Christians who choose not to eat pork

I’ve long known that, like Muslims, Jews don’t eat pork. Well, not all, apparently. From articles like this one and this one I recently learnt that some do and some don’t.

This is the first time time though that I’ve heard of Christians who don’t, either. It’s truly fascinating.

When I first saw the video on a friend’s Facebook, I was really surprised. And the first thing I did was to turn to my Catholic partner of more than twenty years and asked him incredulously, “Did you know there are Christians who don’t eat pork?” and he replied he never heard of Christians not eating pork either. So, yeah, it’s definitely something interesting to learn.

A quick Google search to check out who Joel Osteen is garnered the info that he is “an American preacher, televangelist, author, and the Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest Protestant church in the United States, in Houston, Texas.”

So I guess that’s a Texan accent? Sexy. Not to be disrespectful to a pastor or anything, but ah do love that drawl.

An important message for all Muslims in the world, not just in France

I was browsing through LiveLeak, and came across this video by a French Muslim, passionately calling on his Muslim countrymen to report to the authorities if they encounter anyone talking about commiting acts of terrorism, anyone even hinting in the slightest that such a thing is alright. Report them immediately to the authorities.

Click here to go to the version with English subtitles as featured on LiveLeak.

The following is the original video as featured on his Facebook and Youtube, without subtitles.

You know, what he says is such basic common sense, something all of us are supposed to already know, and don’t need reminding. And yet apparently common sense and basic decency are so sorely lacking among some people, that this video is absolutely necessary.

Please, for the love of God, for the love of our religion and the love of all our fellow Muslims and non-Muslims alike, please report anyone you come across who you suspect of being involved with terrorist activities. The great majority of us will be fortunate enough to never come across such people in our lifetime, but for those who do, anyone who speaks of commiting murder and other crimes must be reported. No ifs and buts. I don’t see how any of us can look at ourselves in the mirror again and not feel like a heinous criminal ourselves if we come across such people, yet keep quiet for whatever reason.

In case you’re reading this but you’re not going to watch the video (I really hope you will, plus it’s less than 3 minutes) here are the English subtitles that was part of the video on LiveLeak (I think courtesy of the person who posted the video there, Denidorm). I took the bother to type it out because his message is so important.

Peace be upon you

 

I’m making this video because I’m sick of it

I’m sick of all these attacks

I’m sick to see it going to shit like that

This way we’re gonna end up with a civil war

An idealogical war

and it can get very ugly

 

So I say to all Muslims of France

protect our beautiful religion

let’s track these imposters down

who pass for Muslims and kill people

It’s not the government that’s gonna do the work

Not state security or the intelligence services or all that

It’s us, us Muslims who go to the mosque

Us Muslims who share the values of the republic

It’s up to us to do the work

To track these sons of bitches down

To inform the authorities at the slightest

 

That doesn’t make you a snitch, the opposite

Because with that mentality

tomorrow they’ll blow you up

Or your mother or sister will be there

 

So it’s up to us, Muslims of France

who have our religion in our hearts

the values and principles of Islam,

religion of peace and sharing

It’s up to us to fuck up

the shit that’s inside our religion

 

The people who don’t frequent the mosque

don’t succeed cause it’s a never ending job

So rise up, rise up and show who we are

Even if we don’t have to justify anything,

because the smart know

that’s not what Islam stands for

 

But it’s up to us, to fuck them up,

wherever we or they are

If they come to talk and try to brainwash you,

track them down and break their jaws

 

Because the solution can only come from us Muslims, from inside

Because these people, sadly, they come to the same places of worship as us

 

So I repeat, it’s up to us, us Muslims of France

who share the values of the republic

who share the values of Islam

It’s up to us to track them down

and bring them before the competent authority

Even if we have to beat them down with our fists, we will beat them down with our fists

 

Enough with these cunt pseudo-Muslims

who incriminate 2 billion Muslims

 

Because whether you like it or not,

they will lump us together, every day

A brother will put in his resume, he has a beard? They will put it aside

There’s so many examples of that

It’s up to us to not stay silent, deaf and blind

Hit them hard

The solution will come from us, French Muslims

 

Peace be upon you

*

Related:

 

 

This Ramadan, I was taught kindness and forgiveness by a Catholic.

Ramadan is coming to a close. I was thinking of this holy month. Of what it means to me. If I had learnt anything more of myself from it this year. I even typed ‘spirit of Ramadan‘ online, hoping to read posts of what that means to other Muslims. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that without a doubt, the most impact an individual has personally had on me this Ramadan is Mr. Sim Siak Heong, who is a Malaysian Chinese and a Catholic. Through his actual actions. Not just words, or prayer, or advice but through actual deed.

67-year-old Mr. Sim was the victim of a terrible road bully incident earlier this month, where he had accidentally hit the new Peugeot car of 30-year-old Siti Fairrah in a car park in Kuantan, Malaysia. She not only got out the car and heaped abuse on him like some crazy thug, and demanded cash on the spot, but hit his car repeatedly with a steering lock.

Thankfully it was recorded on video. It was very painful for me to watch the video as I can’t help but feel really bad as a Malay and a Muslim. I also felt angry that a senior citizen was abused so badly. I actually had to pause the video several times and considered closing the page, but I forced myself to watch it till the end. I am glad for the existence of the video recording. I look at it as a valuable lesson and reminder of what can happen if I experience rage at someone but fail to control it and rein it in.

Each time I watch the video, I am reminded yet again of how lacking my character is compared to Mr. Sim’s. Because he forgave her, but as for me I don’t know if I could, if it had happened to me, or worse, a loved one especially an elder relative of Mr. Sim’s age. And amazingly, not only did he forgive her, he expressed sadness when she was subsequently charged and punished by the courts, saying that she did not deserve the punishment. I read in this article that he said:

“I feel sorry for her. She doesn’t deserve it at all.”

“I have forgiven her and I urge the public to do the same. There is no need to condemn her anymore.”

I hope the person who took the video pats him or herself on the back for doing such an important public service. It’s because of the video, which understandably outraged a lot of people, that the police pursued the case. Siti Fairrah was fined RM5,000 and ordered to do 240 hours of community work after she pleaded guilty to intentionally causing damage to Mr. Sim’s car.

Kudos to the Malaysian police as well for still going ahead and taking action against her despite the saintly Mr. Sim declining to lodge a report, even when the police advised him to do so. And to the general Malaysian public online regardless of race and religion who condemned the road rage incident. And yes, to Siti Fairrah as well, for admitting what she did was wrong and for apologising to Mr. Sim publicly.

***

I’d like to put here an excerpt from a beautiful post I came across on a site called Islamway.net, as I was surfing around online finding and reading what ‘spirit of Ramadan‘ means to other people.

Ramadan is a celebration of God’s guidance to humanity, through the Quran, which is a guide for doing good and a warning against evil. In order to bring the soul into harmony with the Quranic ideals of belief and virtue, fasting is prescribed as a way for individuals to come closer to God and to lift their souls to new heights of piety. In doing so, the entire human body is able to transform itself into an agent of positive moral and social change that seeks to replace miserliness with generosity, anger with patience, revenge with love, and war with peace—in effect, replacing good with evil in the world.

Of course, kindness and forgiveness are for all times, not just Ramadan, but I feel that’s when we Muslims, as we fast, are more reminded to think and do more for the lesser off and to reflect on our character.

When I say ‘spirit of Ramadan‘, I am also referring to virtues like patience and calm that Mr. Sim had displayed when confronted with such an ugly face of road rage, and the provocation it challenged him with.

I think it’s such a beautiful thing when we are taught these virtues from people of other religious faiths or even people with no religious faith as well. It reminds us that there must be mutual respect. Because at the end of the day, life comes down to treating everyone else the same way we ourselves wish to be treated. That sounds so easy and logical, it sounds so easy to remember, yet strangely and unfortunately it’s apparently so easy for some of us to forget.

***

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I can’t seem to find a decent photo of Mr. Sim. This one is taken from a still of a video. From forum.lowyat.net, via Google Image. Click to go there.

The following video is the Astro Awani interview of Mr. Sim from where the image above was from. It’s in Malay.

I just sighed in sadness when I watched it. Damn, what a terrible thing to have happened to such a kind soul.

***

“I am a Catholic. In our religion, and in all religions, it teaches us to love the ones who wrong us.”

 – Sim Siak Heong

Thank you, Mr. Sim.

***

Related:

Selamat Hari Natal

That’s ‘Merry Christmas’ to you in Malay.

Inspired by the video by Mashable below I saw via Tastefully Offensive.

WINNER, FOR BEST SOUNDING MERRY CHRISTMAS: Lithuanian! Or rather, the guy who said it in Lithuanian, at 0:20, for the sweetest sounding ‘Merry Christmas‘ wish ever.

And the French version, all breathily sexy at 0:33, coming in at a close second place.

Nah, just kidding, they all sound equally nice, as they all mean to wish love peace and good cheer.

Merry Christmas!

Muslims called to pray for Nelson Mandela

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From the tumblr site shizzlesnikki. Click to go there.

From South Africa’s IOL News:

Johannesburg – The Al Jama-Ah political party on Friday called on Muslims to say a silent prayer for former president Nelson Mandela, his family and friends.

“The greatest gift one can give to a human being is freedom and that is what Mandela did for all South Africans,” party leader Ganief Hendricks said in a statement.

“The party has asked all Muslims to observe all protocols as Muslim leaders from every Arab and Muslim country visit South Africa over the next two weeks to pay their respects to the country and comfort South Africans.”

He said the Muslim world had the highest regard for Mandela.

From a Huffington Post article on spiritual quotes by Mr. Mandela, who was baptized a Methodist:

“Religion is one of the most important forces in the world. Whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew, or a Hindu, religion is a great force, and it can help one have command of one’s own morality, one’s own behavior, and one’s own attitude.” -Nelson Mandela

Related:

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From the tumblr site Politics Among Nations. Click to go there.

Pope Francis

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Photograph by Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency, via Wikipedia. Click to go there.

Pope Francis was born to Italian parents in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 17th December 1936, and named Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He is the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church. He worked briefly as a chemical technician before entering seminary and ordained a priest in 1969. He became Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict in February 2013, Pope Francis was elected. He chose the papal name Francis in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi.

I first read about him honouring American teenage (and openly gay) scientist Jack Andraka on the Facebook page of Pink Dot SG a few days ago. I’m happily stunned by this news. I don’t know where to begin. A sixteen year old scientist? Wow, that’s amazing. Who made a breakthrough in cancer research? Oh my God, that’s incredible. Pope Francis honouring his achievement? That’s wonderful.

Jack was honoured with the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award, which is given to young adults whom the Vatican considers to be positive role models. On Advocate.com I read that Jack Andraka had said in an interview:

“It’s really amazing to be recognized by the Vatican, especially as a gay scientist. I mean this would be unheard of just a few years ago. To be part of this bridge of progress is really amazing. It just shows how much the world has grown to accept people that are gay and are LGBT. It’s really amazing.”

A few months ago, I also came across on the blog Bryan Patterson’s Faithworks on Pope Francis touching on homosexuality when he said, “Who am I to judge them?”.

Huffingtonpost.com quoted the Wall Street Journal that the Pope’s comment about homosexuality was in context of a question about gay priests. He was on the plane back to Rome from Rio where he had visited slums and prisons, and presided over a Mass for three million people at Copacabana Beach. On the plane, he was taking questions from reporters and he spoke about gays and the reported ‘gay lobby’.

“Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” the pontiff said, speaking in Italian. “You can’t marginalize these people.”

Pope Francis is much admired by many people around the world, myself included, for his humility and his concern for the poor, for his compassion for others regardless of backgrounds and religious beliefs, and for his choosing to live more modestly when he has access to luxuries at the Vatican. Long before he became Pope, he was already known for his humility and leading a simple lifestyle. For example when he was Cardinal in Buenos Aires, he was taking public transport to get around, and chose to live in a small apartment rather than in an elegant bishop’s residence, and cooked his own meals.

Happy Deepavali

Deepavali, also known as Diwali and ‘The Festival of Lights’, falls on the 2nd of November this year.

According to Wikipedia, it is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.

And from Mr. Subhamoy Das in About.com:

Deepavali or Diwali is certainly the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals. It’s the festival of lights (deep = light and avali = a row i.e., a row of lights) that’s marked by four days of celebration, which literally illumines the country with its brilliance, and dazzles all with its joy. Each of the four days in the festival of Diwali is separated by a different tradition, but what remains true and constant is the celebration of life, its enjoyment and goodness.

Deepavali 2013 Murugesan_reduced

The front design of a card for my friend and former colleague Murugesan, who had returned home to India.

When I decided to do the card above, a little look-see online shows that popular elements for Deepavali cards include pretty variations of the ubiquitous little clay lamp, and the gorgeous kōlam or raṅgolī. (Here’s the link to an informative Sahapedia article by Prof. Vijaya Nagarajan on these art forms.) I decided to have a simple lamp for my card, as the background I wanted is already way too busy and festive to compete with a joyous kōlam.

Wishing all Hindus a wonderful Deepavali, filled with the light of love and happiness!

Muslims form human chain to protect Christians during mass

Bravo, Pakistan. Much love and a big ‘thank you’ to these people who dared to stand up and say they’re sick of the horrific violence. A gesture like this one is so powerful and important. I’m thinking that it is also scary because they could be a target for bombers, who obviously do not want peace. That’s what makes these participants of such events even more courageous and admirable. To me they’re basically risking their lives to get together to do this. Just two weeks ago, a twin suicide bombing killed over a hundred people at All Saints Church in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan. It is believed to be the country’s deadliest attack on Christians. This event was to show solidarity with the victims of that church attack. It was held last Sunday at St. Anthony’s church in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city.

I came by the heartwarming story via Bryan whose blog Bryan Patterson’s Faithworks I follow. It reminded me immediately of Egypt, when Christians there made a human chain for praying Muslims.

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Copyright: Photo by Malik Shafiq / The Express Tribune. Click photo to go to source.

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Copyright: Photo by Malik Shafiq / The Express Tribune. Click photo to go to source.

According to the article in The Express Tribune written by Aroosa Shaukat (which features other photos of the event taken by Malik Shafiq):

Standing in the small courtyard of St Anthony’s Church, as Mufti Mohammad Farooq delivered a sermon quoting a few verses of the Holy Quran that preached tolerance and respect for other beliefs, Father Nasir Gulfam stepped right next to him after having conducted a two hour long Sunday service inside the church. The two men stood should to shoulder, hand in hand as part of the human chain that was formed outside the church not just as a show of solidarity but also to send out a message, ‘One Nation, One Blood’.

The article also mentioned that this was the second such event. The first one was held the previous week at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and organized by Pakistan For All – a collective of citizens concerned about the growing attacks on minorities.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

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It’s finally here, after a month of fasting in Ramadan, the 9th month in the Islamic calendar, Hari Raya Aidilfitri arrives on the 1st of Syawal, or 8th of August in the Gregorian calendar this year.

Another great thing here in Singapore this year, and not just for Muslims, is that the 8th falls on a Thursday. The next day Friday 9th of August is our National Day, so that’s two back to back public holidays leading to the weekend. For non-Muslims, I’m sure many have delightedly grabbed the oppurtunity a long weekend presents to enjoy a short holiday. For us Muslims, it’s a great bonus too as it means much more time to visit our relatives, which is really helpful because there are usually a lot of people to set aside time for to visit. And that’s what Hari Raya is most synonymous with. Family, relatives, visiting.

***

The first day is the most important and usually it is spent with one’s parents. That was the norm with my family too, when my parents were alive. Like most other Asians I think we usually live with them as long as we’re single, and most move out only once married. So on Hari Raya, my married siblings with their spouses and kids would flock to my parents’ residence to hang out together. Of course there are the spouse’s parents to think of too, so I think to be fair they would alternate whose parents to spend the first day with. If both sets of parents are located in tiny and compact Singapore, lucky for them, they get to visit both on the first day.

The custom is also that aunts and uncles and of course grandparents are also visited as a mark of respect, so that’s done or attempted in the next few days. If those days are working weekdays, it can get tiring as the visiting may be done in the evenings after work. So sometimes this is delayed till the next weekend. And sometimes schedules conflict because aunts and uncles may be out working themselves, or they are busy doing their own visiting too. Thank goodness for handphones.

So that’s why sometimes Hari Raya ‘celebration’ seems like it goes on for weeks.

In previous years when I visited, I had less than ten aunts and uncles to cover, and yet I rarely could cover all in those first few days of visiting. And frankly I only went because one of my sisters always kindly invited me to join her, along with her husband and two grown-up daughters. Otherwise I don’t think I would because I would just feel too awkward to go alone as a single man. (The partner tends to come along when I visit siblings he is familiar and comfortable with. Otherwise he can’t be bothered, and anyway it would be weird if he comes too.) Like other unmarried people gay or straight, I just can’t stand being asked over and over why I’m single, and I imagine I would be cornered and lectured if alone. Well, not really. My aunts and uncles are all incredibly sweet people who would never want to make me feel uncomfortable. They are very polite and diplomatic. But I’m just not good with small talk. My sister, who has a huge heart, is very social and takes real pleasure in doing this, visiting and chatting and keeping in touch with relatives. So I just let her do all the ‘work’ and just contribute the odd sentence or so, haha.

It would seem easy to just have one huge party where everyone try to make it and have it done there and then. But such gatherings already happen in the form of weddings. With an extensive network of relatives, there always seem to be a few weddings happening each year. The exclusive visits to the elder relatives is just a Hari Raya custom as one way to show respect, to sit down together and talk, and catch up for a few hours.

For those with kids (the great majority of my cousins are married with kids), it is also to teach and encourage the younger generation to maintain this tradition, to get to know and be well-acquainted with relatives, to build and value relationships with them. Also, as a cousin of mine once pointed out, previously it was common to have, say, five or more children in a household of our parents’ generation. So a kid would have many siblings to turn to for love and support. But with the average of only two kids more common since about two decades ago, relationships and closeness with cousins and other relatives outside the immediate household is now more important and desirable than ever.