Letter referring to “More Arab Than Arabs” NST article

Letter referring to “More Arab Than Arabs” NST article
by Azra Banu

8th May 2004

Azra Banu
1 Jalan Tebrau
Ukay Heights
68000 Ampang
Tel: 4260 4581

The Editor
New Straits Times
31 Jalan Riong
Kuala Lumpur

Dear Sir,
I refer to the NST article ‘More Arab than the Arabs’ dated 28th April 2004. I fail to comprehend how a paper that claims to hold such high standards can allow such a shallow piece through. It would seem not much thought was given by your writers (I hesitate to call them journalists) in writing it.

Why did they present only one side of the coin? Did they even think of asking the ones they are accusing of abandoning their culture, why? Why are they ‘Arabising’?

Why didn’t they interview a broader spectrum of people? Were they afraid of what they may discover? And some of the quotes were so void of deep thought that it left me dumbfounded as to how these people can claim to have an insight on the matter.

With the growing awareness of Islam worldwide, there will naturally be a different understanding of it. Some for the better and some not. With a better understanding of Islam, certain practices are no longer acceptable, some clearly defined, others requiring further insight.

Whether you want to admit it or not, a deeper and better understanding of Islam does cast a shadow on certain cultural practices of the Malays. And if you look beyond the Malay world, the same shadow is cast on other cultures. Would these same Muslims tell a Muslim in India the same if he decides to rid himself of certain practices that are so steeped in Hinduism? What about a Chinese Muslim?

What about some practices long abandoned? Like visiting ‘keramat’, ‘mandi safar’ and ‘puja pantai’? Shall we revive that?

As Muslims, we must keep increasing our level of piety. If a certain garment, language or music helps some, why should we impede that progress? The progress to not only a higher level of spirituality but ultimately, a sharpened understanding of Islam.

When a journalist puts pen to paper he must present as balanced an article as possible. He may take a stand, but he must allow views from all sides to enable the readers to form their own opinions. And with a topic of such importance and impact the writers must be able to feel for the issue. The choice of your writers and the partiality of the article don’t reflect well on the integrity of your paper and certainly cast doubts on your intentions. It is hoped that your paper will discharge the duties entrusted upon you in a more responsible manner.

Yours truly,

Azra Banu