Why should the likes of Ibrahim Ali, Hasan Ali and Harussani Zakaria hog the headlines? If you are tired of reading about their preposterous statements, meet bridge-builder Abdul Rahman Kasim, who has been working hard to improve Muslim-Christian ties in the country.
Bridge-builder: Abdul Rahman Kasim
You may have read about Tok Guru Nik Aziz handing over a cake to Bishop Sebastian Francis during their recent Penang meeting, which was held at 6.30pm on Thaipusam Day. Nik Aziz was only told by his aides at 4.00pm that day that the meeting had been confirmed. So where did he find a mouth-watering cake with appropriate words inscribed at such short notice?
Enter Abdul Rahman Kasim, the Mr Fix-it with a booming voice and an equally hearty laugh, who has been instrumental in setting up appointments for talks and dialogues between Pas and churches in the northern region.
After all, what do you give a Bishop as a memento during such a meeting to help sweeten ties? It was Abdul Rahman who had ordered the cake even before the meeting – and an earlier one for a previous meeting between Mujahid Yusof Rawa and the bishop – well before the meetings had taken place. Indeed, it was Abdul Rahman who sent out the initial feelers to set up the meeting between Tok Guru and Bishop Sebastian.
Tok Guru presents Bishop Sebastian with a mouth-watering cake: Where did the cake come from?
The Langkawi-born Rahman is the Tasik Gelugor Pas information chief and the point-man in sending out similar feelers to Catholic churches in the northern region. He is a familiar face whenever the Pas head of inter-religious dialogue, Mujahid Yusof Rawa or Dzulkefly Ahmad, speaks at dialogue sessions with parishioners of various churches. In fact, on the same day the Penang meeting took place, Mujahid and Rahman had travelled to the Fatima Church in Kangar for another dialogue session in the morning.
Rahman, 56, worked for a decade at the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Butterworth before turning to business as a chicken seller in a local market – an honest living if there was one – for the past two decades.
Today, he is trying to sell the idea of Muslims and Christians talking to one another. “I feel compelled to do so, because during my parents’ generation we had much better ties. I experienced that growing up.
“My idea for interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue stems from the fact that we are drifting apart socially and getting more polarised. Why can’t we behave according to the book and have no ill-feeling towards others?”
But why is he focusing on the churches? Abdul Rahman is clear about the reason: “We have so much in common especially a shared Abrahamic tradition; so it is a good place to start.
“It was truly amazing to have seen Tok Guru and the Bishop greeting each other. That was part of my mission accomplished.”
Providentially, as it turned out, the meeting took place on the same day that an unknown group of bigots had scheduled a ‘Bible-burning festival’ in the morning – which thankfully failed to materialise.
Today, because of Rahman’s persistent attempts to reach out to churches, it is no exaggeration to say that he knows more Catholic priests and lay leaders in the northern region and which parish they are located compared to the average Catholic!
So the next time someone like Ibrahim Ali or Hasan Ali disturbs your state of mind or gets under your skin, think of the towering Abdul Rahman Kasim as the perfect antidote: an ordinary person doing extraordinary things.