Si­lence is not an op­tion for mod­er­ates

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

HIS­TO­RI­ANS have noted that it took only a few evil men to use the ide­ol­ogy of hate and the prom­ise of eter­nal glory to jus­tify the atroc­i­ties that killed mil­lions of peo­ple in Europe and in Asia dur­ing the last world war. The ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion were good peo­ple and to­tally in­no­cent of the crimes but by their si­lence, they al­lowed the atroc­i­ties to hap­pen on such an un­prece­dented scale.

Years after the war, and even to­day, peo­ple are still ask­ing how such state-spon­sored ter­ror could have hap­pened in the 20th cen­tury. The young of to­day feel ashamed and dis­gusted that the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion did not do any­thing to stop the mad­ness be­fore their coun­tries were plunged into war, with dis­as­trous con­se­quences. The les­son learned from what hap­pened not so long ago is that it takes only a few to do ter­ri­ble dam­age to the coun­try if the ma­jor­ity who are good peo­ple are com­pla­cent and do not care about de­fend­ing the val­ues that make us a united Malaysian na­tion.

Mus­lim coun­tries in the Mid­dle East, Africa, Asia and in this re­gion are see­ing the same am­biva­lence among the mod­er­ate ma­jor­ity in the pop­u­la­tion, al­low­ing the few who claim they know about reli­gion to use it as an ide­ol­ogy in their vi­o­lent cru­sade to change the so­ci­ety and even­tu­ally the coun­try, from sec­u­lar­ism and democ­racy to Is­lamism and theoc­racy. In many of these coun­tries, the poor, the an­gry un­em­ployed youths and the so­cial mis­fits are eas­ily at­tracted to the call for ji­had, es­pe­cially those who have been in­doc­tri­nated from young in their re­li­gious ed­u­ca­tion to hate ev­ery­thing that orig­i­nates from the West, like hu­man rights, con­sti­tu­tional free­doms, mu­sic, pop cul­ture, art ex­hi­bi­tions, stat­ues and sculp­tures, St Valen­tine’s Day, Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion, yoga etc. These val­ues and artis­tic plea­sures are de­nounced by ex­trem­ists as lib­eral ideas and alien cul­tures which have no place in the Is­lamic state. The chaos and in­ter­nal in­sta­bil­ity which fol­low the rise of re­li­gious ex­trem­ism to change the value sys­tem to­wards re­li­gios­ity cre­ate so much gloom and de­spair that many of the best peo­ple in Mus­lim coun­tries sim­ply give up and mi­grate to western coun­tries.

In Malaysia, we have a rel­a­tively so­cially ad­vanced so­ci­ety as a re­sult of the coun­try’s eco­nomic mod­erni­sa­tion and its ex­po­sure to ex­ter­nal in­flu­ences. Fur­ther, its racial and cul­tural di­ver­sity, the higher level of ur­ban­i­sa­tion and the big­ger size of the mid­dle class com­pared to other Mus­lim coun­tries make Malaysians feel at ease with mod­ern life­styles and so­cial in­ter­ac­tions among the races. Its ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is ba­si­cally sec­u­lar in con­tent and there is no hate ide­ol­ogy in it. The young can find jobs and ab­so­lute poverty is prac­ti­cally non-ex­is­tent. The govern­ment’s car­ing poli­cies have shielded the poorer pop­u­la­tion from the dif­fi­cul­ties of daily life. All these fac­tors help to in­su­late the coun­try from ex­trem­ism.

Nev­er­the­less, the grow­ing tide of re­li­gious ex­cesses and in­tol­er­ance for di­ver­sity is a cause for worry es­pe­cially with the close al­liance be­tween race, reli­gion and pol­i­tics, which is cre­at­ing sus­pi­cion that the na­tional lead­ers are know­ingly al­low­ing the con­ser­va­tive ulama to dic­tate their strict in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lam and their so­cial val­ues on us Mus­lims. The si­lent ma­jor­ity among Malaysians are watch­ing with con­cern at the Ara­bi­sa­tion of Malay-Mus­lim so­ci­ety be­cause if this trend ac­cel­er­ates, it will cre­ate di­vi­sions among the Malays, with the ex­trem­ists call­ing them­selves true fol­low­ers of Is­lam and la­belling oth­ers as in­fi­dels. When Mus­lims are di­vided along sec­tar­ian lines, the po­ten­tial for con­flict is very great.

As we are see­ing in the Mid­dle East to­day, when Mus­lims fight each other in their sec­tar­ian wars, they will find some­body to be the scape­goats for their fail­ures. Usu­ally, it’s the Jews and the Chris­tians who get blamed. We are see­ing that in Malaysia too. When a Mus­lim is seen in the com­pound of a church, the whole Chris­tian com­mu­nity is ac­cused of con­spir­ing to sub­vert Is­lam. States com­pete with each other to is­sue fat­was to ban ev­ery­thing that is as­so­ci­ated with western val­ues, not re­al­is­ing that Christianity or im­pe­ri­al­ism has noth­ing to do with these val­ues. Those who crit­i­cise the re­li­gious bul­ly­ing are threat­ened with the Sedi­tion Act. If the crit­ics are Chi­nese or In­di­ans, they are called un­grate­ful pen­datang as an in­sult.

We must not al­low sec­tar­i­an­ism and in­tol­er­ance to grow their ten­ta­cles in our coun­try and we must speak up for mod­er­a­tion in Is­lam and mu­tual re­spect in our race re­la­tions, as loudly as we can. We the mod­er­ates must speak up now be­fore it’s too late. Let it not be said by the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion that the ma­jor­ity who are mod­er­ates and lib­eral have al­lowed the few who are ex­trem­ists and nar­row­minded to de­stroy the coun­try.

Tan Sri Mohd Sher­iff Mohd Kas­sim Kuala Lumpur

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