Monday, December 27, 2010
Christmas in Malaysia
And I thought the decorations for Eid in Malaysia were something to write about! Is it me and I just don't get out during the Christmas season in the States, or are the mall decorations way more elaborate here in KL? I mentioned this to a German woman whose son Yahya played with on the playground.
"No, you're right. All of the holidays they make a big production of here."
I'm intrigued at how they create such pretty winter wonderlands in the tropics. "Ooh, look at the Gingerbread Man," I pointed out to Yahya, the protagonist of one of his favorite stories.
Now a parent, I can't help but think about how our first-generation Muslim parents did much to make us feel that we weren't missing out during the Christmas season in the States. I now wondered if Malaysian parents feel that their children's religious identity might be threatened by Santa Claus, the Gingerbread Man, and plastic candy canes.
I doubt it because Hari Raya Aidilfitri still reigns supreme here. Nonetheless, I should ask my handful of Malaysian friends. I would hope that they share my sentiments that it's cool to be in a place where multiple religious holidays receive wide public display.
But while I celebrate this religious pluralism, I can't ignore that capitalism drives much of it. First the Eid al-Fitri sales, then the Deepavali sales, and now the Christmas sales. But who's complaining about endless sales?
In all seriousness, though, I'm treading close to Malaysia's greatest political debate, that is, how to maintain the primacy of Islam as the official state religion while also safeguarding the rights and interests of the country's substantial religious minorities (40% of the population).
My Chinese real estate agent was the first to share with me concern that some of the religious bills introduced in parliament increasingly alienate non-Muslims. My hope is that the zealots will not prevail in the Malaysian government.
Rather the country will take lessons from the best achievements in Islamic civilization. From the literary renaissance in Islamic Spain to the Taj Mahal in Mughal India, various cultural and religious traditions collaborated and coalesced under Muslim rule.
Posted by Jamillah Karim at 10:04 AM