I began fasting at seven years old, purely out of peer pressure. I had thought to start fasting at puberty, just like my Daddy. Alas and alack, I was shamed out of going to the canteen during Ramadan and thus, it was easier to just fast.
It was more challenging when my school was in afternoon session. The heat made you drowsy and the day seemed endless. When I took the schoolbus, it was worse because the evening congestion often meant that I reached home after Maghrib, by which time I was dehydrated and ravenous. Luckily for me, my Mum began driving when I was ten so I no longer had to deal with that.
For all my ignominious start to fasting, I have always enjoyed Ramadan. I rarely went back to sleep after sahur; I used to spend it playing computer games on our enormous home PC using the large floppy disks, or watch the one Disney cartoon that my Daddy bought on VHS, and as I grew older, just reading.
I hate it that we police fasting in this country. Fasting is an obligation between the devotee and Allah; no one else is part of the equation. It is detestable that we have a criminal act under the syariah law that enforces respect for the month of Ramadan. How on earth does a month have feelings?! How is fining people and if they can't afford to pay, stuffing them in prison for not fasting Islamic? Not to mention that the ones who get punished are usually those from the lower socio-economic bracket; the lofty bangsawans get away scot free.
We need to go back to the core of fasting. Fasting is supposed to remind us of those who are less fortunate, and help us reflect on our spirituality when we stop feeding our body. It is supposed to give our bodies a rest from the usual abuses we heaped on ourselves and reprogramme how we manage our time.
No one should be punished for not fasting, whatever their reasons may be. Let us take this time to reflect on the blessings that we have received to improve our thoughts, words, and deeds. Because some people's behaviour sure makes me think that the wrong devils are tied up during this month.
If you are born a Muslim in Malaysia, chances are you grew up being told that homosexuality is evil and gay people should be punished/killed/fixed. That indoctrination starts as early as seven years old and if you're lucky, stops when you are seventeen.
Yup, I'm talking about the religious study classes that are mandatory for all Muslim children who attend government schools.
I was no different, and what's worse, I grew up in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS epidemic. I was a precocious reader, material-wise, and had begun devouring the broadsheet by the time I was nine years old. So imagine being told that the people of Lot is evil, and lo and behold! They are dying in the most terrible ways all over the world.
I went to an all-girls school so statistically speaking at least 1 out of 10 of my friends is gay. There was a transwoman in my parents' social circles; but everyone seemed to accept her as a woman although there may have been sniggers about whether a woman's wudhu is invalided after shaking hands with her.
As the majority, it behooves us to be aware of the lived experience of the minorities, which include those of the LGBTQIA community. Understanding can only create empathy and acceptance, unless you are a pathological sociopath. As said by Mahatma Gandhi, “A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”