I celebrate CNY, Raya, Deepavali, Christmas; never been confused

I celebrate CNY, Raya, Deepavali, Christmas; never been confused
By Zan Azlee

Sometimes, during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, my family members and I would head over to the grave of my grandmother in Shah Alam to pay our respects.

We would head out there in a convoy of cars, chatting and laughing away. We would read the Yasin and Fatihah while cleaning up the grave site while still yapping away.

Usually, there would be the ice cream man there on his motorcycle ringing his bell and we would all buy ice cream potong and, yes, we would still continue to yap and laugh away.

This would be followed by everyone heading back to my mother’s house to have her excellent laksa Johor. Fun and happy times!

These trips are a bit religious, but more of a cultural thing and sort of a family tradition. According to the religion, we can offer up prayers for our deceased family members anytime and anywhere. But culturally, we still go on Hari Raya morning and it has become a symbol of family togetherness.

Half of my family is also Chinese and non-Muslim. Back when I was much younger, there were many times when we would all go together to the cemetery for Ching Ming and pay our respects to our deceased relatives.

Sure, it’s a bit of a religious affair, but it is also mainly cultural, and in our family’s case, also very much a family tradition.

We would go together and we would bring drinks and snacks and, of course, we would be chatting and laughing away. After everything is over at the cemetery, we would all go to some restaurant and enjoy a nice meal while still continuously yapping and laughing away as we enjoy each other’s company.

Now, I am married to my wife who is also half Malay and half Chinese. It seems like our family traditions are quite similar and I am so happy for my children to be able to experience and be a part of such multicultural practices.

Who says Malaysians can’t be multicultural and harmonious?

Important to understand, respect

Religion-wise, there is no doubt that my immediate family and I are Muslim. We fast during Ramadan, some of us have gone for Haji, and we pray (ok… we try as regularly as we can!).

When we are at the gravesite of my Muslim grandmother, there are no problems reciting the Yasin and Fatihah. No confusion there.

When we are at the cemetery of our Chinese uncles and aunties, we pay our respects our own way without being confused with what Islam is and what Taoism, Confucianism, or Buddhism is.

But the most important thing is that, as a family, we understand and respect each other. And we care for each other too.

Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali, and Christmas. We celebrate it all because there are members of our family who religiously and culturally celebrate all of these festivals.

Everyone else joins in to make it a family tradition and culture. That’s what we want to achieve for Malaysia, isn’t it?

I’m pretty convinced the reason why our family isn’t confused with the different religious beliefs and practices we all live by is that we are exposed to it in the most non-judgmental way.

We see it all around us. We talk and discuss it. We live and let live. We love and respect each other.

So my two cents is that in a society as diverse as Malaysia, there should not be any room for intolerance or a holier-than-thou attitude. There shouldn’t be any attempts to suppress specific religions or cultures even. There is no one religion or culture that is better than the other.

In order to not have a society that can be easily confused and manipulated, we need to make sure they are educated and well-learned.

What better way to do that than to expose society to all the differences and similarities we have? It encourages interaction, understanding, and mutual respect.

With all that being said, it’s pretty sad and frustrating that we have to constantly highlight issues like these in Malaysia. So frustrating that sometimes it feels like we should give up and let it be.

But then again, when I look at my family and my children, hope is restored.

I don’t want to sound like I am intolerant or have a holier-than-thou attitude, but I think that all Malaysians should just be like my family.

We seem to have this multicultural and harmonious living thing down pat if I do say so myself. We do have our problems, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing a little understanding and respect can’t solve.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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