Sunday, October 29, 2006

Malaysians Lament 'Secularized' Ramadan & News Agencies

Scholars lament that youths leave Tarawih prayer for merriment at luxurious malls.

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian scholars blasted Friday, October 2, the commercialization of Ramadan, lamenting that the holy fasting month is becoming increasingly "secularized."

"During this month the Muslims are supposed to put aside their lust and concentrate on their spirituality," Harussani Zakaria, the mufti from northern Perak state, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Friday, October 20.

"But in our country, they fast the whole day because they have no choice but to do so and at night it is as if they are out in a vengeance the way they flock to the malls, bazaars and all types of entertainment outlets," he added.

The fasting month, which ends next week with Eid al-Fitr celebrations, is supposed to be a time of self-denial and reflection during which Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from dawn to dusk.

But instead, religious leaders complain, many people are more interested in hunting bargains at Ramadan sales, attending concerts and breaking their fast at sumptuous buffets laid on by every hotel and restaurant.

"It is only in Malaysia that the commercialization of the holy month is so prevalent. You get an overdose of concerts, TV shows and all sorts of sales gimmicks. This is wrong in Islam."


Harussani said that Ramadan is being increasingly secularised.

"I think the main reason is not because people have all that much money to spend but it is because the spirit of Islam itself is not deep. People do not really understand the whole reason of fasting and Ramadan," he said.

Leading consumer activist Mohamad Idris laments businesses and advertisers are taking advantage of the season to promote spending sprees and gluttony.

"This not only is against Islam but it can also shake a Muslim's faith," Mohamed said.

"Shopping malls and corporate companies are competing with each other to use the festive season to sell their products and services."

"Malls are packed with shoppers every night this season, when they are supposed to actually pack the mosques to perform prayers and meditate on the Qur'an," he said.

Retail giant Metrojaya estimates that the last three months of the year account for 60 percent of their annual business, and about half of that is generated by sales during Ramadan.

"This is the time to catch people with extra pocket money," said its assistant general manager for sales and promotions, Alice Tan.

"For all retailers, this is a festive season where we do a lot of promotions to generate sales," she said.

Mohamed, who has called for a total ban on the use of Ramadan and Eid to advertise products and services, said that the nation's poor often fall prey to the marketing campaigns.

"They are trapped into buying expensive things that they do not need and in the end they are debt-laden," he said.

"What limited income they have is further eroded by overspending and overindulging."

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