HAKIM, a friend from Cambodia, was happy when his friends in Malaysia decided to do their annual Hari Raya Haji korban in Cambodia.
Hakim was overjoyed. For the next couple of days, the villagers had a feast of beef and lamb.
His father was the headman in his kampung, which is a six-hour drive from Phnom Penh. Hakim had studied at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Bangi, Selangor, which explained why he has many Malaysian friends.
These friends gathered around and decided to do their annual korban in Hakim’s village called Preksandai.
The village is situated along the Tonle Sap Lake, which provides all kinds of sustenance to the villagers.
This korban was several years ago. Ever since then, many Malaysian Muslims have chosen to do their korban in other parts of Cambodia every year.
They are mostly young people, who formed groups and make their way to various parts of Cambodia for this purpose.
The increased number of Malaysian Muslims doing their korban in Cambodia and other parts of the worlds has triggered some debate — why do the korban overseas when there are deserving people in Malaysia?
An interesting conversation is going on in social media, surau and mosques. An Islamic scholar I spoke to gave what I would call an enlightening response.
He said: “My view is simple. The korban can be done anywhere. It can be in the area where we stay, or in other places. The guiding principle is the person doing the korban has to be sincere. One can korban a few cows and lambs, but it means nothing if one is not sincere.”
In the last few years, the price of a cow for korban has increased. It’s now priced between RM4,550 and RM5,300 each depending on size and location.
The person doing the korban can buy the whole cow for himself or share among seven persons, which can work out to between RM650 and RM750 per person.
I’m sure you would have heard stories of individuals choosing the lowest price before deciding on the location of their korban.
And this also prompted some criticism of those who do their korban in Cambodia because it is cheaper.
I got hold of a friend who did his korban in Cambodia last week. He said: “Uncle, I’ve been doing my korban in Cambodia for three years already. In Cambodia, many Muslims eat beef once a year, that is during Hari Raya Aidiladha, where halal beef is given to the poor.
“My family members do theirs here in Malaysia, back at the kampung mosque. Uncle, it doesn’t really matter where we do our korban. Come see the korban in the remote villages in Cambodia. Every one from the kampung would join in helping with all the chores.
“Meriah dan mesra. Lively and very friendly throughout the whole day. My group brought our own cooks and we gave the kampung folk a taste of our Malaysian beef curry and rendang. To see children enjoying the food was reward enough.”
Some Malaysian non-governmental organisations added on other activities besides the korban. One organised a mass circumcision for boys in the village. A couple of doctors joined the group to undertake the exercise, which was really very helpful to the village folk.
Beef, the fees for circumcision and organising a big kenduri are very costly in Cambodia.
Hence, there shouldn’t be any unnecessary criticism of such efforts by Malaysians doing charity in other countries. The key is sincerity. It’s that simple.
The writer is a former NST group editor. His first column appeared on Aug 27, 1995 as ‘Kurang Manis’