Tuesday, July 23

Stop religious and racial baiting


Someone must have opened the bottle that imprisoned the genie of religious and racial strife, and let it roam around the country stoking hatred and fear among Malaysians.

Now the Chinese have been told to go back to China, the Indians to India and some Malays to Java.

If all these racist barbs were to be heeded, only the Orang Asli and natives of Sarawak and Sabah would be left in Malaysia.

On the religious front, some Muslims called for the burning of the bibles, someone dragged a cow head to a Hindu temple, and a young Chinese couple posted a ‘Bak Kut Teh’ Ramadan greeting in their facebook page.

Malaysia has long been seen as a beacon of racial and religious harmony by the world, and we pride ourselves as tolerant and peace-loving people.

Well, we are still on that pedestal, albeit precariously, as the overwhelming majority of Malaysians still value the spirit of religious and peaceful co-existence on which our nation is founded.

If Malaysians had not held their heads high while some among us lost theirs, if we had not remained calm while some of us went around starting fires of racial and religious discord, our nation would have descended into chaos.

Amidst the controversies and outcries over cow heads, ‘Bak Kut Teh’, education and a host of other inflammable issues, Malaysians have refrained from descending into civil disorder and riots.

We can give ourselves a pat on our back for holding on to peace and stability when we could easily have destroyed all that we had built in 50 years of nationhood with the flames of racial and religious conflicts.

I shudder to think what would have happened if all these religious and racial baiting by a moronic few in our midst had taken place in countries where mere rumours of desecration of a Holy Book was enough to send people rampaging through the streets.

However, if we allow the wounds in religious and racial relationship to fester, and let those who inflict them to continue with their nefarious schemes and games, our nation will eventually topple into the boiling cauldron of religious and racial strife.

We can no longer talk about nipping the problem in the bud because these premeditated attempts to stir up religious and racial passions among Malaysians have been going on for too long.

We have not crossed the Rubicon yet, but if we do not rein in those who go around fanning racial and religious tensions, we will reach that point sooner or later.

The first step towards repelling this ill wind sweeping across the country is to identify its cause.

But one does not have to be a genius to nail the reason behind this rise in incidents threatening the peace and harmony in our multi-ethnic and religious society – POLITICS.

Many politicians these days revel in skating on the thin ice of the nation’s religious and racial platform in their bid to gain political mileage.

The ends justify the means as far as these people are concerned.

We cannot deny that Malaysian politics is divided along racial lines, but in the past politicians chose to stand on the firm ground of our common good. However, many of them nowadays have chosen to take their political battles into the morass of religious and racial intolerance.

We must not allow bigots and racists to dominate our political scene if we want to continue to enjoy the fruits of independence.

The government on its part has initiated racial integration programmes under the 1Malaysia banner.

This is a commendable effort, but its success has been limited at best as racial or religious controversies plague our society.

The 1Malaysia slogan could end being merely a cosmetic attempt to address the deteriorating racial and religious relations among Malaysians if the government is not serious in bringing these merchants of hate to book.

The country’s laws on sedition must be evenly enforced on all parties.

This has not been the case recently, leading to more dissatisfaction and anger among the people and encouraging those who got away scot free or with just a slap on the wrist to continue with their antics.

Ultimately, the key to stopping this dangerous mongering of racial and religious conflicts lies in the hands of the people.

The silent majority who reject racial and religious extremism and intolerance must speak up now, before it is too late.