I don’t eat beef, because many generations ago, my ancestors were farmers, and they needed their cows to help them plough the fields in order to plant crops. So they treated their cows well, since no one in their right mind would harm anything that would help sustain their livelihood.
So it became a sort of family culture and for many generations until mine, even though we are no more farmers, we do not eat beef.
But although I do not eat beef, I do not object to my friends eating beef around me. I do not object to beef being sold in markets or supermarkets and cows being slaughtered for their meat. Because I know that I am only one of many people who live here, and being so, I need to respect the custom and habits of the many others who eat beef.
I do not smoke. To tell you the truth, I really hate the notion of my lungs inhaling the various carcinogens present in second-hand smoke.
Nevertheless, whenever I see people smoking, I do not approach them and ask them to stop. The only exception was when my expert opinion was sought and as a doctor, i will give them the advice that doctors all over the world would do: quit smoking because smoking is bad for health.
But other than that, whenever I see people smoking, I just move as far away as possible, without making a fuss asking them to stop. This is to respect their right to choose. If it is their choice to inhale bad substances, who am I to stop them except when my counsel is sought?
Even though the second-hand smokes are bad for my lungs and body, I do not object but just quietly move away. This is tolerance.
Similarly, I respect and tolerate other people’s dress codes and other people’s faiths.
In this world where there are people having different habits, customs and faiths, respect and tolerance are essential.
When I respect and tolerate the customs and habits of other people, I expect others to reciprocate that respect and tolerance towards me.
I eat pork, so I expect other people to respect my right to eat pork just as I respect their right to eat beef. Of course, being a sensible person who cares how others feel, I normally do not eat pork in front of those countrymen of mine that belong to a certain faith. This is called mutual respect.
I drink occasionally. I am not a compulsive or heavy drinker . In fact, I do not particularly like to drink alcoholic drinks. I normally would prefer a nice cup of hot steamy coffee; but when occasions warrant, I am game to having a few glasses of wines or a few cans of beer.
But I understand a lot of people like to drink. Most of these drinkers are not the heavy and compulsive type. For the latter groups, of course, they might become a menace on the road, if their blood alcoholic contents go up to a certain level. For these people who may become a menace , there is already a law to deal with them and they can be fined heftily for drink driving.
For the majority who drink, they are responsible people, and most do not really exceed their own limits.
Since there are people who drink, there is a demand for these drinks to be sold. Just like when there are people who eat beef, there will be a demand for beef to be sold.
There will therefore be businesses that cater to these needs. After-all, businessmen’s business is to make money, and if there is a demand, they will supply to fulfill that demand in order for their businesses to grow.
If there are people who eat beef, we must allow beef to be sold, since this is the basic right of the beef eaters to have access to beef whenever they feel like eating beef.
Similarly, if there are beer drinkers, then we must allow beer to be sold, since this is their right to have access to these drinks whenever they feel like drinking.
By all means, punish those whose religions do not allow them to drink such drinks but they are caught drinking them.
If your child is caught stealing his friends’ pocket money in schools, by all means punish your child but you cannot punish those who bring pocket money to schools.
It is up to you to teach your child to curb his temptation to steal. The fault is not the money which tempted your child. The fault is in his succumbing to his temptations.
Therefore, the onus is on the relevant authority to monitor, catch, punish and educate those who disobey the rules of their religions; those whose faiths disallow them to drink alcohol, but they succumb to their own temptations to drink.
So the recent call by PAS in Selangor to ban shops like 7-eleven from selling beers is totally illogical. It is like asking all schools to ban students from bringing pocket money to schools, because a few students were caught stealing.
It is like banning women from the streets because of a few guys who could not curb their own temptations and committed rape.
In a multicultural and multi-religious country , mutual respect and tolerance are the basis to build trust and peaceful co-existence.
But before people can respect and tolerate you, you must be prepared to give the same respect and tolerance to them first.
That is the essence of humanity.