COMMENT | On Wednesday, I went for a quick lunch at a popular nasi kandar outlet in Petaling Jaya. It was there that I had the most heart-warming experience and certainly a very joyous start to Christmas this year.
The restaurant was packed and in walked three young women who asked whether they could share my table. Of course, I welcomed them.
In the course of our conversation, I learned that they were university students working on an assignment for a charity project during the year-end semester break.
They were fine-spirited, well-mannered and chatty young people. I had a most interesting and meaningful chat with them, never mind that they were strangers. In fact, I think they were the best lunch companions one could ask for.
Over briyani rice, fried chicken and curry, we talked about education and student loans (PTPTN naturally came into the picture), the New Economic Policy, politics, corruption, poverty and other social issues. Mind you, the trio were well-versed on what’s going on in the country and elsewhere.
Then I asked them, “I am a Christian and you are all Muslims. Do you find anything wrong in wishing me Merry Christmas?”
“Of course not! Merry Christmas, uncle,” they blurted out, almost in unison.
Actually, I posed them the question out of the blue without thinking but was glad about their immediate reaction.
Their response proved one important fact – the majority of Muslim Malaysians, the young included, are sensible, caring and responsible when it comes to respecting other religious beliefs other than their own.
It wasn’t too long ago when a fatwa had to be issued which gave Malaysians the go-ahead to wish "Happy Christmas" to their Christian friends, which came about following an uproar after so-called religious leaders insisted that it was wrong to do so.
Now think of this. Would we get anywhere at all if every Malaysian needed permission to wish others 'Happy New Year', 'Happy Deepavali', 'Selamat Hari Raya', 'Selamat Gawai', 'Gong Xi Fa Cai', 'Merry Christmas', 'Happy Vesak' or any other greeting?
How absurd, silly and stupid that would make us.
But sadly, that is true. We have “preachers” in our midst who do not understand or cannot be bothered about nurturing the deeply-rooted religious tolerance and harmony that Malaysians have long cherished.
For decades, neighbours and colleagues have wished their Christian friends "Happy Christmas." Only the eye-wateringly senseless among us would need an official directive to use the greeting.
So, if Muslims were to wish “Happy Christmas” to a Christian, do they automatically become unbelievers?
Guess what, my three new-found friends, Rabiah, Suki and Nora, answered that question perfectly...