By Hafidz Baharom
Currently sitting at Coffea Coffee at The Curve, it is no doubt that Christmas season is in the air.
Or at least, for some branches, blaring out Christmas carols even if the entire bar is empty seems to be the extent of the decor today.
Meanwhile, buskers have set up shop right across, hoping to perhaps collect some cash to fund their passion in music.
And this is where it gets oddly weird. For some reason, the band is singing while the bar manager looks disinterestedly miles away – while her establishment continues with the recorded Christmas carols at full blast, in a depressingly empty bar.
Thus, here I am, stuck between the cacophony of a live band singing Malay songs, intermingled with the call to ‘don we now our gay apparel’. Slaneesh would be in awe at just how insane these two are battling it out like sonic chaos marines.
So I tell the bar to do the one thing it can to alleviate the situation – lower their cheery, recorded, Christmas carol volume, to allow a live band to sing their hearts out for perhaps an average of RM65 for singing their lungs out.
And now, the said manager is looking as if I suddenly became the grinch that ruined Christmas.
Look, I’m all for the Christmas spirit, but I’m more appreciative of live music purely because ironically, I went to live music sessions by Reza Salleh at Laundry Bar ages ago during the ‘Moonshine’ sessions.
Thus, for any band with a live gig, they deserve to be heard by a public audience without too much distortion.
Now, I bring this up, to bring up another issue.
Recently, the apartment complex I reside in had an item on their General Meeting which struck a nerve – the need to discuss the speaker volume for the residential surau.
This rubbed the Muslim population the wrong way. But I didn’t even know what the issue was to begin with because the unit I rent faces a hillside.
But I did what I usually do – sit down and had a hard think. Because I’ve been through a similar issue as well in my university days – which was a lot weirder than it is now.
For those not in the know, UiTM Shah Alam doesn’t have a mosque. Instead, it has an ‘Islamic Centre’. Not sure what the rationale was in its namesake, or even if it was deliberate, but there you go.
The Islamic Centre hosts the weekly mandatory Friday prayers, and also sounds the call to prayer at the allotted time, five times a day.
All of these, are done by a person, not a recording.
However, there came a point where this Centre decided to be extra pious and start playing recordings of someone reading the Koran at multiple hours of the day at full volume – even while students were attending classes, to the point of drowning out the voice of lecturers.
It kept going on like this until our class had a lecturer who had had enough, called up someone from the Islamic centre and told them off, in full view of the class.
And thus, the extra pious sessions of the Islamic centre came to an end.
Such similar situations take place all around Malaysia, to be frank.
It is one thing to blast the call to prayer out loud for everyone to gather and perform the demands of the faith, but it is totally another issue altogether to blast Koranic readings from a recording simply to – ‘keep the Koran close to our hearts’?
This is where Islam actually simplifies the decision. Yes, the call to prayer is mandatory. But playing a Koranic recording at odd hours of the day on the speakers?
Well, if people get pissed, then it is sinful because the actions create animosity against the religion itself by overstepping boundaries.
There is no mandatory demand in Islam to indoctrinate entire communities at all hours with our religion through a recording of the Koran.
And this was exactly the issue with the apartment complex I was staying in. It was once again another case of exercising mob privilege with thoughts of doing good without a thought to others outside the faith.
So many still don’t get this point – there isn’t compulsion in Islam for you to decide to blare Koranic recordings full blast simply because you want Muslims to hear it and be touched by the beautiful phrases.
Because by doing so, you are imposing on those of other faiths. That point will, of course, be lost on a thoughtless mob.
Malaysians who so decide to follow a faith, whatever faith, should be allowed to do so. But if you believe your faith demands you to push the button on a radio for everyone to listen to, then you’re no better than this bar who insists on blaring Christmas carols for no other reason that it being December.
By Hafidz Baharom