KBS: A Little Sensitivity Goes A Long Way

At the age of 57, I felt that it was high time for me to start a healthier lifestyle.  As I was into athletics in my younger years, I started running outdoors last year and slowly built-up to non-stop runs of 5km to 10 km distance. Since then, I have lost some weight, felt healthier and fitter, and participated in a couple of official runs, finishing well within the official time targets. My aim is to run a Marathon before turning 58.

Recently, I participated in a 10km official run – the ‘Ultron Shah Alam City’ run on Sunday 30th July, which was co-organised by Kementerian Belia & Sukan (KBS). I was pleased that I managed to finish in one hour and 22 minutes, feeling a deep sense of achievement. However, this was clouded by the insensitivity and disregard of the organiser – the ‘Flag-off’ time was at 6.00 am – the exact time for ‘Subuh’ Prayers.

This matter was brought to the attention of the organiser, with some of the Muslim runners requesting for the ‘Flag-off’ to be delayed by 15 minutes to enable us to perform our prayers. I was prepared and was already in ablution, with my travel prayer mat, all set to perform my obligatory prayers at a corner in the car park. I also noticed that some other runners were planning the same. As the majority of the runners were Muslims, we felt that the organisers would surely take heed of this request. Unfortunately, they continued to proceed with the flag off at 6.00 am, with a loud announcement while the ‘azan’ calling for prayers could be heard in the background.   

I am concerned that this seems to be a rising trend – organisers planning for events and dinners without giving any consideration to obligatory prayer times, failing to take into consideration that Muslim attendees would have to perform our obligatory prayers. There have also been circumstances where loud music or entertainment continues to be blasted or performed at the same time as a call to prayers from a nearby mosque. 

In our case, due to the insensitivity of organisers we had to delay our runs as we chose to pray first. Many other Muslim runners, however, had to miss their Subuh prayers. It does not matter what their personal preferences were, as this could have been avoided if the organiser had planned better and taken note of the prayer time and delay the flag-off by a mere 15 minutes.

Considering the Ministry was a co-organiser, this was even more unacceptable and extremely disappointing. Either the Ministry did not take note of the timing, and paid no attention to the insensitivity of the event organiser, which reflected poorly in terms of planning, or there was a total disregard for the importance of the timing for obligatory prayers for Muslims.  Either way, this was not acceptable, which may be seen as the ‘creeping in’ of liberal tendencies within a Ministry.

Sadly, the whole incident reflected disrespect for the religious obligation of Muslims – this was never the norm in Malaysia. A responsible event organiser would take prayer time into consideration when organising any event, especially because Malaysians are predominantly Muslims.

I would appreciate it if KBS or any other Ministry, agency, or organisation could look into such matters and be more sensitive when organising events. Let’s not take this letter as a criticism but as a gentle reminder.

By a Concerned Reader

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