It is clear the threats from the authorities have not been effective deterrents as they continue to be brazen and merciless in their attacks. Many wonder if ever these incidents will pan off. A lot would depend on the political will of the leaders. 

By Masterwordsmith

In many parts of the world, religion is at the heart of violent conflicts today. Historically, the world has witnessed the Crusades (11th-13th century), 16th century French wars between Protestants and Catholics, the 30 years war in Scandinavia and Poland, the Indian rebellion of 1857 between Hindus and Christians, the Sikh wars against Mughal Islamic invaders in the 17th century, Middle East wars, the Islamic revolution, the war between the Shiites and Sunis and so on.

Where Malaysia is concerned, things do not seem to be improving as many MSM and online news portals featured news stories on another attack on places of worship – this time, an attack against a Sikh temple in Sentul where stones were thrown damaging a glass door. Twenty big stones were found near the broken window of the 100-year-old Gurdwara Sahib Sentul temple yesterday evening. You can read more about it AT THIS LINK and OVER HERE.

This attack is not only outrageous but most untimely as it is about a week before Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib makes a three-day official visit to India on Jan 19 to meet his counterpart Manmohan Singh, a Sikh himself, and reflects the government’s struggle to contain the issue and keep it from spiraling out of control. 

To date, eight Christian churches and a convent school in Selangor, Perak, Malacca, Negri Sembilan and Sarawak have been hit since Jan 8 in attacks linked to the Dec 31 High Court decision that has provoked Muslim outrage.

In trying to understand the attacks, we must think of the psyche of the actors involved, the issues at stake, and whether there is a covert agenda to stoke the fire of religious conflict. What is their motive and what drove them to such acts of barbarism? Did they do it independently or were they paid or are they part of a bigger scheme of things to come? What are the authorities doing to unravel more information? Are investigations providing any leads?

Conflicts involving religious issues and identities are harder to solve. We can see that in some conflict zones of the world, religious factors have played a role – i.e. the bloody conflicts in Algeria, Chechnya, East-Timor, Kashmir, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Israel–Palestine, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. These conflicts may not be religious conflicts exclusively or even predominantly, but they serve as examples of numerous conflicts in which religion has played a part. 

If we consider the war on the Balkans and in Bosnia–Herzegovina, the role of religion is obvious, in that both perpetrators and victims of organized atrocities were identified by their religious tradition. Many analysts of such conflicts see religion as a by-product and not the causal factor of the conflict. Some argue that religion is used instrumentally in pursuit of other interests, such as independence, power, land and resources. Is this happening in our country?

Despite the statements by both the Prime Minister and the warning from the Home Minister that the ISA will be used, the perpetrators do not seem to be scared off. In fact, they appear to be more brazen and spreading their wings to different parts of the country so to speak. Thus it is clear the threats from the authorities have not been effective deterrents as they continue to be brazen and merciless in their attacks. Many wonder if ever these incidents will pan off. A lot would depend on the political will of the leaders. 

It appears to me that the underlying issues that are inherently harder to solve are the ones that are increasing the frequency of these attacks. I hope this pattern will not continue any more. 

We must realize that the exclusivity of any religion may explain why religious differences are perceived as salient and capable of generating more violent conflicts than other social differences. One’s religion offers a sense of identity, as it sets that believer apart and exclusive from those of other faiths. In this respect, religious affiliation is usually a non-negotiable part of one’s identity. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why those embroiled in the debate are quite hard-headed about their individual stand.

I would not want to see a situation where there is a circle of violence and unending conflict over the current controversy. History has shown us that some display irrationality and primitive urges because they perceive themselves as religiously motivated warriors and martyrs. In that respect, they might regard themselves as unstoppable killing- machines that cannot be persuaded to change course, and that are steered by religious convictions without a ‘rational’ or individualistic will of their own. 

It would be worse if they see themselves as part of a conflict of good versus evil as it could then mean that they might participate wholeheartedly in the struggle on the side of the forces of the good. A deep religious commitment could increase the intensity and violence of any underlying conflict. As such, a combination of religion in any conflict may to increase the stakes, and could make compromises harder to reach. If that is so, conflicts might become more intractable and violent. I certainly hope this is not the case in Malaysia.