'Sikh trainee's 'hair cutting while asleep' case indicates Malaysian ignorance

Kuala Lumpur, Jan 23 (ANI): The case of Malay Sikh losing face among community after miscreants cut off his hair while he was asleep, points to Malaysian ignorance about other religions and cultural practices.

Professor Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, founding Director of the Ethnic Studies Institute (KITA), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said Malaysian youths would fail to give answers if asked ten things about another race in the country.

"This ignorance is not limited to the young and "uneducated" but extends to most Malaysians, including politicians and parliamentarians. I'm concerned that our general knowledge about each other is low; we know little about each other," The Star quoted him, as saying.

Malaysians are largely ignorant of even the most basic information, including the different religions practised here, the religious festivals or celebrations and the distinction between what is cultural and what is religious, the paper said.

Recent "incidents" have shown that when it comes to taboos and other sensitive aspects of our respective religious beliefs and cultural practices, there is every possibility that a dangerous situation might arise.

Citing a year old case in which two undercover Muslim journalists who took communion at a Catholic church in Penang, Baharuddin said a few months later, a few over-zealous community leaders staged the shameful cow-head demonstration in Shah Alam over a Hindu temple site disagreement.

In both cases, the "culprits" claimed ignorance and were taken aback by the respective communities' reaction because they considered the men's action as religious travesties.

Last week, National Service trainee Basant Singh came forward to report that his long hair was cut while he was sleeping in the camp. His hair, which originally reached below his navel, was estimated to have been cut by 50 centimetres. Although he has been given leave till January 23, he is reportedly least interest in joining back his duty.

The paper quoted Monash University Malaysia anthropologist, Dr Julian C. H. Lee, as saying that there was a transgression of the young man's bodily integrity.

"Basically, no one has the right to interfere with someone else without their consent, whether it is to touch them, undress them, draw on them, or cut their hair. What is certain is there was a reach here, which the victim has grounds to regard as severe and the perpetrators must be caught," he added. (ANI)

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