Cenbet calls for tolerance, inter-racial understanding

The NGO says Jaringan's demand that Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng stay away from 'buka puasa' events smacks of racial superiority.

low-cenbetPETALING JAYA: Asking Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to stay away from “buka puasa” events is uncalled for and smacks of racial superiority, the Centre for a Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) said in a statement today.

The NGO was responding after Jaringan Muslimin Pulau Pinang chairman Mohd Hafiz Noordin had accused Lim and his state executive council of interfering in the issuance of fatwas (religious decrees for Muslims) and told the CM not to join “buka puasa” gatherings during Ramadan.

Hafiz, who was speaking at a protest, also said if Lim wanted to break fast with Muslims during Ramadan, he should convert to Islam first.

Cenbet committee member Derek Low Eng Tack said Malaysians from different backgrounds should be encouraged to take part in the festivities of other communities to enhance inter-racial understanding, especially at a time of heightened tension among those from different backgrounds.

“It is even more unfortunate that such calls came on the eve of Ramadan, a month of love, patience and compassion,” Low said.

“Joining other communities in their racial and religious celebrations has been a tradition in our plural society for centuries,” he said, adding that this practice had enabled people of different races and religions to know each other better.

Low said Malaysians could not afford to stay ignorant of the cultural practices of others and allow prejudices and unfounded fears to fester.

“At a time of widening gap between those of different backgrounds in this country, we should encourage Malaysians to reach out to each other and promote our plural cultures,” he said.

The NGO said Jaringan had missed the point in asking the chief minister to convert to Islam in order for him to attend “buka puasa” events because non-Muslims joining Muslims in breaking fast was an act of reaching out and simply being Malaysian.

“We also regret that during Jaringan’s protest, the chief minister’s information officer Zaidi Ahmad was slapped and roughed up,” Low said.

Zaidi, a former Air Force major, was slapped after he posed a question at the protest held outside the Simpang Enam mosque in Macalister Road.

Low said physical assault was totally unacceptable as a means of protest, especially so in the wake of numerous similar cases that had taken place recently.

He said these incidences signalled the country’s growing intolerance as extremism crept into the very fabric of this nation.

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