Wan Roslili Abd Majid
The theme of this year's National Day celebration, Malaysia Prihatin (Malaysia Cares), clearly illustrates the importance of a caring attitude in achieving the agenda in the fight against Covid-19.
The government has implemented several initiatives to counter the economic impact of the outbreak. The ultimate aim is to protect the welfare of the people.
The Malaysia Prihatin spirit is not only embraced by frontline workers, but also by every Malaysian.
By carrying out their responsibilities in adhering to the new normal, they become unsung heroes, irrespective of religion, race, background or political ideology.
Such a positive attitude would bring success to the government's efforts in containing the pandemic.
On the other hand, indifference and selfishness obviously cause more difficulties to others by risking life and livelihood. Causing harm to others is strictly forbidden in Islam.
This can be seen in an authentic statement by Prophet Muhammad: "There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm (Ibn Majah)".
Based on this hadith, Muslim scholars formulate a principle that emphasises the need to eliminate all forms of harm. Thus, it is the duty of Muslims to avoid not only from harming themselves, but also other people.
Patriotism, love and sacrifice for the country are important, so much so that they are always highlighted during National Day and Malaysia Day.
From an Islamic perspective, patriotism and love for the homeland and its people is a trait which is very much encouraged.
Prophet Muhammad once uttered beautiful words to his homeland, Makkah, reported in a hadith from Ibn Abbas: "How sweet of a land you are and how dear you are to me, and if it were not that my people expelled me from you, I would not have lived in other than you (Al-Tirmizi)".
At this point in time, it is apparent that we are facing tribulations that test our love for the country and spirit of patriotism.
As mentioned by the prime minister, the deep love for Malaysia is one of the powerful forces that make people come together.
The support given by the people when our country is facing the threat of the coronavirus, as well as the adherence to preventive measures such as the Movement Control Order, is commendable.
These measures aimed at preserving the people's interest are in line with the Islamic principle of "the rulers' decisions must be in favour of the people".
In this regard, the government can restrict public rights if there is a need to preserve the public interest or maslahah.
However, there are still many things that people need to do to prove their love for the country.
This is particularly so when there are provocative actions without any sense of shame and guilt towards important symbols, such as the national flag and religions in the country.
The freedom to celebrate National Day, despite the unfavourable circumstances, should bring about gratitude.
This creates a deep appreciation of what our country has achieved in combating Covid-19 when compared to other countries, as well as refugees whose fate remains uncertain.
We should be grateful for the basic healthcare facilities which are readily accessible, and the ability to take precautionary procedures, including observance of general hygiene measures.
It is really hard to imagine living in a cramped refugee camp, exhausted by years of war with traumatic experiences, and barely having clean water to wash hands.
In Malaysia, there are also stateless people, but their condition may not be as critical as refugees in other parts of the world.
However, the fact remains that they face certain difficulties, such as access to healthcare, which is enjoyed by citizens. Therefore, there is pertinent need for them to take extra precautions to minimise the spread of Covid-19.
The Malaysia Prihatin spirit will also be meaningful if fellow citizens, who have lost their source of income due to the pandemic, continue to receive assistance from the government and banks.
Once the moratorium on loan repayments ends on Sept 30, the adverse economic effects of the pandemic would be more pronounced.
The assistance provided by the government will make those affected feel that they are not neglected.
Caring for one another will surely forge a strong bond, enabling us to be united in facing current and future challenges as a united country.
The writer is a fellow, Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia
Published in: New Straits Times, Monday, 07 September 2020
With the changing times some children face great challenges in fulfilling the needs of parents, particularly the emotional and psychological aspects.
It is undeniable that there are many elderly people living their old age in deteriorating health, depression and loneliness.
This is partly due to the change in the family structure i.e. from extended family to the nuclear family.
In this context, the extended family, which includes relatives such as uncles, aunts and cousins, would be able to assist and support elderly care when needed.
The migration of youths to the cities and involvement of women in the workforce due to economic and financial necessities have had effects on the life and personal care of elderly parents.
Some parents would prefer to stay in their own homes if they have their spouse still living with them.
For those who have lost their spouse, they may choose to stay with the children while in some situations they need to accept the fact that they have to spend their old age living alone.
As reported in “Kajian Penduduk dan Keluarga Malaysia Kelima”, this situation is known as empty nest syndrome.
The loneliness felt by these elderly parents would make them vulnerable to mental illnesses such as depression, social anxiety and paranoia.
It is observed that at the Psychiatric Ward of Penang Hospital, when this writer was there last June, most of the caregivers for elderly parents with mental illnesses were women, including two families met by this writer during the visit.
One of the caregivers had to resign from her job in order to take care of her mother who has been diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Meanwhile, another caregiver is still working and made every effort to ensure that she could play the role as an employee and caregiver.
Her mother had been diagnosed as having psychosis and was previously struggling with chronic loneliness which led to anxiety and depression.
Both of them recognise the importance of a support system.
The support system may consist of family members, neighbours, co-workers, support groups and a healthcare team.
It would ensure that the caregivers receive appropriate advice, suggestions as well as information not only for the wellbeing of the parents under their care but also for themselves.
Instead of having informal caregivers among the family members, there are nursing homes run by various parties to provide care for the elderly which the public can turn to.
Pusat Jagaan dan Pendidikan Warga Emas Darul Insyirah, managed by Pusat Kecemerlangan Pendidikan Ummah or PACU, is one good example.
It is an elderly centre offering daily, weekly and monthly care, serving only as a transit for parents to spend their time in learning classes while their children are busy at work.
It is also equipped with comfortable facilities to ensure the elderly’s wellbeing.
The spiritual wellbeing is the main goal targeted by this elderly care centre; it provides opportunities for occupants to learn how to recite the Quran, gain knowledge from the Hadis, and even learn Arabic.
All these help to enhance the dignity and quality of life of senior citizens.
Interestingly, PACU aims to prepare youths to serve and entertain the elderly in the care centre.
The involvement of young adults is important as one of the measures of a nation’s greatness is the way senior citizens are treated.
In preparing for an ageing country when seven per cent of the population will be 65 years and older by 2030, Malaysia should set its own mould for implementation and to be used as a model by others.
The empowerment of its senior citizens should not only be done by focusing on the provision of physical infrastructure, but efforts must also be taken to empower them with education for spiritual strengthening in tandem with the National Policy for Older Persons.
In addition, policies regarding the welfare of formal and informal caregivers need to be re-examined.
The presence and participation of the elderly in the family and society is important to ensure their wellbeing.
In this context, the support system for the family and society needs to be enhanced.
Islam advocates that the young respect and honour their elders by doing good.
In several Quranic verses, for example, Allah commands human beings to respect, appreciate and honour our parents by doing good: “And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to your parents, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them with respect and honour.
“Say, ‘My Lord! Have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small’.” (Surah Al-Isra’, chapter 17, verses 23-24)
As we celebrate the International Day for Older Persons today and welcome the new Hijrah year, let’s pray for the prosperity and happiness of all Malaysians.
The writer is fellow at centre for the study of syariah,law and politics,Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM)
Pubshied in: The New Straits TImes, Tuesday, 01 October 2019
George Washington Carver once said, "education is the key to unlocking the golden door of freedom".
In many places around the globe, however, children are denied their right to education due to reasons such as unaffordability, living in crises such as wars, natural disasters and epidemics plus inability to meet certain requirements to enrol into the school system.
These barriers exclude 263 million young people from school and deny them the chance to reach their full potential.
Exclusion from school will fuel intergenerational cycles of poverty and disadvantage including socio-economic exploitation and violation of freedom and dignity.
Education as a fundamental right is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and many other international human rights instruments including the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI, 1990).
Interestingly, CDHRI stipulates that,‘every human being has a right to receive both religious and worldly education from the various institutions of teaching, education and guidance, including the family, the school and the university’.
The emphasis on the above rights and obligations goes hand- in-hand with the whole of the Islamic system as Islam emphasises the obligations of parents to provide education which is the right of children. An excellent example of this is found in the words of religious scholar Luqman Hakim related in the Quran where he advised his son to obey his parents unless they commit munkar (go against Allah) to be constant in prayer and to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong.
The right to education is also one of the key principles underpinning the United Nations Education 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4).
SDG4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all.
Though Malaysia has given its commitment to all 17 goals under the United Nations SDG 2030 and in particular SDG4, it has not adopted inclusive universal education. Citizenship is still the basic requirement for enrolment into the national school system.
This fact will definitely vanquish the dreams of thousands of stateless, migrant and refugee children from reaping the benefits of early education.
Based on data presented in Parliament in 2016, there were 290,437 stateless and 34,600 refugee children in Malaysia.
Without elementary education, the children will continue to be vulnerable. In many cases, they were completely denied from enjoying their right to education while in extraordinary situations, various organisations took remarkable effort to realise the children’s dream to be in school.
The establishment of charity schools, or Pusat Pembangunan Minda Insan (PPMI), initiated by HALUAN Sabah, is one such instance of realising children’s school dream. HALUAN is a community- based organisation dealing with an alternative holistic education for vulnerable groups including stateless children in East Sabah. In this regard, the participation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is crucial to galvanise the government’s effort in fulfilling the requirements of SDG4.
Since its inception in 2011, there are now 11 PPMIs and another 30 more to be established upon high demand from local communities. HALUAN aims to establish 1,001 PPMIs across Sabah to eradicate illiteracy and minimise school dropout rates.
To help realise these objectives, a group of Muslim professionals and NGOs — MACSA (Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations) had sent a team of 14 activists, including this writer, to PPMI Kampung Tagupi Laut, Lahad Datu, Sabah.
The programme, named #Tagupi Membaca, was held from Oct 10-13, 2018 and was aimed at delivering 410kg of reading materials and conducting training and English classes. The four-day programme revealed the passion that PPMI’s teaching assistants and students have towards knowledge and education.
No impediment would prevent them from constantly engaging in teaching and learning sessions, be they distance, financial constraint, lack of teaching and learning tools, or inadequate infrastructure. All of these prove that much more concerted efforts need to be conducted to ensure the protection of their basic human right, especially with the announcement by the government in October 2018 to allow stateless children to enrol into mainstream schools.
Thus, PPMI is one possible transit educational centre for those children who are in the process of obtaining the necessary documentation to enable them to enrol into national schools.
Education is an empowering right and an indispensable means of realising the rights of others. It is also an enabler to allow society to grow.
However, children would miss the opportunity to develop into productive and participatory adults if their right to a proper education is taken away.
In conjunction with National Reading Month in July, let us give every child and community the golden opportunity to learn and read, as a literate child makes for an informed adult.The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said,‘He who inaugurated a good practice in Islam which was followed after him (by people) would be assured of reward like the one who followed it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect.
The writer is fellow at centre for the study of syariah,law and politics,Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM)
Pubshied in: The New Straits TImes, Saturday, 20 July 2019