KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16: Umno and its own ‘special’ brand of IsIam have drawn fire from the Muslim community in the country, which is balking at the uproar it has tried to create by accusing the Penang state government of being anti-Islam and wanting to cancel the birthday march of Prophet Muhammad.
“Such processions are only held in this part of the Malay world. With or without the procession, Muslims can remember and celebrate Maulidur Rasul. Do not turn this episode into a racial or religious dispute for political gain,” a reader Syed Imran Syed Ahmad wrote in to a popular news portal.
Syed Imran's comment was just one of the hundreds of such feedback that have poured in to news websites and blogs in response to the ruckus kicked up over Penang's alleged intention to do away with the annual procession on February 25. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (PIC) has already denied the accusations, confirming that the march would carry on as usual.
“I would urge Umno to remember the history of Abu Jahal and Abu Lahab. For their own motives and gains, these two men organized huge celebrations for the Prophet. Camels were even slaughtered,” MP for Machang Saifuddin Nasution told Harakahdaily.
“And yet in Islam, these are the two people who have committed the greatest crimes and sins against the Prophet and Islam. So to Umno, I urge to you to stop and repent. Learn from the Quran and do not get to the stage of Abu Jahal and Abu Lahab.”
The new Abu Jahals and Abu Lahabs
Indeed, the latest bid by Umno to paint Guan Eng as a cruel non-Muslim leader intent on wiping out Islamic lifestyle was led by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and his father-in-law Abdullah Badawi – the head of the Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia.
Without checking the facts, the trio had rushed to endorse the ‘news’ spread by their Umno newspaper Utusan Melayu. And the purpose: to rally Malay support against the Pakatan Rakyat in Penang.
“The procession is not even part of the 'sunnah' (practice) of the Prophet or his companions. It was an innovation created by Muslim Malays in the Nusantara region. As such, even if there were letters (from Guan Eng’s administration) purporting to cancel the procession, it is okay,” another reader wrote.
“Ask the Perlis government if it has such bid'ah (innovated) processions. Ask Asri Zainal Abidin, the former Perlis mufti if such a procession is part of the Islamic tradition. Please, Khairy Jamaluddin and Utusan Malaysia - don't go for sensationalism and short-term gains.”
Special prayers, never procession in Kelantan
Even in the predominantly Muslim state of Kelantan, the PAS-led government has never staged any processions for the Prophet’s birthday. Instead, it traditionally holds religious lectures, followed by special prayers.
"The state government has never felt the need to hold any processions for the past 20 years. What for when there are better ways to show our gratitude to the Prophet? For example, special prayers to unite us spiritually and lectures by religious experts to make sure that all Muslims are reminded and properly educated on the true teachings of Islam," Wan Rahim Wan Abdullah, the Kota Bharu MP, told Harakahdaily.
"What happened in Penang is actually a good example of how Islam can be twisted by unscrupulous politicians. But that is Umno and the Malaysian people - Muslims and non-Muslims - should not be fooled anymore because these people have been playing the racial and religious card for 52 years."
According to Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar Ahmad Yaakob, the special prayers will be held at the Sultan Muhamamd IV stadium this year. He said as usual, mosques throughout the state would be allowed to carry out processions organized by their congregations, but there would not be any state-sponsored march.
“Let’s get the facts straight. True Islam is to follow the teachings of the Prophet correctly. It is absolutely wrong of Umno to imply that by not holding a procession on the Prophet’s birthday, it would be anti-Islam and a move to marginalize Malay rights. That is really getting too extreme and very racist,” Saifuddin said.
“I have lived in Kelantan for decades. Here, how we celebrate His birthday is through sincere devotion and special prayers. Even Kelantan Umno knows this. They definitely won’t dare to be funny in Kelantan because this is the heartland of the believers.”