Let’s be united in our efforts to build a just, cohesive, caring, progressive and vibrant nation.
Millions of Muslims throughout the world are celebrating the end of Ramadan.
Hari Raya celebrated after the month-long fasting is always a joyous and significant event, not just for Muslims but all in our multi-ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic people.
It is a fine and still thriving tradition for all Malaysians irrespective of who we are, to be invited to take part in one another’s festive celebrations.
For Muslims, it is particularly so as it marks another triumph of the human spirit against earthly temptations, as they abstain from food, drinks and other human desires from dawn to dusk for a whole month.
This is a truly incredible feat of self-discipline, and we all know that any human endeavor worth pursuing can only be attained with some degree of perfection through self-discipline.
We have witnessed, for instance, with awe and admiration, some global military parades and their march-pasts done with such precision to the tiniest details, a perfect symphony of marching tunes and fully synchronized steps by thousands and thousands of uniformed men and women.
It would be impossible to achieve such a feat, a sight to behold, if it were not down to the determined self-discipline of each of these individuals.
I think the success of every human group or country can be distilled down to this very essence: each individual member exercising individual responsibility for self-discipline in all his or her endeavors.
In the midst of this crafty and challenging pandemic, one is reminded of how important individual discipline and responsibility are to the welfare, health and overall collective good of society and nation as a whole. One cannot exist without the other. Both must co-exist. They complement each other.
We are rather fortunate that our society still, by and large, emphasizes collective responsibilities and the common good over individual rights which sometimes, in some countries, can be upheld to the extreme.
The right of every individual to bear arms, for example, cannot be so absolute that strollers in public parks or young students in schools or people in places of worship face all-too-common threats of gun violence by deranged armed individuals ever so often that fear of such violence is making people feel insecure the moment they step out of the safety of their homes.
The tumultuous and troublesome world today is faced with wars and conflicts in some countries. Even if they do not escalate, the ramifications of these wars will be felt worldwide in food shortages and higher prices of most essential goods as fuel prices skyrocket.
The global poor, as usual, will be the most vulnerable and will feel the consequences of war first and foremost.
Not only shortage of food and inflation, but a more serious escalation might lead to a nuclear war which will effectively be the end of civilization, as the planet earth will inevitably be highly contaminated.
All warring nations need the type of discipline of Muslims to avoid such a nuclear catastrophe/apocalypse.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan has also been an occasion not only for our Muslim brothers and sisters but all people of different faiths to remember the less fortunate among us and to bring the much welcome relief to them.
It is really laudable that all great religions and beliefs like Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism and even the latest Baha’i all teach us to perform such acts of compassion for the less fortunate of our society and, above all, love for our parents and elders.
However, we must also be always mindful that the needs of our loved ones and those less fortunate are constant and extend also to the needs for spiritual guidance and human caring and counseling.
While it is good that occasions for festive joy such as Hari Raya also make us mindful of their needs, we must try as well to make allowances for fulfilling these needs – however small – at other times through the year as well.
Even without a war, invasion, conflict, aggression or persecution, which are all unconscionable, unjustifiable and absolutely indefensible, there will always be those in constant need of others’ attention: young abandoned orphans, the chronically sick, those born with physical or intellectual disabilities, and increasingly, the elderly in the families.
Hari Raya and other religious festivals will surely be most meaningful if we remember these people in our midst not just once a year but every day as well.
May we all continue to live in peace and harmony, and be united in our efforts to build a cohesive, caring, progressive and vibrant nation which we will be justly proud of.
Selamat Hari Raya to all our Muslim friends wherever they may be.