Millions of Muslims throughout the world are celebrating the end of Ramadan with their families.
In this country there is an incredible level of acceptance, tolerance and mutual respect in our society not always found in many parts of our much troubled, complicated, difficult and, indeed, tumultuous world.
As a son of Sarawak, and the grandson and son of two Sarawak Nonya ladies who were ethnic Chinese but had adopted some aspects of Malay culture and spoken their language (similar to those Paranakans in the former Straits Settlements of Malacca , Penang and Singapore ) I have noticed with great pride and satisfaction that Sarawak, for instance , has developed its uniqueness over the decades from its relative isolation, never having been on a major trade route like Singapore and never having been the centre of an empire like Srivijaya in the 8th to 12th centuries.
Over the decades, but not without the occasional short-term interruption, we in Sarawak, for instance, especially have developed an unquestioning harmony among our very varied peoples, our widely varied life styles, our many beliefs, languages and our various cultures.
The sum total is acceptance with the maximum amount of goodwill and understanding.
Not only honouring but recognising and actively participating in our many religious and cultural festivities like Hari Raya, Wesak Day, Gawai Dayak, Deepavali, Thaipusam and Harvest Festival and Tua Pak Kong’s birthday as part of our increasingly and uncommon culture.
Open houses are an important feature in the Hari Raya celebrations, enabling friends, colleagues and acquaintances and, indeed, even strangers from other faiths and ethnic groups to celebrate Hari Raya marking the end of Ramadan.
However, this Hari Raya and other religious and cultural festivals have to be celebrated quite differently, due to the global war against the invisible and merciless enemy, Covid-19.
Today we celebrate the end of Ramadan without the traditional open house, but rather observing this festival privately among the family members, thus providing much bonding as has never been seen before.
While celebrating, we remember with deep gratitude the splendid and heroic work of the frontliners especially the health care workers doctors and nurses, and other health care personnel, and all in the essential services such police, armed forces, the volunteers and the journalists for keeping us informed
We mourn the loss of lives of, and the sacrifices made by the frontliners who fought the war against this invincible and silent gallantly so others may live. I am confident the government will do all it could to take care of these heroic fighters, and their families at all times.
As part of the Hari Raya celebration, I would ask that all of us in the country toast our uniqueness and pledge to uphold it into the future.
Let us join our Muslim sisters and brothers, wherever they may be, in greeting one another with Maaf Zahir dan Batin.
Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Datuk Seri Ang Lai Soon is a Malaysian philanthropist, social and environmental campaigner.