Friday, February 17, 2006

Are you socially sensitive?

When it comes to respecting other people's faith and religious beliefs, we Malaysians like to think that we are, for the most part, a tolerant society by virtue of the fact that we all manage to live harmoniously in our multi-religious and multi-cultural society made up of various races with different beliefs and ideologies.

Some local politicians like to create the illusion that we have the best model in this world in these troubling times and all credit should go to the ruling government for the peace and prosperity that we presumably enjoy at this moment.

I'm not going to argue about this.

Instead, I am going to quote Datin T.D. Ampikaipakan, who writes regularly in The STAR under her column WINNING WAYS. Her article today is very thought-provoking and since the link has not been put up yet in the web version of the paper, I will reproduce it here so that it can reach a wider audience.

She said (among other things) in her article titled "Respecting another's faith":-

Sensitivity is not the prerogative of one religion or race. We all must learn to understand how to live with each other without making someone feel small about his/her beliefs and practices.

There are so many issues that offend and upset people. Again, many of us are not sure how to behave when we deal with or are invited or entertained by people of different faiths.

Look at the following issues. How would you react if you were put in that spot?

  1. If you were travelling abroad, would you insist that people who are dining with you not eat any of the food that is taboo to you? If you were the host, would you refrain from serving food that is taboo to your guest?
  2. You are invited for dinner by your boss and his wife. They are non-meat eaters. They had fish for dinner but you ordered a steak. Did you offend them? Was it rude of you to eat meat in front of non-meat eaters?
  3. If you do not drink alcohol and you are the host, would you allow your business guests to have alcohol with their meal? If you are the guest and you do not drink, would you be offended if your host ordered a soft drink for you and then had a glass of wine himself?
  4. If you best friend of a different faith has passed away, would you go to his/her place of worship for his/her final journey? If your religion does not allow you (a woman) to go to the place of burial or crematorium, would you still go to the burial ground?
  5. If you are married to a person of a different faith, would you accommodate the religious beliefs of your in-laws which are alien to yours? If your child were to marry someone of a different faith, would you participate in the wedding ceremonies of a different faith?
  6. You are an animal rights activitist and you go for a dinner where they serve venison. You are offended. What would you do?
  7. You are sharing a room with your colleague on a business trip. You pray every day and wish to continue this routine. What would you do?
  8. You are not a religious person and when religious beliefs and practices are discussed, you often remain silent. One day, someone asks for your opinion. What will you say?
  9. Friends who visit you during Christmas brings presents for you and your children. You do not celebrate Christmas. Would you have brought presents for them too?
What are your answers to the above?

Food for thought indeed.

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