Here we go again.
One early morning back in early September 2008, the jemaah for a surau in Puchong had a surprised visitor. YB Theresa Kok, Selangor state exco, MP for Seputih and State Assemblyperson for Kinrara requested that they lowered the speaker volume for azan.
That became a political issue between UMNO and DAP with PAS taking Theresa's side. Naturally, words like insult on Islam was used and both UMNO and PAS were trying hard to score political brownie points.
There is a demonstration on a complain of loud azan at Pantai Dalam. This time the complainant is an MCA man. The same emotional and political play is at work.
Is the surausand masjids too loud these days that it has exceeded the level of acceptance and tolerance by non-Muslim Malaysians? Or has Malaysian lost their sense of acceptance and tolerance to the religious diversity of the country?
After a tense GE 2008 in March, the azan issue raised by Theresa ended her being detained on September 12th 2008 under Section 73(1) of the Internal Security Act.
There was police report made against her on September 14th by NGOs like Perwaris, Pekida, and such for allegedly banning suraus in Puchong Jaya, Kota Damansara and Sri Serdang use of loudspeakers for azan, especially for subuh.
After her release, Theresa Kok was still hogging the limelight when she visited the Masjid As Salam Puchong 25 September 2010 in skirts. Her dress was inappropriate for entering the Masjid for it is not in accordance with Islamic aurah restriction for women.
In my understanding of ISA, the reason for detention could be beyond that. It must be a serious security issue to get held up for ISA.
The same aurah issue repeated again and again in September 2010 when DAP's Sri Serdang Assemblyman Teoh Nie Ching visited a Sri Serdang surau and recently held a senamrobik within a Masjid compound in unacceptable attire.
Many other DAP and Pakatan leaders like Xavier Jayakumar, Gobind Singh Deol, William Leong, Tian Chua, and perhaps others seemed to have a new fascination to ply their political skill by visiting surau and masjid but end up creating controversy for not understanding the required code of conduct.
That is that.
This time around last Friday a similar issue is heating up involving a former press secretary to former MCA President, Ong Ka Ting, lawyer Ng Kian Nam and the jemaah of Masjid Al Ikhlasiah, Pantai Dalam.
Ng who lives at a Kondo Pantai Hill Park wrote a complain to various authorities and Ministers, including the Prime Minister, claiming the azan is excessively to loud, particularly in the morning.
It is believed that Federal Territory Minister, Raja Dato Nong Chik had requested Jabatan Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan (JAWI) to look into the matter. JAWI had instructed the Masjid to lower the volume.
This created furor and a group of NGOs had demonstrated in front of the masjid after Friday prayers to express their disappointment and unhappiness against Ng.
This time PAS took their turn to whack back at UMNO and the Government.
Similarly during the Hulu Selangor by-election, YB Khalid Samad made a wild accusation that BN candidate now YB P Kamalanathan had campaigned inside a masjid and PAS bloggers doctored pictures to show such.
Kamala had got even with Khalid since then.
So much for politicians and their constant need to create chaos by agitating the public to draw political support. But politicians cannot agitate the public, if the public do not easily lose their head and become gullible to such emotional stirrings.
Where does my stance on this issue as a Muslim and pro-UMNO blogger?
The natural tendency would be to side with the masjid in both cases of Theresa and Ng.
What has happened to Malaysians and their acceptance and tolerance to the religious diversity of the country? That would be the question to ponder.
Most Malays and Muslim could accept (not just tolerate) their neighbours' spiritual need to burn joss-sticks and tolerate the emanating unfamiliar smell. Non-Chinese neighbours tolerate the midnight burning of firecrackers on Chinese New Years.
No one have any problems with Hindu temples playing their drums loudly in the evening.
Except that, it may not be quite tolerable to the jemaah of the affected surau at Section 21 for a temple to be relocated next. For theological or ritual reasons, Maghrib is a time for solace to the Muslim and noise is hindered.
The Hindu must respect and oblige to accept and tolerate that customs of the Muslims. They should be considerate to not insist their temple be relocated next to a surau and insist on other options.
This is where the MP for Shah Alam, Khalid Samad, exco for Selangor in charge, Xavier Jayakumar and MB for Selangor, Tan Sri Khalid Samad failed to find an amicable solution. They started the agitation and they must solve it.
Most Malaysians do not complain of the perceived higher incidence of drunk driving on Christmas but just accept the higher than usual consumption of alcohol and be extra careful on the road.
Coming back to the issue, so why can't the non-Muslims learn to accept the Muslim make-up of this country they adopt as home and tolerate the azan?
Is Ng being ridiculously stubborn or self centered?
After all, Ng's condominium is located a mile away from the Masjid. He had just moved into the neighbourhood some 15 months ago. Why is it an issue when his neighbours learn to accept and tolerate it?
An MCA friend asked explained that before Ng wrote those letters as a citizen, he had asked the question in his Facebook (see here). The feedback he had received was that the azan is excessively loud.
I have no way of gauging if the azan of Masjid Al Ikhlasiah, Pantai Dalam or suraus and masjids approached by Theresa is too loud. One will have to accept it in good faith even if there are intolerable individuals claiming it.
But I am about to give a non-conventional view on the loud azan issue because I face the same problem myself. Mind you, as a son of an Imam, I live next to Masjids all my live.
I have no issue with the azan. It helps to remind me of the prayers time. Furthermore, it is hardly more than two minutes.
However, it is the broadcasting of the kelas ugama by the neighbourhood surau, usually in between maghrib and isya, and after subuh, that is irritatingly loud. It is so loud that the words of the ustaz is inaudible. The speakers is blasted beyond its sonic capacity.
Since it is as loud as the azan, I began to realised that the azan is excessively loud. It is unnecessary because there are altogether 6 suraus and masjids within our two miles radius.
I have no problem with the ustaz's ceramah despite his cleverly in-fused PAS anti-Government political propaganda because the jemaah in the neighbourhood are not gullible to such cheap politicking. The jemaah sacked few ustazs for being partisan.
My concern was the volume disturbed the attention of schoolchildren studying at home. In the early subuh, it disturbs babies and younger children still sleeping. That is about the time parents are busy preparing their children to schools and themselves to work.
In my case, I expressed my issue with the relevant people of the surau. Over time, it is solved.
In the case of Theresa, she helped solve the problem of low quality speaker system of the suraus and masjids that had been the cause of irritation to the non Muslims in the neighbourhood.
Shouldn't Ng and others complaining the same approach the responsible people of the masjid instead of showing power and applying his political influence to force the masjid to lower the volume?
Is it a case of a lawyer used to the adversarial ways of practicing laws and authority that they lose sense of community and humanity?
Ng's approach sent the wrong signal and invite animosity. Newton's third law of strong action results in strong opposite reactions.
Ng should understand Muslims sensitivity. If the local authority in Switzerland had banned the building of minarets, one can understand that it is not an Islamic country. Islam is constitutionally the religion of the federation and not just ceremonial official religion. Muslims will expect more leeway.
Politicians being politicians, PAS will only take advantage of the situation and create a perception of animosity between MCA and Muslims and Malays. Tenang by-election is just days away.
Ng should have taken a less adversarial and politically more correct solution. He should show more tolerance and acceptance till an understanding is reached.
It is most unlikely for someone involved in politics but let's assume Ng is naive and ignorant as most Malaysian are in the culture and practices of other Malaysians outside their race and religion.
Government has an important issue to be addressed for the future. Is there such policy on environment that determines the acceptable decibel level for religious houses broadcast?
Is there a procedure and authority to settle inter-religious disputes at the localised level within the neighbourhood? In the urban areas, we do not have that wise and respectable penghulu personality that solve localised disputes.
That should certainly help citizens like Ng and others.
Not every dispute and issue is a calling for the struggle for alif ba ta.
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