Friday, August 5, 2011

God, Proselytisation & One-Way Street

Some years ago, I was working in Brunei when one day a Muslim client in a jubah came to the office to collect an urgent report in connection with his loan application at a local bank. Unfortunately, although the report has been completed, we required a few more minutes to do the binding. He was sitting across my desk, and I thought I'd create small talks with him.

I can't remember how the conversation started, but he was telling me about his plan to perform the haj later that year. And I sort of asked a passing question—not that I was really interested to conduct a research on performing the haj—whether it's really compulsory for all Muslims to perform the haj. Little did I know that that innocent question triggered what ended up to be over an hour's worth of lecture on Islam and why it is the best religion. Suddenly he forgot all about the urgency of his report and his appointment with the banker, but maybe that was time well-spent on his part.

Years earlier, when I was much younger, I was staying in Kampung Koidupan in Penampang. Our house was built on a native reserve on a hill. One bright sunny day, a woman came to the house holding an umbrella in one hand, and the Bible in the other. In spite of my telling her that I was not interested to know, she went on and on about her religion. The Jehovah's Witnesses are very, very persistent people, you know.

The thing about religions in general is that there is that curious tendency for the followers to try to influence others to convert to their respective religions. The attempt to proselytise may be very direct, or it can be subtle, but make no mistake, there is always that tendency!

I read with interest the recent news of how the Selangor State Religious Department (JAIS) raided a thanksgiving dinner held in the Damansara Utama Methodist Centre (DUMC). [The Star] And the raid was later defended by Datuk Dr Hasan, claiming that there was evidence of proselytisation towards Muslims. [The Star]

The question is whether proselytisation is a right only available to one religion and not the others—a "one-way-street"? That only the Muslims can proselytise and not the Christians or Sikhs?

It is no secret that I don't believe in any religion. And I'm seeing how Christianity is forced down the throat of my 9-year-old daughter. If I had it my way, I would prefer her to reach adulthood first before she is given the freedom to choose her religion, if she wants to. I'm not in favour of the brainwashing approach. I want her to have the freedom of choice.

I should add, however, that I will try to brainwash my daughter in my own way to look at religions critically. So, for example, maybe Mary wasn't a virgin when she had Jesus?

But the one thing that I shall not do is to deny her of the freedom of knowledge and information. She can attend lectures on Christianity or Islam or Buddhism for all I care. For I believe that only in that way can she then arrive at a quality decision, if she were to make one.

If my daughter is destined to choose Islam, then that is her choice. Whether or not I agree with that decision, that is not important. If she is happy with that decision, then she will have my blessings. I don't think that I'm going to prevent her from touching the Malay-language Bible because I'm afraid that she will be confused that the "Allah" in the Bible is the same with the "Allah" found in the Quran. I don't think that I'm going to prevent her from setting foot in a church or temple for fear of her converting to another religion. Relationship between an individual and God is a unique one—that is the kind of love, respect and admiration that cannot, and should not, be dictated by others. I shall not give reign to the temptation to deny my daughter the freedom of choosing her own faith.


2 comments:

almostclever said...

"But the one thing that I shall not do is to deny her of the freedom of knowledge and information. She can attend lectures on Christianity or Islam or Buddhism for all I care. For I believe that only in that way can she then arrive at a quality decision, if she were to make one."

That is exactly how I feel.

Cornelius said...

There you go, Sarah, we do agree sometimes!... hehe