When it comes to religion, better be safe than sorry?

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“Om swastiastu shanti om, assalamualaikum, selamat sorih dan shalom diucapkan kepada semua. Kita akan mulakan upacara dengan membaca doa. Saya minta maaf kerana akan kendalikan doa mengikut agama Islam. Tetapi saudara kalian yang bukan beragama Islam sila sesuaikan doa ini dengan kepercayaan masing-masing.”

This is the normal opening greeting at most official government events and functions in Bali, Indonesia, and I had the privilege of hearing it recently when I was invited to conduct a broadcast workshop for Indonesian state broadcaster TVRI there.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world, with a population of 255 million people. Almost 90 percent of those living in the vast archipelago are Muslims. The rest consist of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.

But somehow, for an average Malaysian like me, I find it almost impossible to believe that other religions can be accepted and acknowledged so easily until I saw it happening at the official government function I was a part of.

I almost got knocked off my seat when I heard the emcee utter the above words. And the feeling continued like a sub-machine gun firing because one after another, every government official, whether Muslim or not (and one wouldn’t even know!), started saying the same greetings.

After 38 years of my life living in Malaysia, I have the belief that it is a cardinal sin for a Muslim to wish a non-Muslim ‘assalamualaikum’, what more to utter greetings that are from different religions and culture. Come on! Om shanti om? Shalom? What is going on here?

Imagine my continued shock when I saw one individual in the crowd crossing her heart right after the Muslim emcee said ‘walhamdulillahirabilalamin’ on concluding his doa...

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