25 JUNE 2017
MUTUAL ACCEPTANCE AND RESPECT KEY TO HARMONY
As our Muslim brothers and sisters prepare to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri after a month of fasting, it is timely to give thanks for our unique society where mutual acceptance and respect play a key role in our harmonious co-existence.
Religion is personal to an individual and it should be a matter between a person and his or her God. Take fasting as an example. Fasting is for us to test our inner resolve, to fight and restrain ourselves against temptation. For Muslims, it is their ‘nafsu’ being tested.
I remember an incident when I was a student at UiTM many years ago in KL. During the fasting month, I was with a fellow student from Sarawak who was eating a slice of cake when a young man walked up to my friend, knocked the cake from his hand and walked away. Needless to say, we were shocked by this incident as we had never encountered this sort of behaviour before in Sarawak. To our minds, the true value of fasting comes when a person is able to fast without needing the environment around him to be altered to remove any elements that may be a test to him.
The most damaging thing that has happened to this country besides the corruption of the country’s leaders is the politicisation of religion. Certain political parties have successfully driven a wedge between the Muslims and the non-Muslims over the past few decades by using religion as a tool, playing one religion against another and inventing threats where none exist. The persistent tabling of the Hudud Bill and the covert support of the Bill by the government is one such matter that raises great concern for the non-Muslims.
The latest development of questioning certain politicians’ faiths is another cause for concern. Some Muslims are trying to insist that persons of a particular belief cannot be politicians in this country, or that if they are politicians, they cannot talk about their faith, or act in accordance with their faith.
Similarly the call for the banning of Christian celebrations and activities is an extremely provocative threat to our harmony, not to mention a violation of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees the people’s freedom to profess and practice their religion of choice.
Sadly these attacks on Christianity happened in the month of the Ramadan, pointing to a rise in intolerance and bigotry. Even more worrying was the Deputy Prime Minister’s part in pandering to the demands of these ultra Islamists. The government has let the country down by allowing this sort of extremism to flourish, as evidenced by their lack of action against the perpetrators. This is again, using religion for political purposes.
Religious belief and a commitment towards one’s religion is good as it guides one to be a responsible citizen. Every person, whether a politician, judge, businessman or policeman, if true to his religion will be a good politician, judge, businessman or policeman. He will not be corrupt, or steal other people’s property, or lie.
It is therefore refreshing that there are a few prominent individuals who are bold enough to speak up against these extremist groups. As one of them said, sensitivity to people of different faiths is a two-way street and we must respect each other’s right to practice our faiths. Our leaders – from the community, various religions and political parties - must also speak up for the silent majority who do not agree with the racial and religious bigotry of the few extremist groups.
I am always thankful also that Sarawak is still free from the influences of these religious mobs. How wonderful it would be if we could go back to the old days when Malaysia was the true model of racial and religious harmony.
When I was a student in SMK Limbang, my friends and I would visit every festive house along the road during the Hari Raya or Chinese New Year celebrations, even though we did not know the residents. On Chinese New Year, we would call out ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai!’ and during Hari Raya we called out ‘Assalamualaikum!’ We were always welcomed and served with food and drinks. The experiences of those days led me to believe in the basic goodness and generosity of all people, regardless of race and religion, and those memories and the belief remain strongly with me.
As I have said, Sarawak is still a land of harmony and mutual acceptance. Even in the political arena, we visit the homes of our political opponents during the Hari Raya, and during these times, we put aside our political differences to celebrate together. Let us all work together to ensure that this special atmosphere of mutual respect and acceptance among the various races and ethnic groups will grow stronger with time, so that Sarawak will always be a place we can be proud to call our home.
I wish my Muslim brothers and sisters ‘Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri; Maaf Zahir dan Batin’
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan