Articles, Opinions & Views: Covid-19 and religious obstinacy - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy

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No Atheists
In A Foxhole
“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God

Which must always come to pass

He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?

Have you always turned the other cheek?

To My Church have you been true?"

"No, Lord, I guess I ain't

Because those of us who carry guns

Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around

Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here,

Lord, It needn't be so grand,

I never expected or had too much,

But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Covid-19 and religious obstinacy - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, March 16, 2020
Fairplay : Here is my take. Perhaps future wars would be fought on biological methods which could be far cheaper and more deadly - by using lab-manufactured bacteria or virus to annihiliate massive population or communities of population.
The most vunerable would be those communities that believe their religious faith and practices would protect them from harm might be the most likely candidates to become extinct by obiliteration.
Malaysiakini : "Give your cooperation, think of the other Muslims and non-Muslims. Do not go to mosques until you have been confirmed healthy."  - Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin
COMMENT | Kudos to the mufti of Perlis for his timely rejoinder. Folks are talking about the Sri Petaling religious event, which led to a cascading effect of paranoia, and institutional recrimination, which has consumed social media. But there was another event which should be of concern, and hopefully, the Health Ministry is on this.
At the Teluk Bahang beach in Penang, as reported in The Star, "More than 30,000 people thronged to the temple since early Sunday morning (March 8), with devotees taking part in several poojas (prayer sessions), carrying of the paal kudam (milkpots) and other religious ceremonies at the 123-year-old temple.”
Moreover, this is where it gets worrying – Temple committee chairperson A Kanapathy said the festival attracted devotees and visitors from all over the country, including neighbouring countries. “Although fewer people are travelling because of Covid-19, we are happy with the turnout and the festival was carried out smoothly,” he said.
Kanapathy added that more than 100 stalls selling food, drinks and ornaments were set up at the venue in conjunction with the festival. Now, I wonder if the necessary preventive steps had been taken and the health guidelines from the Health Ministry were followed? By the way, does anyone seriously think that devotees in this festival were seriously considering the guidelines from the ministry? No, they were not. They were just concentrating on having a good time and enjoying the light show.

Malaysia at the moment has the highest rate in Asean for Covid-19 and it does not take a genius to figure out why that is. The fact is that these kinds of religious events are going to be the main cause of the pandemic in this country. As always, it boils down to how some people who should be community-minded are in reality selfish in their religious preoccupations. Add to this narratives about the majority religion and what happens is that nobody looks into their own backyard.
So let me get this straight. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. The new government is grappling with a growing crisis, the news cycle is consumed with stories – some fake – of Covid-19 and 30,000 devotees decided that this is a good time to hold a festival?
And yes it irks me that a commercial motive is implicit in these so-called religious events because it implies that commercial considerations overruled the instinct for protecting society against a pandemic which is causing so much economic and social turmoil in the world today.
The cherry on the cake was this quote by Consumers Association of Penang education officer NV Subbarow - “We have encouraged the temple to use volunteers to pick all the leftover rubbish after the festival as part of the cleaning-up process to keep the temple surroundings free of litter.”
So what happened is that volunteers picked up rubbish when we are living through a pandemic that is exacerbated by poor hygiene. Wonderful. This is the kind of inaction that leads to health crises in the so-called “Third World” countries.
At any other time, this sort of social conscious tidbit would be good optics for the kind of selfishness that permeates such events, but at this point of time, it is a reminder of how serious the situation is when everyone is stockpiling hand sanitisers and (should) be maintaining a respectable social distance from one another.
Any rational person would be concerned about people from all over the country, and neighbouring countries as well, who may unwittingly have Covid-19 and are spreading it around like what is happening in the Sri Petaling tabligh case. This is the kind of stupidity that makes it extremely difficult for the government to handle the nation's health security.

It is also symptomatic of how religious activities are exempt from public scrutiny on the grounds of religious diversity and national harmony. The reality is that the people who organised this festival and the state/federal institutions that sanctioned them are responsible if the virus flares up into a new cluster.
This is what happens when people do not pay attention or allow their selfish religious beliefs to comprise the health security of the collective. It is easy to pick low hanging fruit but what is paramount is that it is incumbent on all of us to ensure the safety of our communities.
How in God’s name did the festival organisers get the go-ahead for this event? This happened after the Sri Petaling religious gathering and I get that this event has been planned and God knows we do not want to “offend” any community. But this really should not have happened.
The fact is that the festival organisers should have been told to cancel this event because, well, the health security of the nation was involved. State and federal level authorities should have been on the ball on this issue.
Shame on all those involved in this festival, especially in a time when people all over the country are coming to grips with a pandemic that stigmatises patients. People are afraid as they should be but the political apparatus and the religious operatives should act responsibly.
We cannot always blame and look to institutions of power for “guidelines” when common sense should trump whatever religiosity we think needs to be on display. The religious apparatus is mulling cancelling Friday prayers. Mulling? They should cancel Friday prayers. All religious mass gatherings should be suspended until we get a grip on this pandemic. While it is commendable that Christian and Buddhist religious organisations have been proactive in this, what is needed is state intervention if need be, that all religions confine worship to self-reflection at home – as it should be – until the state manages to contain the problem.
Covid-19 should remind us that we are all in this together and the state should clearly articulate positions that enable health and security personnel to contain the problem - instead of pandering to religious groups.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 5:54 PM  
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