Kuala Lumpur: Is the "kurta" a Hindu attire? It is not, and that is what Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak shared with his people asking them not to be confused with what constituted cultural and religious beliefs.
Stating that eyebrows were raised when he wore a kurta, purportedly an Indian attire, at a Tamil festival recently, Najib said the hip-length long-sleeved shirt is not solely a Hindu dress.
"They are not aware that in India, millions of Muslims wear kurta. If we don`t understand issues like this, it could lead to suspicion and hatred among the races," he said yesterday while addressing religious leaders in conjunction with World Inter Faith Harmony Week.
Najib had attended the Tamil-Hindu festival of Thaipusam held at the Batu Caves` Murugan temple recently but had not entered the holy caves.
Multi ethnic Malaysia is a Muslim majority country with 60 percent of the 28 million people population Malays. Eight percent are ethnic Indians mostly Hindu Tamils and 25 percent are ethnic Chinese who are Buddhists or Christians.
Najib said Malaysians appreciated the harmony and prosperity enjoyed in the country, made possible because of moderate policies that were in line with Islamic teachings.
The teachings of all faiths, in principle, promote moderation through conduct and words, he added. He said the World Inter-Faith Harmony Week sought to raise awareness and understanding between religions for universal peace and to drive the world to be progressive and prosperous.
"If there is a country which wants to showcase itself as a model of multiracial unity, I don’t think there is a country better than Malaysia," said Najib.
Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association`s (MACMA) president Mustapha Ma usually wears clothes with elements of Chinese culture and he is a seventh-generation Muslim. It is a matter of culture and not faith, the Star newspaper quoted Najib as saying.
Meanwhile, the Mufti Harussani Zakaria of Perak state said that Najib`s presence at the Thaipusam celebrations was not against Islamic doctrine as he was not involved in the religious procession.
"Kurta is a traditional attire which is even worn by Muslims in India," national news agency Bernama quoted Harussani as saying. "He did not even enter the cave temple," Harussani said, asserting that as a national leader, it was not wrong for Najib to get together with the people.
"It`s not wrong if there is no intention to celebrate or endorse the rites of other religions," said Harussani. The Perak mufti had recently said that it was un-Islamic for a Muslim to bless and join a religious celebration at a temple.