Let religion unite, not divide

I’m a Muslim, I love Hindus

When did expressing respect and love to others become something to fear?

Scott Ng, Free Malaysia Today

You really have to take your hat off to the people in ISMA. Just when you think they have exceeded themselves with a proclamation more ingenious than the one before, they raise the bar even higher to show how creatively twisted they are. Like all eccentric artists, they don’t care what you think.

Islam is uncompromisingly monotheistic, and that’s never been a problem to anyone. But unlike other Muslims, the ISMA people are monocultural and monochromatic. That became clear when the organisation declared, as its latest edict, that campaigns that promote respect and solidarity among religions, and respect between Islam and other religions in particular, could “destroy the faith” of Muslims.

This was in response to a picture taken during Thaipusam celebrations, which shows a young lady displaying a sign that said, “I’m a Muslim, I love Hindus.” Note that the language used is religion-neutral in that while it states the religion of the bearer, it promotes love and respect between the adherents of different faiths.

What a beautiful sentiment, right?

Unfortunately, in the eyes of ISMA, this is tantamount to betraying “religion and race”, an action so heinous that it could bring down the faith of Islam entirely. In ISMA’s view, these campaigns are designed to guilt trip Muslims into being kinder to non-Muslims, which apparently is an undesirable condition because Muslims are an oppressed people “in Palestine, Myanmar, France, Netherlands, in the African continent and other countries”.

This narrative that ISMA has created, where Malays and Muslims are constantly and consistently under siege from outside forces, is misguided at best in the context of Malaysia. With Islam as the official religion of the Federation and the Bumiputras accorded various privileges, there are few nations quite as welcoming as Malaysia to the great faith of Islam. It is revered and respected here as it should be and, for the large part, non-Muslims have accepted this as part and parcel of the life we lead in Malaysia.

This is why many non-Muslims find it hard to swallow when ISMA comes out against any and all efforts to establish some form of peace and harmony between the many religions of Malaysia. Its members seem to have convinced themselves that there can be no peace between the religions of Malaysia unless the other religions are subordinated when, in all truth, solidarity and respect between religions is the only way forward that makes sense.

Respect between religions does not mean the denigration of the Islamic faith. It establishes Islam as magnanimous, a peaceful faith that can co-exist with the disparate belief systems of the world without losing its sanctity and integrity.