We have to learn to be more tol­er­ant, un­der­stand­ing and re­spect­ful

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

AVIRAL video of a fra­cas out­side the Ta­man Austin Per­dana mosque in Jo­hor Baru re­cently led to a po­lice case which gained a lot of at­ten­tion on­line.

The video, fea­tur­ing a group of men at­tack­ing a driver as the lat­ter’s ve­hi­cle ma­noeu­vred its way out of an area with cars parked on both sides of the road, was dis­turb­ing, to say the least.

The big crowd was seen hov­er­ing around the driver as his ve­hi­cle re­versed and went for­ward sev­eral times in the in­ci­dent that oc­curred just af­ter Fri­day prayers.

In the back­ground, one could hear the imam recit­ing what sounded like the af­ter the com­ple­tion of prayers.

Po­lice said the driver honked con­tin­u­ously dur­ing the 1.30pm in­ci­dent on May 5 af­ter he found an­other car block­ing his path.

Jo­hor Crim­i­nal Investigation Depart­ment chief Datuk Ka­marul Za­man Ma­mat said an­other man later moved the car that was ob­struct­ing the driver’s path.

“The dis­grun­tled driver had honked at the other man as he was mov­ing the car and then gave a pass­ing honk as he left the area.

“Sud­denly a group of men ap­proached the first driver and started hit­ting him with their hands and hel­met. The com­plainant’s ve­hi­cle was also dam­aged,” said Ka­marul on the day of the in­ci­dent.

Since the in­ci­dent, four sus­pects have been picked up by po­lice and an­other seven are still be­ing sought in the in­ves­ti­ga­tions un­der Sec­tion 147 of the Pe­nal Code for ri­ot­ing.

Al­most a week af­ter the fra­cas, the 28-year-old car driver, who is an en­gi­neer, openly apol­o­gised for his ac­tion dur­ing a meet­ing that in­cluded him, Jo­hor Is­lamic Re­li­gious Coun­cil ad­viser Datuk Nooh Gadut and other top Is­lamic re­li­gious au­thor­ity of­fi­cials.

It was heart­en­ing to see that, in the end, cool heads pre­vailed. Re­gard­less of how it could have turned out and whose fault it was, the case in now in the hands of the po­lice. They acted swiftly when word got out about the in­ci­dent by de­ploy­ing per­son­nel to the lo­ca­tion.

Less than 1½ hours af­ter the in­ci­dent, Jo­hor Baru Se­la­tan deputy dis­trict po­lice chief Su­per­in­ten­dent M. Ku­mar held a meet­ing that in­volved the driver and mem­bers of the surau’s com­mit­tee at the Se­tia In­dah po­lice sta­tion.

Know­ing full well the im­pact the case could have on pub­lic or­der, the po­lice made a state­ment on that day urg­ing the pub­lic against mak­ing any ac­tion that could ag­gra­vate the case.

Look­ing back at the fra­cas, it must be noted that the is­sue was dished out to all of us in typ­i­cal 21st cen­tury fash­ion.

Most of us heard about it first through so­cial media and through the many What­sApp groups that we are part of.

The case has led to a mul­ti­tude of re­ac­tions on­line and off­line. It has put into fo­cus how tol­er­ance, un­der­stand­ing, mu­tual re­spect and com­mon sense must pre­vail in ev­ery­thing we do.

It was right for Deputy Home Min­is­ter Datuk Nur Ja­zlan Mo­hamed to say that the fra­cas out­side the surau would not have oc­curred if there had been tol­er­ance and un­der­stand­ing among mem­bers of the pub­lic, in­clud­ing among the youth.

A food stall worker, who had per­formed his Fri­day prayers at the surau on the day of the in­ci­dent, said he was shocked that there was such a com­mo­tion.

The stall worker’s younger 17year-old brother said sev­eral mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion were seen try­ing to calm the sit­u­a­tion.

“One of them was heard ad­vis­ing the men in­volved, and he lamented how they could have re­sorted to such ac­tion,” said the teenager.

Surau chair­man Mohd Khai­idzir Is­mail had said he wanted to see the mat­ter re­solved.

Since the in­ci­dent, a large ban­ner has been placed at the surau re­mind­ing the peo­ple to park their ve­hi­cles at the des­ig­nated park­ing area be­hind the surau to avoid ob­struct­ing other mo­torists.

The in­ci­dent high­lighted the need for the au­thor­i­ties, such as the Peo­ple’s Vol­un­teer Corps (Rela), to make sure their per­son­nel are prop­erly con­trol­ling traf­fic around houses of wor­ship dur­ing large gath­er­ings.

Rela di­rec­tor-gen­eral Zulk­i­fli Abidin said it would greatly help vol­un­teers if more non-Mus­lim per­son­nel or fe­male Rela mem­bers were roped in for traf­fic dis­per­sals and crowd man­age­ment at mosques or surau dur­ing Fri­day prayers.

This pro­posal would be good con­sid­er­ing that the Ta­man Austin Per­dana surau’s com­mit­tee hires four Rela mem­bers, who are Malay, to mon­i­tor traf­fic dur­ing Fri­day prayers.

Hope­fully, we can learn from this in­ci­dent and move on to be­come stronger and more tol­er­ant of each other’s faiths and prac­tices.

The writer is NST Jo­hor bu­reau chief. When not work­ing, he loves driv­ing along the coastal high­way and trunk roads of Jo­hor. A lover of food, mu­sic and theatre, he rec­om­mends ev­ery­one to try Jo­hor’s ver­sion of 'ais ka­cang' which is drenched in choco­late sauce

The ban­ner placed at the surau to re­mind peo­ple to park their ve­hi­cles at the des­ig­nated park­ing area at the Ta­man Austin Per­dana mosque in Jo­hor Baru af­ter a fra­cas broke out there on May 5. The in­ci­dent high­lighted the need for the au­thor­i­ties to en­sure their per­son­nel are on hand to con­trol traf­fic around houses of wor­ship dur­ing large gath­er­ings.

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