Demons and demolitions

Some time ago in 2006 I wrote this piece which I believe is relevant to our predicament as religious beings. May we find the most peaceful resolution to Malaysia’s most daunting issue since May 13, 1969.


Azly Rahman

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”

“The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.” – Lao-tzu, “founder” of Taoism

A human being. A squatter area. A Taoist temple. A hope for religious dialogue. These are demolished within the last 100 days.

It seems that the last quarter of the year 2006 will mark the last 100 days that shook Malaysia. In the Mongolian model we see a human being murdered beyond our ability to comprehend what hideousness mean.

In the demolishing of the squatter area of Kampong Berembang, we see the symbol of quick-fixing a complex social issue.

In the demolishing of a 30-year old Taoist temple we arrogantly display our insensitivity towards the worshipers of a beautiful faith that honored the teachings of one of the world’s greatest mystic, Lao-tzu.

And in the Prime Minster’s decision to stop the dialogue on interfaith issues, we see the demolition of a hope and possibility of beginning the difficult dialogue of religious reconciliation.

What contradictions we are living by. As Chairman Mao would say, we are living in interesting times”.

The demons within

What if the human being demolished with those C4 explosives is our sister or daughter? What if the housing areas we demolish are the homes of Malaysia’s rich and famous, to make way for the homes of the poor and the unknown? What if the Bukit Mertajam Taoist temple is a masjid, a church, a wat, or a Hindu temple? And what if the ban on religious dialogue is a ban on spreading the ideology of Islam Hadhari or the free market economy?

We must put ourselves in other people’s shoes if we want to be respected as human beings living with others of different faith and skin colour?

We instead hesitate to bring to justice those responsible in inciting racial violence in speeches that will breed hatred, especially in the last hurrah on Malay nationalism that has run its course.

We failed to demolish the architecture of power and ideology that has enrich the few of the ruling elite; a system that is build upon the hope for racial tolerance and economic justice but is ending up with one that is trumpeting a form of dynastic despotic democracy that is full of contradiction and is corrupted to the core.

We must exorcise the demons from our national psyche. But first, we need to understand what the divine in that psyche is. We must understand the close relationship between the self, society, and spirituality in the process of human beings socially reproducing themselves.

In Lao-tzu’s word from the Tao Te-Ching, we must understand “the way” – of the most natural and peaceful form of the self; of the self that is “formless”, “spoken-less”, and “boundless”.

In the case of the murdered Mongolian model, what kind of human being would be that demonic who would destroy another human being in that fashion? How could this have happened in a country such as Malaysia that prides itself in being the most gentle and accommodating of all multicultural societies? What image are we projecting in the international arena? What is the real story behind such a hideous and high-profile crime?

In the case of the destruction of the houses in Kampong Berembang, what kind of government would destroy the homes of those who continue to live in such condition of urban poverty when we ought to have provided decent housing in a country that prides itself in its fight to end poverty?

Why do we continue to see shantytowns and bantusaans and squatter areas mushrooming at time when we are spending billions buying submarimes, launching satellites, and sending our spaceman to do the teh tarik dance in zero gravity? Why do we have so many signature golf courses and local politicians and little Napoleons building their little istana in an economic system that promises social justice for all?

In the case of the demolition of the Taoist temple in Penang, what kind of local government would oversee the demolition of a house of worship for the Taoists? Did we give them enough opportunity to build a new temple? The idea of demolishing a place that teaches peace and compassion shows that we still have a thousand miles to go in arriving at an interfaith dialogue.

We need to make the first step towards such a vision. As Lao-tzu say, “the journey of a thousand mile begins with a single step.”

What then must we do

Are we getting more violent as a people – nurturing the demons in us and turning ourselves into demolition men? Are we seeing the beginning of more politically-motivated murders, more destruction of the home of the poor and dispossessed, more demolitions of houses of worship, and more denials of our urgent need for interfaith dialogues?

I hope not. Or else we will be leaving a legacy of violence and bloodshed to our children and grandchildren.

Israel’s fifty years of “founding” is leaving it losing grip of elusive peace.

Let us work towards this thousand-mile journey. But we must identify which political vehicle to rely upon in order to bring us to where a hundred flowers bloom in our million men and women march towards this one just, ethical, transcultural, and virtuous republic – a strong state that protects the weak and curb the appetite of the rich and powerful. This journey – will be the Tao of Malaysian politics.

Until we arrive at such a state of affairs , we will continue to read about demons and demolitions.


While the opinion in the article is mine,
the comments are yours;
present them rationally and ethically.