THE issue over the fisherman in Tanjung Piandang, Kerian, Perak who was videoed offering prayers to a roadside deity commonly known as Datuk Kong while dressed in typical Malay attire (T-shirt, sarung and white cap) has been blown out of proportion.
The scene in the video, which went viral on social media recently, raised the ire of certain quarters who deemed the act as insensitive to religion.
The Tanjung Piandang Mosque Committee then lodged a police report over the video, and the
fisherman was arrested and detained for investigation under Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity, feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will, or prejudicing the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion.
I didn’t pay much attention to the issue until I found out from a local Chinese daily that the fisherman is Chinese. The news was quite a shock for me.
He told the reporter that he had donned the attire that day because it was Hari Raya Aidilfitri. He explained that it was his daily routine to offer prayers at the Datuk Kong altar and that he did not realise he was being videoed that day.
Subsequently, I read that the fisherman has been released from police detention and has apologised to the Mosque Committee and also made a public apology. It was also indicated that local politicians would arrange for him to make a “formal public apology”.
I take it that being a non-Muslim, it was not illegal for him to offer prayers to a deity by the roadside. Looking at the footage, it does not look like the fisherman purposely dressed up in Malay attire and then videoed himself to create feelings of enmity or hatred among the Muslim community.
So how did the scene of a Chinese offering prayers to Datuk Kong while dressed in Malay attire become so offensive? It certainly does not make any sense to reasonable people.
It is even more shocking that the police detained the fisherman and investigated the case under Section 298A of the Penal Code.
Why are some people so sensitive they can’t even accept someone dressed in typical Malay attire, or for that matter the costume of other races, offering prayers to a deity?
The more our politicians and police react to this kind of over sensitivity, the more it would strengthen the superiority complex of religious fanatics and fuel “disharmony, disunity, feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will, or prejudicing the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion”.
I urge our authorities to actively play down this kind of “blown up sensitivity” in future. They should play the role of middle person to explain to the affected community that there is nothing offensive when one has no intention to insult their religion at all.
If politicians, authorities and the police continue to dance to the fanatics’ tune, the latter will only become more extreme, and this would create more disharmony among Malaysians.