Thursday, 25 September 2008
Merdeka and Terawih in Tasmania...
looks like i'm not that far away from Malaysia though i'm thousands of miles away in Tassie. It's wonderful-mostly, anyway.
I recently met a group of Malaysian students studying here in Tassie at the University of Tasmania. We spent our last pre-ramadan day together at a barbecue held to celebrate Merdeka on 31st August at the Hobart Mosque. What a spirited and lively bunch. I love the energy and spontaneity of youth, the adventurous spirit, the fearlessness and confidence and a love for life they seemed to have. A wonderful man named Imam Sabri and his lovely wife Tun play the role of unofficial foster parents to this bunch, and Effendi and i were fortunate enough to be invite over to join them in celebrating Merdeka at the mosque and even for an evening of Buka Puasa and Terawih at Imam Sabri's. Terawih Tasmania-style was a fun experience as it was at Sabri's home, and the cheeky young students would say to him "Imam, keep the verses short,k... do the express version tonight!" which was really sweet. "Do lots of surah Al-Ikhlas, Al-Kauthar!" (some of the shortest verses in the Quran). The Imam was quite amused and tried to accommodate the requests by the youngsters which was really nice.
Imam Sabri is quite a guy. Apart from being THE Imam of Hobart, he was also made "Hero Of Tasmania" last year, fancy that. All the people in Tasmania and they chose a Malaysian Imam to represent Tassie, i'm really impressed by the level of tolerance and openness practised here. I'm made to understand he played an integral role post-9.11 in making Australia understand that Muslims are not at all about terrorism and bombing, and that Islam really preaches peace and love. He would hold inter-faith dialogues with representatives from synagogues and the various church leaders at the university, which is always well attended. Never short of a story to tell, he would fascinate me whenever i engaged him in conversation about Islam and Darwin's theory, the Big Bang and other niggly bits that used to bug my conscience between science and religion. And Imam Sabri would have all the patience in the world to answer the same questions again and again, always calm and gentle with a perpetual smile and twinkling eyes, like a gentle father or grandfather. Nothing like the sword-wielding jihad-invoking images you see on the net. His frday prayer sermon is read out from a laptop. He talks very intelligently about Islam and his sermon is relevant to society today, never patronising, never making you feel you will go to hell no matter what, with DOSA! and NERAKA! being the keyword of every line like i've heard of other lectures... okay, not that i've attended very many of these events..
Anyway. I'm really happy to have met the MelayuTasmania group of students, mostly because i now have a solution to my Hari Raya worries! Fortunately Nehran, the president of the group, has offered to make me a few varieties of kueh raya, PHEW! i had images of me slaving over the oven trying to figure out how to fake a few kueh recipes and get away with it.
So that was Merdeka and Terawih. The only un-Merdeka thing i felt was...where were the OTHER several hundred Malaysian students, the non-Malays on Merdeka? That ain't so sweet. I would have loved to see more interracial interreligious interaction going on. We must try and get this right at school level back home, or it really sounds like trouble to me. I remember back in my school days when my "gang" used to ALWAYS comprise of Malays, Indians, Chinese and some "others" in between too, and we had lots of fun and would never dream of being without each other. Would be tragic to think times have changed, but it's not too late for the next generation to make up for it or the mother ship would be in BEEEEG BEEEEG TROBLE.