Francis Paul Siah heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS).
Zakir Naik, don’t teach M’sians how to celebrate Christmas
COMMENT | A controversial Zakir Naik video touching on the sensitivities of celebrating Christmas has been making its rounds on social media, again.
Over the past week, I have received the video several times from individual friends and also viewed it in various chat groups.
As far as I’m aware, the video, titled “Can Muslims Celebrate And Wish Merry Christmas – Dr Zakir Naik”, first appeared in Malaysia at around this time in December last year.
I recall it was widely circulated last year.
It is not known who is responsible for circulating the video again, or why it was done with such frequency and speed.
Let me state I am only guessing here. If the re-circulation is the work of Zakir Naik’s agents with the intention of reminding Muslims in Malaysia that it is wrong to join the Christmas celebration or wish Christians ‘Merry Christmas’, then allow me this opportunity to respond here.
The video is authentic, produced by Zakir’s Peace TV.
My attention is also drawn to a 2016 article titled “Wishing Christians ‘Merry Christmas’ is a sin, worse than murder – Islamic cleric, Zakir Naik” in the Daily Post of Nigeria, which has been posted numerous times on Facebook in recent days.
The article reads, in parts:
“An international orator on Islam and comparative religion, Dr Zakir Naik, on Christmas Day warned Muslims against sending wishes to Christians as they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
“On his Twitter handle @DrZakirNaikFC, he wrote: “Wishing Merry Christmas to Christians is a worse evil, worse than fornication or murder.
“Please avoid it, my dear Muslims. It’s a big sin. Retweet and spread the message.
“I hope no Muslim wishes or updates any status on Christmas because celebrating Christmas is against Islam, against Allah, against Prophet Muhammad (SAW), so be aware of that very big sin.”
I have no intention of challenging Zakir on his beliefs as I’m no expert on comparative religion as he is. Neither am I a preacher on the sermon circuit.
Just let me tell my dear Muslim brother this. I don’t think we need you to tell us, Malaysians, how to celebrate Christmas. We are doing just fine as we are.
You see, Zakir, there is something we call “religious harmony and tolerance” in Malaysia, which I believe must be alien to you.
Malaysian tolerance is the only reason why you are still allowed to stay here, since no other country is prepared to take you in, according to our Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Perhaps it is time for you to think carefully and do a serious reflection as to why you are wanted in your native India, as well as in some other countries.
What did you do wrong? What sins have you committed? Search your conscience thoroughly and you might be able to find the answer somewhere in a little corner of the heart.
As for the Christmas greeting, it is a tradition for our king, prime minister and other Muslim leaders to wish all Malaysian Christians ‘Merry Christmas’ during Yuletide.
Here’s a take from the Sultan of Johor, especially for you, Zakir, to digest: “If wishing others Merry Christmas makes you lose your Islamic faith, then it’s also best that you go to work on December 25 as per normal, just in case you become a kafir by enjoying the Christmas holiday.”
Now, Zakir, do you think Malaysian Muslims will listen to your intolerant declaration that wishing ‘Merry Christmas’ to Christians is a worse evil, worse than fornication or murder, or to their sultan whom they adore and respect?
Our sultan is also the head of religion in his state and it is he we will listen to, and certainly not to hate preachers who have been insulting other faiths and distorting Islam for their own purpose.
Zakir, I suggest that the next time you see Mahathir, please tell our prime minister that he is committing a great sin, one worse than murder, if he continues to wish Christians ‘Merry Christmas’.
Then, let us know Mahathir’s response to your holier-than-thou warning. We are keen to know what he has to say to you on the matter.
It is a fact that the majority of Muslims here do not readily accept Zakir’s teaching that the ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting is an affirmation of Christianity and that Jesus Christ is the begotten Son of God. Our Johor Sultan’s earlier message is one clear testimony to this disagreement.
It is true that we have some tinpot ustaz (Islamic teachers) in our midst who share Zakir’s opposition to the Christmas greeting. But their views were shot down by Jakim as far back as 2005 with a fatwa that it is not wrong for Muslims to wish Christians ‘Merry Christmas’ as long as it is done in the spirit of kindness and there are no “shirik” (polytheistic) implications in the words.
The controversial Indian cleric has made Malaysia his home for the past few years, so he is probably aware how Malaysians celebrate Christmas together.
Zakir might not find our interfaith relations at par with his own Islamic interpretation and personal preferences but he has to accept the way we, Malaysians, celebrate our religious festivals.
This is a simple way of how we do it.
Year in and year out, almost all my dear Muslim friends, some way back to our primary school days, have never failed to send me Christmas greetings.
Last I checked, all are still practising Muslims. Certainly, none became kafirs. So Allah must be pleased with the way they live and practice their faith.
During important Islamic dates, like Aidiladha for example, I also extend my greetings to Muslim friends with a Selamat Hari Raya Aidiladha. To Salam Aidiladha my Muslim brethren means wishing them joy, peace and happiness on an auspicious occasion. It does not make me less Christian. It’s the same with ‘Merry Christmas’.
So, dear Zakir, if you still find it difficult to wish me Merry Christmas on Dec 25, just send me a Happy Holiday greeting. That will suffice.
As a Christian, it gives me much joy and happiness to receive greetings from those of other faiths on Christmas Day.
This year will be particularly joyous and memorable if one comes from you, my dear Muslim brother Zakir Naik.
FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at email@example.com.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.