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The overzealous are just cowards

by The Tired Eye. Posted on February 3, 2013, Sunday

SO, the Eye understands that no one turned up for the supposed Bible burning event in Butterworth last weekend.

For those who are blissfully unaware of what has been happening, Perkasa (which stands for Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa Malaysia, a supposed ethnic Malay NGO) president, Ibrahim Ali called for the burning of Bibles that were translated into the Malay language, which use the word ‘Allah’ in reference to God and other Arabic words.

The fact that nobody turned up to burn any holy book gives us renewed hope in the human race. What was even more reassuring was that a group of people in Kuala Lumpur spent their Sunday at the KLCC park in a peaceful and quiet protest against the call to burn copies of the Bibles.

Organised by social activist Masjaliza Hamzah, they had a public reading of religious books of various faiths. Among those present at the reading was Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.

Masjaliza said the public reading was “a peaceful way to respond to a violent call.” The Eye also feels that it was also the intelligent thing to do.

During the public reading, there were Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus reading the Bible, the Quran and holy books of other faiths. What a wonderful thing it was! It was touching to see video clips and photos of Malaysians of different ethnic backgrounds and religions getting together to read up and learn about one another’s religion.

To those who organised and participated in the peaceful public reading, the Eye applauds your efforts and hopes that it will become a regular occurrence to spread understanding and tolerance among Malaysians.

The call for the burning of religious books is not something new. In the 1930s, the Nazis conducted mass burnings of literary and religious works in Germany and Austria. More recently, in 2010, white supremacists in the United States tried to organise a burning of the Quran to ‘commemorate’ the 9-11 incident.

To the Eye, the burning of religious, philosophical and literary books to protest against a faith, a belief or an idea is plain stupidity.

It has been said that ignorance is a dangerous thing. Then again, as human beings, it would be impossible to know everything. And so, we make an effort to learn and expand our horizons as much as we can.

But those who proclaim that they know it all and choose to be ignorant about the faiths, beliefs, cultures and ideas of others are downright evil.

A friend posed the question “what does he (Ibrahim Ali) hope to gain by burning books and keeping knowledge from others?”

In their own twisted minds, they think themselves supreme. In reality, there is no gain.

When overzealous people resort to keeping knowledge from others and instead try to impose their own ideas, they can only be two things – cowards and downright malicious.

Cowards, because they are afraid of the power of knowledge. Malicious, because they belittle the ability of others to judge right from wrong, good from bad, yes or no for themselves.

Malaysia is supposed to be a model for racial harmony and unity. Unfortunately, there are still those little groups of overzealous ignoramuses who think they know it all and think themselves holier than thou.

Eye dare say that in Malaysia, whenever some contention comes up relating to race and religion, it has a tendency to originate from Peninsular Malaysia. We do not hear of such vile suggestions such as the burning of religious books coming from the people in Sarawak and Sabah.

Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) legal advisor Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi seemed to agree when he spoke at a forum in Samarahan recently.

He called for such extremism to be condemned and also reminded the people that “there is no room for extremism here like what is happening in the peninsula” (here, meaning Sarawak), and not to listen to these groups who are bent on undermining unity.

As a Sarawakian, the Eye was brought up to respect all religions and beliefs. As a child, the Eye was encouraged to read the holy books of different faiths. And there is really nothing ‘unholy’, sinful or immoral about it.

Choosing to open your mind to knowledge is not a sin. Choosing to acknowledge and respecting another religion or belief does not mean that you practice it.

Yes, we may have different ways of praying. Yes, we may have different or sometimes similar names for elements in our respective faiths. Yes, we may have different practices and festivals. Yes, we structure and call our places of worships differently.

But anyone with common sense will be able to intelligently conclude that all religions are really akin to one another, although, not exactly the same. After all, they teach the same basic principles in life!

It is man who puts up divisions between religions. Not a religion itself.

So why argue over the terminology when it comes to translations of holy books? Why resort to demeaning another religion just because you choose to be ignorant? Why not instead, learn some manners and then open your eyes and mind to realise there is nothing to be overzealous about?

The Eye is sure glad to be living in Sarawak where it is common to have family members who are of different faiths living happily together under one roof.

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