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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Deny Satan An Easy Victory!

Deny Satan An Easy Victory

M. Bakri Musa (www.bakrimusa.blogspot.com)

[News item April 8, 2020:  The faithful throughout the world are fuming that in their hour of need they are denied access to their places of worship to seek guidance and solace. For Christians with their Easter masses and Muslims the upcoming Ramadan and Eid, this unprecedented barrier put up by the secular authorities in response to the escalating Covid-19 pandemic is hard to accept or fathom.]

Evangelical Christians in the American South, pious Muslims of Southeast Asia, and Hindu devotees in India continue to throng their places of worship despite the clear evidence of the dangers that they would pose to themselves and others. To them, Corvid-19 is but an instrument of Almighty God to punish mankind for its excesses. This conviction is expressed in such statements as “We fear God more than Covid-19,” or “At times of difficulties we seek solace and guidance in His house of worship.”

            Myths, religious and otherwise, are difficult to challenge with facts or rationality. We are more likely to succeed if we were to replace one set of myths with another, one we hope that would be beneficial or at least less harmful. The myth of the superiority of the White Man gave way to that of Kipling’s White Man’s burden. That in turn yielded to the current conviction of the universality of Western values. That’s much more benign and could even be beneficial.

Viruses too are like myths. They can change (mutate) or made to, and in the process become harmless or even useful, as with the live polio virus vaccine.

            As the scientific evidence has failed to convince those believers to alter their behaviors, I suggest mutating their myth while still retaining its religious framework of God, and of good versus evil. Convince them that Corvid-19 is not God’s instrument but of His archenemy, Satan, intent on destroying mankind. Thus it would be incumbent upon every believer to thwart the devil’s machination. That also is the universal theme of sermons of all faiths throughout history.

            Meaning, those who are Covid-19 positive must do their duty to isolate themselves, or be forced to do so. The ancients caged their mentally deranged in the belief of containing the devil within them. It was for their own (and community’s) good, they rationalized. We should do likewise with Covid-19 positive individuals (and those suspected of), except we don’t cage but quarantine them. The purpose is the same, to protect them and the community.

Likewise, those symptomatic Covid-19 patients must be ‘exorcised.’ The ancients had their candle-cupping, blood-letting, and skull trephining to let out the evil spirit. Modern medical interventions are but highly refined, considerably more hygienic, and therapeutically more effective albeit horribly expensive versions of those ancient practices.

We could liken modern ventilators blowing positive pressure oxygen into the lungs as unseen forces of good driving out the evil spirit, akin to ancient shamans blowing into their victims’ ears!

Those healers of yore may not have been rigorously trained but they were well attired and equipped with their set of rituals and incantations. Likewise with modern medical personnel, with their personal protective equipment (PPE) and sterile technique rituals but sans those incarnations.

In ancient times those who succumbed to plagues deserved extra cautious treatment lest Satan would continue his evil intent through those contaminated remains. Thus their special dispensation from the customary funeral rites. In Islam, they are considered syahid (martyrs). As their place in Heaven is assured, there is little need for elaborate prayers and other rites.

That ahadith should not be regarded, as some misguided ulama have, as a license for believers to willfully expose themselves in order to achieve martyrdom. Religious devotion should not be wrapped in reckless courage and ignorant obedience. Instead, that ahadith is meant to be a balm to grieving families. They already bear the terrible emotional burden by not being by the side of their loved ones at the very end.

That prophetic wisdom is also congruent with safe public health practices. Imagine the contagion if family members were allowed their usual contacts with contaminated bodies, as in normal funeral practices.

            Be wise and be pious. Do not let our bodies and those of our loved ones be the conduits for the devil’s malicious intent. Wear masks and wash the devil off our hands frequently. Most of all observe social distancing even if that means staying away from our places of worship. Deny Satan an easy victory.


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