Call to curb the extremism

The ill-informed minister have vetoed that the word “Allah” is not allowed to be circulated in The Herald, a local Catholic weekly

It has been a practice in every festive season in Malaysia — be it Hari Raya, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Deepavali or Thaipusam — that the leaders of our ruling party would stage an open address to the respective religious followers that we have to practice conciliatory approach to other religious followers and avoid extremism and adopt moderation so to preserve the peacefulness in our country. This year, Christmas is no exception, and with the attendance and open address of our Prime Minister himself during the Christmas High Tea Reception, this usually would create a smokescreen to any outsiders that the country is racially and religiously harmonious. On the contrary, the claims made by our PM and also by ruling ministers that the country is racially harmonious is outright wrong, in view of the grievances and the open outcries witnessed from so many quarters in our society.

First and foremost is the lack of attention or reluctance of the ruling party to address the untoward remarks made by certain parties with regard to the religious practices of other non-Islam followers. Recently a Fatwa was issued by Sabah religious office that public exhibit of one of the idols of Taoism is haram (forbidden) according to Islamic teaching. In Islamic teaching, exhibition and submission oneself to the idols is forbidden, as the belief of Monotheism dictates there is only one God and we communicate directly with the God. The practice of submission to other Gods besides Allah is considered Jahil. The era of Jahiliyah was when the pre-Islamic community in the Arabic world performed rituals and submitted to the idols and their Gods. Thus, the idol’s submission is openly forbidden by Islamic law. This is the belief of muslims.

However, this is not what other non-muslims believe. For Chinese community and Taoists or Buddhists especially, the worship of ancestors, idols and other forms of Gods, are the practices inherited since thousand of years ago even before the advent of Islamic faith in this world. Since prior to the rule of the first Emperor in China, the belief and the practice were norm to the community. Thus, the practice embodies the culture, belief, and also the identity of the community. Denying the right for public exhibition and outright criticism of the practice is a manifestation of cultural encroachment. Furthermore, our country is governed by secular code not Hudud or Shariah laws and everyone is guaranteed freedom of religious practice.

One may imagine what will be the consequences if each citizen is allowed to criticize other’s religion and can outspokenly veto against other’s practice; Malaysia will be in chaos since we are multi-religious country. The criticism is usually evolved as the result of self-gratification and the sense of superiority of one’s religion, thus, Muslims will refer to non-Islamic followers as Kafir, Jahil, the beliefs, although are from divine text, are adulterated, and so on. And recently, the “Allah” is forbidden in the circulation of The Herald. These actions lead one to perceive that the superiority of a religion is monopolized by certain followers, in this case Islamic faith, and other religion is outright “second hand”. This monopolization, in turn, creates many grievances and outright rebellious actions to defend their religions of beliefs, and they normally take the form of reciprocal criticisms. One has to note that this animosity will be enhanced in its intensity, and exploited by irresponsible parties to further fan it for personal gains. And this group of people are everywhere in our country.

Conciliatory approach to other religions has to be constantly stressed and should be embedded in one’s mind since childhood. There is never in any religion in this world that takes hostile approach to other religions, that includes Islam. Since the Prophet Mohammad era in Mecca and since the spread of Islamic faith, the muslims and non-muslims co-existed in a very harmonious way. Even the Islamic faith had taken its strong root in Mecca and Medina, other religions such as Judaism and Christianity flourished. There were invitations sent by the Prophet to convert the non-muslims, but never in history the Prophet intended to forbid the practices of other religions, in one form or another.

Malaysia is a multi-cultural and multi-religious country, and we are really proud of ourselves that after 50 years of independence, our economy flourished, unemployment is low, and we have gained many world’s recognitions and respects. These grow out of our constant tolerant and conciliatory approach practiced by our citizens; we realize that everyone in this country will lose if we harp on the racial and religious issues. However, there live a certain quarter in our society who constantly trumpet and try to blow the issues out of proportion to achieve what they intend to achieve. The stigma that they carried with them in their public addresses will create misunderstanding and more importantly will shackle the modern generations. As in this millennia, innovations, economic growth, globalization are main topics of every discussions. If our new generations are stifled by the religious rules all the time, I am referring to those which are unreasonably and irresponsibly imposed and professed, they will not only thwart the development, but will drag the whole society to a slower development and maturity. The evolution and development of human being will be stopped if the old generations live forever and their unproductive influence exerts tremendous impact on new generations to come.