Remaining vigilant against all forms of extremism


SARAWAKIANS have been living in peace and harmony since time immemorial. The tie that binds them transcends race, religion and culture.

The strong inter-communal relationship is constantly given succour by the people who respect each other’s way of life.

The cordiality is further reinforced with various programmes to promote racial unity and understanding.

Traditionally, the various communities in Sarawak have always been able to get along. Their spontaneous acceptance of each other’s customs is manifested by the state’s unique Open House concept during festive occasions whereby the different races visit each other to promote goodwill and share in the joy of the celebrations.

Such harmonious co-existence, built up over the years through mutual tolerance and understanding, should be safeguarded at all costs to keep at bay undesirable elements out to sow discord among the people.

While every effort is being made to foster peace and harmony in the country, it is sad to note that in recent days, the fabrics of our plurality have been severely strained by certain quarters who made racial and religious slurs to hurt the feelings of others.

What is even more regrettable is that scurrilous remarks had also been made by people in authority – those who should know better than to spread anxiety and fear.

These instigators have been described by a national leader as “minority parasites”. But a parasite is still a parasite whether minority or not and as such, they should be put in their place for the potential harm they could cause to the majority if left to their own devices.

Apart from the national outcry, sparked by the provocative remarks of two school principals and the divisive rantings of Perkasa, the latest case of racism to have shocked the  nation came even as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was urging all nations of the world to “choose moderation over extremism” to promote international peace and harmony in his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly on Sept 27.

In the incident, a senior civil servant, said to be from the Federal Territory Biro Tata Negara (BTN), an agency to train and develop civil servants, made one of the most extremist speeches against the non-Muslim communities in the country.

The episode is deplorable for two reasons. First, it was made by a high-ranking officer from a government body that is supposed be prioritising the promotion of racial equality instead of inciting ill feelings, and secondly, it happened at about the same time Najib was addressing the UN in New York.

The prime minister had urged world leaders to build a ‘Global  Movement of the Moderates’ from all faiths to work together to combat and marginalise extremists.

He said it was time for moderates of all countries  and religions to take back the centre and reclaim the agenda for peace and pragmatism.

“This Global Movement of the Moderates will save us from sinking into the abyss of despair and depravation,” he told the world leaders.

The utterances of BTN officer in question are, therefore, not only damaging to the country’s image as promoter of moderation and tolerance but also diametrically opposed to the Prime Minister’s impartial homily on inter-racial and inter-faith relationship and his inclusive 1Malaysia policy.

While it is gratifying to note that Sarawak is free of such racist cynicism and contempt, there is certainly a need for vigilance against the emergence of any form of bigotry that might disrupt the peace in the state.

Towards this end, Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud has cautioned the people not to be influenced by religious and political extremism, saying these negative elements could destroy the close relations among the various communities.

Opening a development and leadership seminar for Kuching-Samarahan community leaders, he called on the people to preserve the unity and political stability that had enabled them to live in peace and prosperity, and also be wary of rumour-mongers out to drive a wedge between them.

“Our strong commitment to work together and the strong spirit of religious tolerance have been our key to bring Sarawak up to be one of the most peaceful and developed states in Malaysia,” he said.

As Taib has rightly pointed out, the people will lose everything if they are divided and to ensure the state continues to progress and prosper, they must continue to remain united against all forms of extremism.

Indeed, we should be wary of extremists in our midst.

Their harmful actions and ill intentions should be nipped in the bud and their hidden agendas immediately investigated and ceased for the good of all peace-loving citizens. In all things, we should ensure that moderation always prevails over extremism.