Religious discord getting louder

It is not political differences but religious strife that will undo the country.

Free Malaysia Today

The hudud debate is moving into a dangerous phase as the arguments take on an increasingly strindent tone. We do not know how the controversy will end and in what manner. But one thing is certain: if it is not handled correctly, it will blow up into a firestorm that will engulf the whole country. For religion is an extremely sensitive issue and everyone is prepared to defend their respective faith to the last drop of their blood.

Malaysia is a country of diverse races and creeds. This is an indisputable fact despite the pronouncement of a former prime minister that it is a Muslim country. Perhaps his declaration was based on the imperative of demographics: since the Malays are overwhelmingly in the majority, it logically follows that their religion should occupy a pre-eminent place on the national altar. This has already been acknowledged and enshrined in the sacred Federal Constitution.

There is no problem with Islam as a religion. It is when certain practices of the religion are taken out and are to be imposed on people of other faiths that the clash of beliefs will be set into motion. Muslim politicians and leaders must recognise that non-Muslims will never submit themselves to hudud simply because they do not subscribe to such penal laws. Their minority status does not mean they can be pulverised and made to bow down to the will of the majority.

An Islamist party and many of its supporters and sympathisers seemingly do not want to accept the secular nature of the government. It is certain that if a new opposition government rides to power, the party of god would want to exert its influence to set up an Islamic state where hudud would have full play. This is unacceptable because the votes of non-Muslims should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the religious platform of a hudud-driven party.

Non-Muslims – whether laymen, clerics, politicians – do have a stake in the discourse on laws pertaining to religion. If they oppose hudud, they are not being anti-Islam or insulting one of the great religions of the world. Their opposition is one of a principled stand: no government can impose its religious penal code on people of other faiths. To do so is to tear apart the fabric of society, leading to unnecessary loss of lives.

Tension running high

More often than not, it is the dominant race that has poured scorn on others who profess equally great and noble religions. Such victims can only meekly protest and watch helplessly as the perpetrators get a mild rebuke or a slap on the wrist. Mutual tolerance