing” (meaning every mortal is responsible to their own before the Creator). The individual’s decision should be guided either by knowledge or from learned ones.
Generally when faced with an unfamiliar situation like Multifaith prayers, one could decide with sufficient confidence in ones own knowledge and understanding. Most important in one decision to join is that ones intention must be clear.
One Mufti (contrary to the opinion of some quarter of the public of him) is very much involved in interfaith dialogues abroad. In one dialogue in Europe, he was offered to lead prayers for world peace, while others follow and later rotated to be led by other, while he follows. While he agreed to the performance of such prayers, he declined to the proposed arrangement for it is heretic for him to follow the prayers rituals of others. Finally its agreed that each perform their own prayers in their own ways with a common purpose.
That is exactly what was practise at Blog House. The Muslims perform their regular Maghrib prayers and followed by 'doa' lead by the Imam. They later joined the others outside the premise to observe the prayers perform by the other faith. This is a similar to the act of Prophet Muhammad to stand to give respect to a Jewish death procession ritual.
For the comfort of the unfamiliar, the Imam, Dr Feisal Abdul Rauf is no stranger to Malaysia. He was raised here and studied at St. John Institution, Kuala Lumpur. His father was the late Egyptian Professor Abdul Rauf, the man who established Kolej Islam, Klang and later called again to be the first Rector for International Islamic University of Malaysia. Dr Feisal is involved in the interfaith Cordoba Initiative (press here) to build understanding of Islam in the West. One notable person involved in the Cordoba Initiative is Karen Armstrong.
Before the performance of the Maghrib prayers, one of the organiser requested one Muslim Blogger to perform the call for prayers or azan. Earlier he was seen busy preparing the area area for Muslims to pray. Unlike the complain one regular hear of the azan, the attitude by that organiser, who happens to be a Christian, was indeed a great gesture in interfaith respect and understanding on the Muslim ways.
As one Blogger used to confide, to promote a united Malaysian society, it is not to promote tolerance but appreciation and understanding to the other. The act of the organiser demonstrates that to promote harmony within the diverse mosaic of Malaysian society is to appreciate our differences and understand each others needs and at times insecurities. This was exactly what’s promoted by our nation's forefathers.
What matters most in interfaith interaction is a common respect for the right and manner of others to practise their own religion. The common act to condemn and ridicule other faith is not conducive to such spirit. Nevertheless, freedom to practise religion should be made without any imposition unto others, encroachment beyond ones faith, and within reasonable limit of practical considerations.
As advocated before by this Blogger, the solution to societal problems is best left to society to decide. Where the adversarial nature of politics and law failed, the attitude of appreciation and understanding within society is a solution by society itself to interfaith and also interracial issues.