Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ex-servicemen divided over changes to Warrior’s Day celebration

Former servicemen appeared divided along religious lines on changes to the annual Warrior’s Day celebration to make it syariah compliant.

This year’s celebration on July 31 will be held in Putrajaya instead of the traditional military ceremony at the National Monument (picture) as the government is heeding Islamic scholars who say the presence of sculptures of human figures at the site makes it unIslamic.

“That has been the comment for a very long time, there is some truth in it being unIslamic,” said retired Lt-Gen Zaini Mohamad Said.

The former army field commander, who retired in 2001, said the government’s move would benefit the celebration.

“Moving the ceremony is obviously for the better, I am quite sure it is for the better and will satisfy our multi-religious society,” Zaini told The Malaysian Insider.

The decision to stop what the government believes to be unIslamic practices was announced jointly by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Islamic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom last week.

Zahid reportedly said that future Warrior’s Day celebrations will adhere to the guidelines drawn up by the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim), which is likely to put an end to practices of laying of wreaths and playing of “The Last Post” and “The Rouse”.

A new square will also be built in the federal administrative centre as the new venue to celebrate Warrior’s Day.

“We cannot continue with idol worshipping, that is wrong; we have been asking the government to review the celebration for a long time,” said retired Maj Rashid Hassan Basri in support of the government’s decision.

“I hope the celebration in Putrajaya will abandon the old practices; what is the point of playing ‘The Last Post’, it is not ours, it is a Christian tradition,” he said, referring to the tune commonly played at Commonwealth military funerals and ceremonies commemorating those who died in wars.

“We should instead do doa selamat and tahlil (special prayers) on Warrior’s Day,” proposed Rashid.

Retired airman Huan Cheng Guan, however, urged the government to reconsider the decision to change Warrior’s Day celebrations.

“The monument is our history, built in memory of the warriors who passed away, not only the Malays sacrificed for the country but also other races,” said the former Batu Kawan MP.

“Why is there a need for a new monument in Putrajaya; the National Monument holds a lot of sentimental value for soldiers, we don’t feel the same way about Putrajaya,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

“They can do special prayers for Muslims, no problem but we should still continue going to the monument every year,” said Huan, who served from 1980 to 1993 mainly in search and rescue operations for the air force during the tail end of the communist insurgency.

The National Monument, which depicts a group of soldiers holding a Malaysian flag, was built in the 1960s to commemorate those who died during the Japanese Occupation and the Malayan Emergency.

On July 31 every year the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the prime minister, the defence minister and senior armed forces officials lay wreaths at the bronze statue to pay respect to the fallen heroes.

According to a 1995 religious ruling, the playing of “The Last Post” and “The Rouse”, observing one minute's silence with heads bowed, laying of wreaths, reading of poetry and singing before a sculptured monument are in conflict with Islamic teachings

courtesy of Malaysian Insider

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