What a way to add value

MAY 7 ― I might be wrong, but when our ministers talk about adding value to Malaysian-made products, I’m quite sure they did not anticipate the recital of Quranic verses over dead chickens and selling them at twice the market price.

Because that will be, well... stupid.

Yes an ingenious way to make money off those who are already consuming large quantities of “smart” raisins, but nonetheless unethical and immoral.

I actually expected one of two things to happen with this “discovery.” Either a Nobel Prize nomination for the cheapest, most efficient and delicious way to treat psychological, physical and spiritual problems in the history of mankind, or, criminal charges because a false representation is fraud.

Fraud is a crime.

Since that did not happen, I wonder how many realise that profiting from religion is just another marketing gimmick that has nothing to do with Islam? A state of desperation maybe. But Islam, no.

And I wonder if our enforcement officers were awed by the “mystical” dead birds and worried that any action against the traders will somehow be interpreted as an insult to the religion?

Because at the time of writing, the chickens are still being sold to the public.

It’s not religion. Just business.

The question I posed earlier would be rhetorical in other countries. But not in Malaysia. Here, it is legitimate.

Businesses, criminals and conmen make money when and if they succeed in associating their business and products with religion.

They do it by appealing to the segment of society that wears their religion on their sleeves and enhance the already “feel good” feeling these people have about their beliefs. The same feeling when a Samsung fan buys a Galaxy tablet because it’s a Samsung, even when many argue that Apple is better.

Hence ice creams made of water from a thousand-year-old well and marketed as an ice cream that follows the Prophet’s tradition.

Or a local university justifying a RM189,000 bill after three years of “academic research” in putting together the state of the art, first in the world “hysteria kit” made of chopsticks, salt, lime, vinegar, pepper spray, formic acid.

Are these religious? No. Ice cream is ice cream. It’s either delicious, or it’s not. Claiming that it will bring people closer to their religion is just a gimmick. And a clever one at that.

Education. What education?

Three years ago, I wrote about how our students lag behind ASEAN countries in Mathematics and Science. Last year, nothing much has changed. We were ranked 52 out of 72 countries.      

Vietnam on the other hand was ranked 12th.

It is worth noting that we inherited a good education system from the British while Vietnam was rebuilding their war-torn country.

But look at where we are now.

Muslims spent about 10 years learning “Agama” in schools. And yet we have so many religious bodies and agencies to monitor and coddle them, telling them what’s right or wrong. What is real, what is a con.

Similarly the time spent on teaching English or Malay languages in schools. Those who say our education system is working need to only look at the success or failure of these subjects throughout the nation.

And if you think there is no relationship between the state of our education and the spate of “religiously” linked “inventions” and “discoveries”, you need help.

Our students should be able to master basic knowledge and differentiate between what is right and wrong at the very minimum from schools.

They should at the very least shoulder the aspiration, inspiration, the wants and desires, the pain and pleasures of Malaysians, and lead a generation who understands that religion isn’t something that you wear, preach, eat, and until last month ― fly.

It should be kept where it belongs, personal and free between men and God.

Not monitored by “agents” and scrutinised by imperfect mortals. And the relationship is certainly not to be made into a profit.

I hope no universities will want to conduct a five year research on the relationship between one’s IQ, health before and after eating that “special” chicken. And whether this “method” also works for fish, lamb, mutton and other meats too.

Because this would herald the beginning of an end for a nation that was once highly regarded for its ambition and hard work to join the ranks of the developed world.

A future where Malaysians will find it hard to differentiate between right and wrong. Religion and business.

I read that villagers in Indonesia for instance couldn’t differentiate between a sex doll and an “angel.” We might laugh now, but that’s not too far from reciting Quran to dead chickens.

Education is the key here.

And when confused, remember that religion should always be free.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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