Malaysians unhappy with the government, politicians using religion for electoral purposes

The discontent arises principally from the perceived “corruption at all levels, from top to the lowest levels” and that is why “people in general are not satisfied.”

For Fr Andrew Lawrence, SJ, there are no religious tensions in the country, but a feeling of “dissatisfaction” with the ruling class. The danger of an instrumental use of faith, to gain consensus in the electorate radical Muslim.

(AsiaNews)-There is a widespread “dissatisfaction” among citizens the with regard to how ruling class has governed the nation in recent years, this discontent “is not directly related to religion”, but is the result of “daily issues that affect everyone”, says Fr Andrew Lawrence SJ., Priest and former director of the Catholic Herald newspaper, speaking to AsiaNews from Malaysia. He says “there are no particular tensions” between Christians and Muslims in the country. However, some observers argue that religion could be exploited “for political purposes” in the coming general elections, to gain momentum among the Malaysian wing extremist.

Originally Malaysia’s 13th General Election was scheduled for 2013, but the election could be brought forward – there is still no official confirmation – to October or November this year. The political contest, analysts warn, could give way to anti-Christian rhetoric and the misuse of religion in political campaigning. Some pro-Islamic movements want proselytizing Christians to be punished, while extremist groups carry out raids on places of worship belonging to minorities. The last case occurred in early August, when Muslim fundamentalists attacked an evangelical house church because “conversions from Islam to Christianity were taking place.”

Fr. Lawrence explains that at the moment, no particular tensions, but the developments in the coming weeks remain to be seen. “There is a widespread feeling of discontent – said the priest and journalist – the ways in which the nation was governed. But this is not directly related to the religious sphere, but rather the everyday problems that people face. ” The decision to favour the ethnic Malay, majority in the country, has created resentment among other minority groups, a discontent that has invested in particular the National Front and the ruling coalition.

The discontent arises principally from the perceived “corruption at all levels, from top to the lowest levels” and that is why “people in general are not satisfied.” The clashes and small conflicts are the result of this general situation, although there are still some aspects that bear witness to violations of religious freedom. The cases of conversion from Islam to Christianity are limited, but may lead to the persecution of apostates “as was the case with Lina Joy, who had to flee the country” to live their faith in total freedom. Also Muslims do not distinguish between Christians and there are no differences between Catholics and Protestants.

However, as reported in other nations, including Pakistan, the Protestants assume an attitude that is sometimes “challenging” in the eyes of Muslims. Therefore full religious freedom is needed –Fr. Lawrence has fought long and hard for Christians to be allowed to use the Malay word  “Allah” – as well as a behaviour that will not trigger violent reactions from Muslims. (DS)