Weaknesses and Limitations of Religion

It is confusing whether Muslims are the victims or the oppressors.

By batsman

Now that the 13th GE approaches, it is almost guaranteed that race and religion will be dominant issues again. So we might as well get into the stride of things by early discussion on these issues such that things become clearer when the 13th GE is finally
upon us and provocations have less potential to create confusion and ill feelings and when the number 13 for the 13th GE seems ominous in itself.

These days, it also seems that everyone wants to issue challenges to debate something or other (even issues that have resulted in MPs being thrown out of Parliament are being challenged for debate in public, which sort of raises the question why the MPs were thrown out of Parliament in the first place), so it might as well be religion since this subject dogs and provokes us even as we try and escape it or avoid all discussion of it.

Like all things, religion has its weaknesses and limitations. This is obvious, otherwise religion will not be so easily dispersed by the liberal secularists and their henchmen and will continue to be important even in this modern commercial scientific age.

I submit that religion is strongest when the faithful are weak and oppressed and weakest when the faithful are powerful and arrogant.

This is because religion plays the role of the protector when its faithful are weak and oppressed. The core values and teachings of religion such as resolution, selflessness, charity, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, justice and love are best expressed under such
conditions. The faithful are at their best and their most heroic. This is the time when individual faith is strongest and most unshakeable. This is the time when human beings are closest to God.

However, there comes a time when the faithful become strong and powerful. This is a dangerous time when the faithful are placed in a position where they can easily bully or take advantage of others. Many fall victim to or are seduced by such power. This is when human beings are farthest away from God. This is the time when religion is at its weakest and most perverse – prey to manipulation or tricked into blindness, in which case religion is forced into the role of corruptor and bully.

All the bad things that faith teaches man to avoid start to gain ascendance. Things such as exploitation, cheating, bullying, abuse, cruelty, injustice, greed, corruption, falsehood, selfishness and ego start to express themselves in man’s words, actions and decisions.

All these things are obvious because they are black and white issues. But because they are so obvious, people tend to take them for granted and no longer think about them. It is time to re-visit them before the 13th GE as these issues will come sensitive and confusing during such times when potential false prophets may start their evil work.

These issues will become confusing and sensitive because they will not be so black and white anymore and it will be difficult to identify who is the victim and who is the oppressor. The classic trick of demonizing the victims will be played to the hilt, because often everyone will feel like they are the victims. Quarrels break out over grey issues and it will take a wise man indeed to sort out the opposing sides and bring justice to the situation. The wise man’s counsel will need the support of wise followers to bring justice to the situation, so it is best if things are fully discussed in a disinterested way under calm conditions before they become sensitive, emotional and critical.

In a sense, religion is like genetics. Most of the faithful (apart from some converts) are born into their faith. Most can no longer choose their faith but they can choose to go their own way and conveniently forget their duties to the faith.

In a situation where the faithful are oppressed and bullied, it is not so easy to forget. One is reminded everyday through cruelty, bullying and discrimination. The situation demands that the faithful be self-sacrificing, strong and resolute, holding high the ideal of

On the other hand, when the faithful are strong and powerful, it is quite easy to forget and one only needs to claim membership when there are benefits and privileges to be obtained. These are like fair weather friends who hide when there are duties and
sacrifices to be made, but elbow their way to the front of the queue when there are benefits and privileges to be obtained. There is even no need to prove one’s faith since one is born into it i.e. automatic membership.

Under these conditions, good core values need to be self-imposed and internalized against seduction and attractions from a situation that automatically and blindly favours the faithful. This is when ones’ personal faith makes all the difference and strength
becomes internal strength to be able to uphold justice and refuse the seduction of corruption and cronyism.

The perils and benefits of automatic membership hold not only for race or religion but also for citizenship of a powerful country. This is sometimes called big power chauvinism. One is entitled to be arrogant and chauvinistic just by automatic qualification as a citizen of a big and powerful country. This feeling of arrogance comes automatically even for recent immigrants who have made enough money to come back and visit their old country. They compare everything in the old country against the new and guess what? – the new is always superior.

Of course not all citizens of a big and powerful country act arrogantly and chauvinistically. If they have strong self-imposed and internalized values, they can often refuse the seduction, arrogance and corrupting influence of being an automatic member of a big and powerful country.

The same goes for people of faith who know that moral courage and moral decency is never automatically bestowed whether as a genetic inheritance or as a member of a religion or as a citizen of a big and powerful country. It is an endless struggle against sin and corruption, to be strong and resolute defenders of the faith but also not to be rapacious bullies and not to take undue advantage of others.

For Muslims, this is not always so easy because Muslims in different parts of the world face vastly different challenges and it is difficult to find a perfect role model. How a Muslim reacts to his conditions cannot be the same for Muslims in Palestine compared to Muslims in Saudi Arabia. The challenges are worlds of difference apart. Similarly Muslims face unique challenges in the US as they do in Malaysia. No two challenges are similar even though Islam is a universal faith.

In Malaysia, some very strange challenges crop up. Historically, Muslims have been economically backward and they have been bullied because of this. But after more than 50 years of UMNO rule, UMNO and their cronies have now monopoly of banking, transport, oil and gas, energy and utilities, agriculture, the civil service, the judiciary, the police and the military among others. In addition they control almost all licenses and approvals as well as contracts and scholarships. Yet the majority of Muslims are still poor
and marginalized not only in the rural areas but among the urban poor. This situation of having monopoly in almost all sectors of the economy and industry at the same time being poor and marginalized is a strange and confusing challenge for Muslims.

This is like being victims and oppressors at the same time. Such a strange situation is also shown by the concept of Ketuanan Melayu existing side by side with the lack of confidence and insecurity of being unable to compete with non-Muslims on fair and level playing field.

Islam prohibits Muslims from suppressing other faiths i.e. Islam forbids Muslims to be arrogant bullies, yet Muslims are being encouraged to behave aggressively by Ketuanan Melayu types because Islam is being threatened by others. People of other faiths are even not allowed to use the word “Allah” because Islam is being threatened as the dominant faith of Malaysia. It is confusing whether Muslims are the victims or the oppressors. This is the challenge facing Muslims which needs to be resolved properly so that people of other faiths can go about their lives without fear and without being oppressed accidentally and the country can be assured of peace and brotherhood.

Doubtless many of these issues are in a grey area where it is difficult to come to a fair compromise but the situation is so confusing that some non-Muslims friends are even asking whether although Islam cannot oppress other faiths, can Malays do so? How is Ketuanan Melayu connected with Islam? And so forth. Obviously Islam is receiving a bad name because of the actions of some people. Whether these people are false prophets or not is not for me to decide, but there is altogether too much confusion and this needs to be sorted out especially with the 13th GE just round the corner.