Kluang, Monday 25 December 2000
The shops are decorated with Christmas trees, artificial snow and gifts. Itís a special experience in tropical Malaysia, where most people have never seen snow in their lives, and needle trees are far apart. The Christmas atmosphere is primarily a clone of Western commerce.

A banner on the wall of a mall blinks in the sun:

Merry Christmas & Selamat Hari Raya

Merry Christmas & Selamat Hari Raya!

This is so typical for Malaysia. Christmas and Hari Raya next to each other, as if they are equally important.
  • There are not many Christian people here, just a small minority of some convinced Chinese. Here, Christmas is a day off in the first place, detached from the religious background. Malaysian motto: Every free day counts.
  • Hari Raya (.../malaysia/festival/...) is a big festival here, the biggest of the year. The Malay are the biggest group here, and all Muslims from birth.
It is a nice symbol, and illustrative for the multi cultural society in Malaysia. In Holland you wonít find a banner for the new Muslim year, and certainly not in combination with Christmas.

Most Dutch know only their own way of counting years, with their own festivals. They limit their cultural integration to culinary excursions, because these foreigners really know how to cook. Well, the integration will remain a one way lane for the moment. It is still hard to get foreigners enthousiastic for the Dutch cuisine. Did you ever try to have a foreign guest enjoy a kroket sandwhich?

In Holland there is only one gap bigger than the one between cultures: the one between religions. Here the Malay pay less attention to the differences and focus more to the similarities. A bumper sticker nicely illustrates the similarity between Christianity and Islam from the local perspective:

The Quran, the final testament!

I like the humorous tone of this reli sticker. It shows a great self esteem and a large ability to put things into the right perspective. Your bible is nice, but isnít it time for the last part after some 2000 years? All good things come in threefold.

The Muslims here have a pretty relaxed attitude towards other religions. To them Christianity is not really a competing religion, more like an ancestor of the Islam. Itís about similar to the view of Christians towards the Jewish religion.

Iím not a Muslim. Being an atheist I value all religions equally. Yet, Iíll enjoy a merry Hari Raya next Wednesday. After all Every free day counts, even while on holiday.

Selamat Hari Raya and till the next millenium!