Friday, July 23, 2010

Weird religion in Malaysia

Two stories about Islam in Malaysia caught my eye this week; one an example of how religion can remain stuck in the past, another an example of how religion can also "get with the times" perhaps a little too much.

Muslims told not to wear 'devilish' Manchester United jersey
KUALA LUMPUR - Muslims have been told by religious leaders in Malaysia to stop wearing Manchester United football shirts because the image of the famed red devil in its crest is forbidden in Islam.
The Johor Religious Council adviser and the Mufti of Perak both state that images of crosses, liquor brands and devils on football shirts are forbidden by Islam and should not be worn by Muslims.
Other football shirts deemed unacceptable by the religious leaders include those of Brazil, Portugal, Serbia, Barcelona and Norway because their crests all carry images of a cross.
"There is no excuse for wearing such garments because it means, as a Muslim, you are idolising the symbol of another religion," Datuk Nooh Gadot, the Mufti of Johor, said.
"On this matter there is absolutely no compromise in the name of entertainment, fashion or even sports."
The Mufti of Perak, Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria, said that Muslims wearing such football shirts "leads to a path of sin" because displaying the symbol of another faith means the wearer is prioritising that faith over Islam.
"Yes of course in Islam we don't allow people to wear this sort of thing," he said. "Devils are our enemies, why would you put their picture on you and wear it? You are only promoting the devil."

Now chilling out in a mamak and watching an EPL game is one of the quintessential Malaysian pastimes, and probably 9 out of 10 Malaysians who like football are fans of Manchester United. So did these religious leaders only just realise that a huge proportion of their countrymen follow a team called the "Red Devils"? Hopefully Malaysian Muslim footy fans have not been lured too far down the "path of sin" by those sneaky cross-bearing Brazilians, either.
Mind you, as a passionate Arsenal fan myself, I've always suspected Man U were thoroughly evil, and now it's clear.
In other religious news from Malaysia, the latest talent quest to take TV by storm is not Malaysian Idol, or Malaysian Masterchef or anything like that. It's Imam Muda (Young Imam).

I've actually seen this idea before, on the Australian Muslim show Salam Cafe, who had a segment called "Australian Imam". Except the Salam Cafe people were taking the piss, Imam Muda is completely serious.

What do you think? Does a TV talent-quest format cheapen religion, or is it merely taking it into the 21st century?

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