THE shocking announcement by Datuk Nadzim Johan of the Muslim Consumers’ Association (PPIM) that RM9 billion worth of food is wasted during the breaking of fast did not raise any alarms. Those shouting “austerity” and “tighten your belts” paid little heed to it.
“Many Muslims are trapped in a fasting culture where they fast, then eat what they want then throw away the rest. This is a culture that I fear will ruin the community. Malaysians have to condemn this culture,” he told reporters last week.
He said that eating too much while breaking fast sent the wrong signal because there were still many who went hungry in this country.
On Sunday evening, there was a sight to observe, behold and take in. Nadzim’s bold statement was there for all to see and digest.
On the Dataran Merdeka field in Kuala Lumpur, there were scores of families, with nothing more than mats and packed food. There were no fancy meals; no VIPs to be ushered in; no speeches; and no pomp and pageantry with ushers and bodyguards.
While the rich and famous and corporate captains were tucking into their RM180 per head meal which Nadzim referred to, here were the ultimate humble people finding solace in an open area with just ordinary fellow Malaysians for company. They were simple people, finding space and observing their religious obligations and keeping an eye on the clock tower to break their fast.
With the entire hullabaloo over “drink urine” and the other unacceptable edicts imposed, there is a common thread to an opinion expressed by British comedian, Bilal Zafar, in The Independent last week.
“I have been fasting during the month of Ramadan every year since I was about eight years old and the experience has been changing for me in many ways, teaching me a lot about discipline, and what it means to be less fortunate,” he wrote.Then he offered some answers for questions he often gets from non-Muslim friends and colleagues. Most important of all was: “Is it OK to eat in front of you?”
And he proffered the answer: “Of course it is. One of the main principles of fasting is discipline and I would prefer if you just spent your day normally and didn’t worry about me. I can handle some crisps being eaten near me but I think everyone else here hates you because they stink.”
So, Zafar contends that it is not offensive or improper to eat in front of people who are fasting. It strengthens your discipline and it would be a test of your inner strength.
He also puts across the health benefits of fasting. There is plenty of evidence, he advocates, supporting the many health benefits of fasting, including improving brain function, improving your immune system, normalising insulin sensitivity, helping to cure addiction and helping weight loss.
But then adds a rejoinder: “However, we tend to cancel a lot of this out because as soon as the sun begins to set and we hear the call to prayer start, we are likely to eat as many delicious fried foods as possible and continue to snack at every possible opportunity until the following sunrise.”
And finally, he has something to offer: “We may be losing a few meals every day but the aim is to change our entire lifestyle positively allowing us to feel that we are gaining a lot spiritually throughout the month. You should try it!”
Let it be categorically said that I am no expert in any religion and hence unable to make any valid comments. I am merely laying the cards on the table; the events and words expressed by third parties and my observations on Sunday.
Let it also be said that I am not a competent authority but I have in the past received invitations for “buka puasa”.
As a rejoinder, some invitations indicate that the hosts “have invited 50 orphans from a home as we continue to play our role as corporate citizens.”
Giving one meal to 50 orphans on one day does not make any company a corporate citizen and neither does it fit into a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme. It’s much more than all these.
To the corporate leaders and their PR consultants, please take a trip to Dataran Merdeka. There’s much more to be done.