Fundamental liberties need to be our clarion call

THE raging debate about the usage of “Allah” has raised yet more questions about the state of race and inter-faith relations in the country.

By Thomas Soon (The Edge)

Where do we go from here? Do we espouse freedoms or place even more curbs on liberty?

Does not the country need progressive leadership or one that is bent on maintaining the status quo of the present power structure? What is the voice of the majority of Malaysians?

From the perspective of the Malay and Muslim majority, they feel they have already made enough compromises, and it would be asking too much for them to concede another inch.

On the other hand, the case has also reaffirmed the perception among non-Muslims in the country that they can never be true citizens, given the constitutional power framework and restrictions — implied or otherwise.

It has revealed the obvious intolerance of a certain segment of our society.

As matters stand, no ready answers are available.

One may say it is a necessary conflict that the country has to go through in her journey towards nationhood.

No one can deny the general belief that within this young country lies “two Malaysias” — fundamentally divided by colour, ideologies and creed.

It has long been the understanding in the context of the Malaysian social contract that Muslim matters are left to the devices of the community, the question and debate over restrictions are matters for them to decide. Likewise for the non-Muslim community.

But we are only kidding ourselves, are we not, to believe that there would never be overlaps, no encroachment into each other’s jurisdictions or territories, so to say.

The usage of the particular name of god is but one example. Other issues range from places of worship to eateries, from education to choices of food, indoctrination via the government-controlled media to institutionalised discrimination.

Are we to continue kidding ourselves? Are we to sweep each and every one of this issue under the carpet, and pretend that 1Malaysia is very much alive? Is it viable to continue with this tale of “two Malaysias”?

As certain politicians have made their feelings known, the answer is for those who do not like the status quo to leave the country. There are many true patriots — believers of fundamental liberties — who have migrated. Those politicians would love to see more of such “so-called trouble makers” leave their beloved country. They will probably get their wish, the way the state of the country is developing, and along with it, the much needed talent that we need to maintain and encourage to stay.

The country can never be one unless and until we face up to this fact, and the people ever willing to work out solutions to overlapping issues — based not on race and creed, but on social justice. Nothing galvanises mankind more than equality and ideals of humanity.

Surely this would have reaffirmed the failure of our former masters’ experiments on the country.

Truth be told, given the way the crisis has progressed, it looks like the era of “government knows best” is far from over.

Why is there an obsessive need to threaten the use of the Internal Security Act when there are adequate penal laws to act against arson, or destruction of property, say by legitimate protesters?

Yet, race and religious relations are not tests in the exclusive domain of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself or even his administration.

It is a test every Malaysian has to face up to if all communities are to truly partake in the country’s development.

Whether we like it or not, it is an issue which every Malaysian needs to make a stand.

The politicians appear to have made their principles known. What about the rakyat — if there is such a thing as one people, but in name only? Are we to assume a certain community would surely vote against greater freedoms for all, to vote against equality in the eyes of the law and even in issues of citizenry?

Can we afford to wait for Malaysians to make their respective stand in the next general election three or four years away? A referendum now?

Disunity may reign, but what says the majority — after all, we are supposed to be governed by such a principle of democracy?

As such, if the majority has spoken, the rest will just have to live with it. Life has to go on, so does the struggle for equality and greater freedoms.

Hope springs eternal that ideals of nationhood may one day in the not too distant future be eventually realised — that there will continue to be politicians who represent and struggle for the voice of reason, of equality and of freedoms.

Freedoms must be espoused and continually defended. That is the only way for the country to move forward; there are no two ways about it.