I remember when I was still a kid, I was pretty excited over festival celebrations, regardless which religion or ethnic it is about. It is not because of the public holidays that we will have that we do not have to attend schools. But the excitement of celebrating it just makes the vibes positive in our school.
During those times, there are no text messaging apps, no emails, no social media or any digital technology for personal usage yet. When each celebration is around the corner, I make a list of my classmates and friends, and my parents would bring me to the supermarket to get some greeting cards for them. I would hand the cards over to my friends just right before each Christmas, Hari Raya, Deepavali and Chinese New Year.
As digital technology advances, of course we are able to send greetings in a more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly manner. Whichever method we greet our friends from other ethnic and religions, it is the joy and good vibes that we share with each other that matters.
But as I grow up becoming an adult, it is unfortunate that the political reality is not as positive as it can be. The latest story in a recent report in a web portal stated that a customer was shocked when he received a cake with ‘Happy Holidays’ when he had requested that it be decorated with the greetings of “Merry Christmas”.
The report said the store had refused to do so since it was in the process of getting a halal certificate, quoting Jakim as claiming that the halal logo issued by the Halal Management System cannot be used to promote other religions.
Jakim (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) clarified by issuing a statement that greetings for festivals were allowed on all products if they were not put on display in shops which have the halal certification from Jakim.
Although the festival greetings are allowed on the products, by not putting it on display doesn’t make sense. If we were to think about it, besides greeting customers, the reason for putting up festival greetings on any products is a part of a commercial strategy.
For instance, if a business is selling oats, and they wanted to repackage it into a gift pack for the Christmas celebrations. Imagine if they cannot display it in their shops, how will the customers know that they are selling such a gift pack?
Whether it is a commercial strategy or the business owners simply want to greet their customers with good vibes, why wouldn’t they be allowed to do so? I am sure there are a lot of Muslim entrepreneurs who have non-Muslim friends and customers.
I really don’t see any reason behind not allowing businesses to display such festival greetings in their shops if they have it on their products. Will it convert people to other religions? I attended a church’s kindergarten, and then a Methodist primary and secondary school. Today, I am still a Buddhist. I don’t think merely one product display can convert a person.
At this critical moment of challenges, I agree that religion is important. We need religion to keep us believing and strong so that we can go through these difficult times. But what is also important is that we need economic survival for the people. As long as it is not something ridiculous, I don’t think the government or any authorities should implement unnecessary regulations to stop people from doing business.
We used to tell people from other countries that we are proud of our diversity and multiculturalism, but yet it seems we are not practicing what we are ‘proud’ of. Again, 2020 is about to end, and yet we are behaving like an old society.