Celebrating Aidilfitri with a Dayak touch
By:Nick Fletcher
KCH-dayak muslim2

KUCHING: All Muslims are looking forward to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri like how they used to before the COVID-19 pandemic struck two years ago.

With standard operating procedures (SOPs) still in place, many are hoping to continue the practice of visiting each other during the occasion.

Dayak Muslims are no exception; they too will celebrate Aidilfitri like other Muslims with the ‘takbir’ and ‘tahmid’ and ‘sunat Aidilfitri’ prayers. And feast with their fellow countrymen.

For Norhaza Ahmad Redzuan Abdullah @ Edwin Arah, 54, the special part of the festive season with Dayak Muslims is the menu because indigenous ethnic food such as manuk (chicken) pansuh, pansuh ikan (fish), kasam ikan, kasam daun ubi or ensabi vegetables, upak pantu and many more will be served.

“My wife is a Malay from Kelantan but she is very good at cooking Dayak-style food such as manuk pansuh and midin.

“For her, Dayak cuisine is actually very easy to prepare compared to Malayan cuisine which is more complicated because it requires stir-frying, using ingredients such as coconut milk or using a lot of paste or spices,” he said.

Norhaza, who hails from Ulu Batang Ai, Lubuk Antu, added that when celebrating Eid at a Dayak Muslim house, there will be a lot of non-Muslim guests because they are usually their own family members and friends.

“This is not surprising, especially in Sarawak which is used to having families from many races and religions,” he said.

Norhaza, who embraced Islam since 1986, said it was the same for other festive seasons such as Christmas, Hari Gawai where Dayak Muslims would return to the longhouses to enjoy the celebration together,” he said.

“One thing for sure is that there is no issue about sitting at a table or sitting down to eat together in the ‘ruai’ of the longhouse,” he said.

He explained that it was because each of them understood the taboos of ‘halal’ and ‘haram’ and respected their respective religious beliefs.

“My non-Muslim family members are used to the differences in religious practices so it does not stop us from enjoying the meals served and continuing to show love for one another,” he said.

Norhaza added that family members help to enliven Aidilfitri by showing their love for the family.

“I think this is the uniqueness of Sarawak and we need to continue to treasure this as much as we can,” he said.

On another note, Norhaza, who is also president of the National Dayak Muslim Association (PDMK), said the association had played a role in fostering peace and unity among various ethnic groups in Sarawak, as well as with the other races in Malaysia.

“For example, during the Gawai Dayak celebration, Dayak Muslims would be a bridge between non-Muslim Dayaks and other Muslims, highlighting the unity and harmony of Sarawak families and Malaysian families,” he said.

According to Norhaza, there is no denying that Dayak Muslims face hurdles, especially those who have just converted to Islam and who still do not fully practice the religion.

He said some get separated from their original families in longhouses, some no longer in touch with old friends because they find it difficult to continue to be friends and maintain their Muslim identity at the same time.

“That’s why in the courses and seminars we hold, we emphasise how much such misunderstanding needs to be corrected.

“We are reminded that Islam does not teach us to forget our parents, relatives and friends.

“That is why the association makes visits to the longhouses to be kind not only to Muslims but also non-Muslims on the basis of ‘rahmatan lil alamin’,” he said.

Therefore, in conjunction with Aidilfitri, Norhaza invited non-Muslims to visit their homes as well.

“Let us strengthen our relationship as a Sarawak family and a Malaysian family who love each other,” said Norhaza.

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