Let us all celebrate diversity the Malaysian Way

Being born as a Malaysian I am blessed to be able to experience many cultural festivals celebrated by my family members and friends. After entering politics and appointed as a local councilor I have the privilege and opportunity to engage with other communities especially the Chinese and Indian community.

I was born as a Muslim in a traditional Indian Muslim family. Growing up in Penang which is a multicultural city allow me to experience and celebrate those festivals together with my friends. All this does not make me less Muslim at all but it certainly has made me more Malaysian.

The Ponggal celebration is celebrated mainly by the South Indian community. I was made to understand it has to do with harvesting and it also marks a special date on the Tamil calendar. It is a festival celebrated to show appreciation for a successful harvest.

Reference is made to the recent letter by the Deputy Director General of Education dated 13th January 2020 to all Directors of Education at State level. The said letter referred to the JAKIM’s meeting on the 8th and 9th April 2019 which decided that it is forbidden for Muslims to join Ponggal festival especially in the cooking of Ponggal rice due to it being ‘a religious celebration by the Hindus’ which isn’t true. This follows by specific guidelines on how a Muslim should conduct one’s self when participating in Ponggal celebrations which I find unnecessary.

I find the said letter by the Deputy Director General very disturbing as it has caused unrest and conflict among the public after being circulated widely on social media and by the look of it there is no doubt it will stir controversy which definite cause disharmony among the public.

The said letter gives the impression that the Education Ministry takes instructions from JAKIM rather than the Acting Minister of Education whom is the Prime Minister at the moment.

Being a Muslim all my life I do not find that my faith was shaken by any participation in any cultural activities of other communities. The letter by the Deputy Director General of Education is unnecessary and does no benefit to Malaysians but just causes unnecessary prejudice towards one another.

JAKIM may have their point of view but the Government must ensure that religious and racial harmony should be protected at all cost. We don’t need special guidelines on inter cultural participation or practices with various communities. Islam does not discriminate but preaches peace to all. We should instead adopt the concept of Rahmatan lil Alamin (Mercy to all creations).


Muhammad Shakir Ameer
Media statement by Muhammad Shakir Ameer in Shah Alam on Tuesday, 14th January 2020