‘NO’ TO BEER FEST

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is of the view that Oktoberfest, a German beer festival, should never be permitted at all and we have been consistent in our stand.

We launched a nationwide anti-alcohol campaign in 1988 to tackle the problem from different angles. This tireless effort came in the form of numerous letters and memos to the authorities, coaxing them to take action, especially in the form of effective legislation.

Beer festivals is not a Malaysian culture; in fact, from the religious perspective alcohol drinking is consider haram to Muslims and is advised against by Christianity, Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism mainly because it is an intoxicant.

Alcohol impairs brain function resulting in poor judgment, reduced reaction time, loss of balance and motor skills, or slurred speech. It is also associated with chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis; various cancers including liver, mouth, throat, larynx, and esophagus; high blood pressure; and psychological disorders.

In the World Health Organization Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004, it reported that “more teenagers in Malaysia are starting to drink alcoholic beverages at an earlier age.” It is estimated that Malaysians splurge more than RM2 billion every year on alcohol.

It stated that “45 per cent of Malaysian youths under the age of 18 consume alcohol regularly. Of all the legal and illegal drugs, alcohol is by far the most widely used by teenagers, and according to a national survey many are regularly drinking to excess.”

This trend is worrying especially by permitting beer festivals, the government is sending a wrong signal to Malaysians that it is alright to consume alcohol in excess.

On the part of the alcohol industry, it entices people with advertisements and promotions, glamorising an alcohol drinking lifestyle which in reality endangers health.

The Road Safety Council estimates that 30% of road accidents nationwide are caused by drunk driving. According to statistics on drunk driving between 2010 and April 2015, it attributed to a total of 1,035 road accidents of which 618 resulted in deaths, 207 resulted in serious injuries.

The reason is that if you drink a little more than two cans of beer it is likely that you will fail the breath analyser test as the alcohol is 100 ml of your breath would exceed the prescribed limit of 35 microgram’s of alcohol. For that, it is a fine of RM1,000 or a maximum of RM6,000 and a jail of up to 12 months.

Therefore, on these grounds, we want the government to rein in alcohol festivals, preventing them from growing by the year because of intensive promotions by beer companies at the expense of Malaysians.

Letter to Editor, 29 September 2017

 

Celebrating Eid-al-Fitr, Avoid Extravagance and Bid’ah

Hari Raya Message from CAP President Haji S.M. Mohamed Idris

We are in the last ten days of Ramadhan when Muslims are required to spend more time in prayer, introspection and giving charity. Regrettably, they are bombarded with advertisements to buy and consume more. “Ramadan Jam11, Gila-Gila Deals from RM1, Raya Ni Mesti Cun,, Jualan Hebat up to 50%” are some of the ads to tempt consumers.

Advertising sales without misleading consumers and violating regulations may be acceptable. What is objectionable is linking sales promotion to Eid-al-Fitr celebration. It desacralises a highly spiritual event. What are the authorities and the Ulama doing? They need to take firm action to stop this secularisation of Islam.

According to the portal Al-Islam org:

“Eid-ul-Fitr is a unique festival. It has no connection with any historical event nor is it related to the changes of seasons or cycles of agriculture. It is not a festival related in any way to worldly affairs.

Its significance is purely spiritual. It is the day when the Muslims thank Allah for having given them the will, the strength and the endurance to observe fast and obey His commandment during the holy month of Ramadhan.

This day, in the Muslim world, brings rejoicing and happiness. The rejoicing is not, however, at the departure of the month of Ramadhan; it is the happiness which man feels after successfully completing an important task.”

In celebrating Eid-al-Fitr Muslims are required to practise moderation and avoid sinful activities. Allah swt has commanded us not to squander our wealth but to do charity.  In the holy Qur’an, Allah exhorts and warns: “And give his due to the near of kin as well as to the needy and the wayfarer, but do not squander (thy substance) senselessly. Behold, the squanderers are, indeed, of the ilk of the satans – in as much as Satan has indeed proved most ungrateful to his Sustainer.” [Surah Al – Isra’, Verses 26, 27]

Many Muslims – the wealthy elite, the ‘orang kaya baru’ – have violated these commandments and indulge in wasteful, conspicuous consumption even during Ramadan. They spend lavishly decorating their homes, purchasing expensive furniture, curtains, clothes, watches and other personal items. While the average household income of our rakyat is less than RM2000 per month the handbags of the ‘orang kaya baru’ ladies could be worth over RM20,000.

The ostentatious lifestyle of the wealthy has negative effects on, and permeates to, the other layers of society. The lower income groups try to imitate the rich, over-consume, live beyond their means and become heavily indebted. Financial problems create tension in families which could lead to the break-up of marriages where children become the victims.

Wealth in Islam is considered to be a gift from God to be held in trust. It is not to be squandered in ostentatious living but to improve and empower the community, and to help the poor, the needy and the marginalized wherever they may be.

Poverty is widespread in the world, particularly in many Muslim states. Over 2 billion people are poor living from hand to mouth. In Syria, Iraq and other countries, devastated by wars and conflicts, tens of millions of people are internally displaced living in hovels, or are refugees living in refugee camps. They do not have adequate food, clothing, education, healthcare and other basic needs. In this state of the Ummah, is it not a sin and a crime for the wealthy to flaunt their wealth in conspicuous consumption?

Having open houses during Eid-al-Fitri is peculiar to the Muslim community in Malaysia which is at the bottom of the income ladder compared to the other communities who  do not practise such extravagance. Traditionally, after prayer, people visited the homes of their neighbours, friends and relatives to offer greetings, sembang-sembang, and partake of simple kuih, ketupat, lemang and drinks.

Today it’s very different. Open houses of organisations, political parties and politician, corporations and the wealthy provide a wide spread of rich foods and drinks and even some entertainment. A lot of food is also wasted. Putting an economic value to them, it would run to millions of ringgit. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial if this money is used to provide scholarships for poor children or homes for the homeless?

Celebrations on a modest scale can be organized by Muslim and non-Muslim residents in their neighborhoods that would promote greater understanding, unity and brotherhood among them.

There is a practice of visiting the graveyard on Eid, pouring air mawa and placing flowers around the grave, reading tahlil, Yasin and al-Fatihah. Such was not the practice of our Prophet s.a.w.s or his companions. The Prophet s.a.w.s did not specify any particular day to visit the graveyard. We can do so at any time and therefore there is no spiritual significance on visiting it on Eid.

His (s.a.w.s) practice was as reported by Aisha: “I aked what should I say when I pass by a graveyard, O Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s). He (s.a.w.s) replied: ‘Say Peace be upon the  believing men and women dwelling here. May Allah grant mercy to those who have preceded us and those who are to follow them. Cetainly, Allah willing, we will join you.” Related by Muslim.

I appeal to Muslims to remember the spiritual significance of Eid-al-Fitr and avoid extravegance, waste and bid’ah.

Selamat Hai Raya Maaf Zahir Batin

Media Statement, 15 June 2017

Advice on Observing Ramadhan

by CAP President Haji S.M.Mohamed Idris

Ramadhan is the most sacred month in the Muslim calendar when the noble Qur’an was revealed to our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. as a guidance to mankind.  It prescribes fasting as a way to attain Taqwa (God-consciousness) and the Prophet is reported to have narrated:  “Allah said, every action of the son of Adam is for him except fasting, for that is solely for Me, I give reward for it.  The fast is a shield”. It is a shield against sin and excessive love of this world.

Ramadhan is supposed to be a month of intense devotion for Muslims but for many it has become a month of feasting and wasteful spending. Islam enjoins its followers to avoid gluttony, waste and extravagance. The Prophet s.a.w. said: “The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach; for the son of Adam a few mouthfuls are sufficient to keep his back straight. If you must fill it then one-third for food, one- third for drink and one-third for air.”

Contrary to this teaching, some people eat and drink so much that they become lazy and neglect to perform their terawih prayers and even the mandatory ones. Gluttony also has serious adverse health effects – diabetes, coronary diseases, and hypertension – on those indulging in it.

On the evils of overeating Ibn al-Qayyim writes: “How many are the sins that have come about as a result of satiation and overeating. How many are the good deeds that have failed to materialize on account of it. Whoever safeguards himself from the evil of his stomach has indeed saved himself from a great evil. Satan has his greatest influence over a person with a full stomach”

Iftar, breaking fast, traditionally in the home with the family members or in the mosque in a spiritual environment, has been turned into a “feast with a 100-dish spread” in hotels and restaurants. It has been turned into a source of profits for these enterprises.

Some 5-star hotels have been advertising iftar at the cost of RM 150 per person which means a family of five would have to spend RM 750, half the monthly salary of an average worker, for breaking fast once. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. broke his fast with only three dates. The Qur’an warns against excesses: “…eat and drink without going to excesses. For Allah does not like those who go to excess.”   [Al-Araf 7: 31]

Iftar in hotels has become a promotional tool for politicians and Big Business. Elaborate feasts are held for members, clients, supporters and patrons, with hired imams conducting prayer, and nasheed music thrown in. The incongruity of conducting prayers, during the most sacred month, in a hotel where alcohol is served to its customers, and sinful activities may be taking place, is ignored.

Excessive varieties and quantities of food prepared for iftar and sahur leads to waste. A lot of food is thrown away by hotels and families into the waste dumps. Last year the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp) reported that every Ramadhan 200,000 tonnes of food go straight into the rubbish bins. This quantity of food could feed 180 million people.

Throwing away food is a sin as it deprives food for the needy ones and the future generation. It also depletes resources and contributes to environmental degradation through pollution of seas and rivers and discharge of carbon dioxide, responsible for global warming.

One of the objects of fasting is to feel the pain of hunger experienced by the poor and marginalized so that we will have empathy for them. Millions of people in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Palestine, Myanmar, India, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan are facing starvation and yet we are throwing away huge quantities of food in the holy month. The Qur’an condemns those who waste and squander: “Spendthrifts are the brothers of Satan, and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord [Al-Isra 17: 26, 27]

Fasting is not only abstaining from food but keeping all our senses under control so that we do not commit sinful activities – gluttony, lying, back-biting, wasting time, and oppressing others. Muslims are required to spend their time in prayer, remembrance of Allah, helping the poor and needy, and practice charity. Our fast has no value unless we strive to become more spiritual. Otherwise, as the Prophet s.a.w. said:  “Many receive nothing from the fast except hunger and thirst.”

Let us resolve to make this Ramadhan more meaningful and spiritually enriching. Avoid breaking fast in hotels and, instead, breakfast in your homes with your family members and friends. Doing so will provide the opportunity for parents to explain to their children the significance and inner meaning of fasting. Avoid overeating, waste and compulsive shopping. Spend more time in mosques than malls.

The rich should share their wealth with the poor and needy instead of indulging in ostentatious way of life. Use your wealth to lift the poor and marginalized out of poverty and oppression. Support worthy causes like the liberation of Palestine, including the third holiest mosque Al-Aqsa. Remember Allah’s warning on greed and accumulating wealth:

“(Woe unto him) who amasses wealth and counts it a safeguard, thinking that his wealth will make him live forever! Nay, but (in the life to come such as) he shall indeed be abandoned to crushing torment!” [Al – Humazah 104:2-4]

“You are obsessed by greed for more and more until you go down to your graves. Nay, in time you will come to understand.” [At – Takathur 102:1-3]

OPINION, 30 May 2017

FIRE CRACKERS BAN: WHO ELSE BEEN CAUGHT AND CHARGED?

Two men were each fined RM6,000 and have to serve a four-days jail sentence each for illegal possession of fire crackers during a football match at the Penang State Stadium in Batu Kawan on 11 February 2016.

One of the men had 12 firecrackers while the other had four.

The two men were charged under Section 8 of the Explosive Act 1957 which carries a maximum seven-year jail sentence, a RM10,000 fine, or both, if convicted.

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) does not condone these men’s actions but it questions whether any action has been taken against others who possessed and played with firecrackers/fireworks during the recent Chinese New Year.

The unmistakeable sound of firecrackers and fireworks was deafening and jarring like that of a war zone during the Chinese New Year.

CAP wants to know if any violators of the ban have been caught during the festive seasons and the recent Chinese New Year because none was reported in the media. If they were caught, they too should be charged under the same Act and subjected to the same punishment.

Only then justice is seen to be done.

Letter to the Editor , 17 February 2017