Let me tackle the difficult, “sensitive” issue first – “God says….”. It is a truism to say that “religious issues if not handled prudently may turn into an ugly, ironic situation” in the country. The events that occur all over the world testify to this.
Religion is sensitive to most people for many reasons but primarily because much emotion is invested into it. Generally, one cannot be faulted for thinking that logic and rationality appear to play very little role in religious discussions though this is not necessarily true. I have attended inter and intra religious discussions which were conducted intellectually and in the most friendly of atmosphere even though the arguments were intense.
Most politicians like to side-step the task of handling “religious issues” fundamentally and honestly looking at the “problems” that arise. Of course, many of them manipulate and use religion of political purposes and thus worsen the situation. Many politicians fear popular reprisals from their own supporters and thus take the populist stand. But it is a matter which a statesman must address.
It is impossible to create 1Malaysia if prejudices and biasness towards any one religion exists. This is not at all to question what is lawful and enshrined in the Constitution. I am talking of reforms within the law and what is permissible under the law. However, we must remember that unjust leaders make unjust laws. Hence, a righteous leader may want to undo any just laws that may exist, example, the ISA.
There is a need for inter religious dialogue and understanding. This means that all Malaysians must be able to sensibly discuss each others religion without fear or favour with the purpose of identifying COMMONALITIES and universal principles that can bind us together as human beings. Every party must be educated to learn to accept differences and not be defensive about each other’s religion if sincere comments are made. It is the fear of proselytizing that hampers inter faith understanding. Understanding of each other’s religion is essential.
How can two Malaysians be 1 if they harbour ignorance and prejudice against each other on the basis of religion? (On this score, even the Pakatan has failed to address this issue of “religious harmony” in the widest sense of the word).
Quite apart from dialogues, there must be serious efforts by the relevant Ministries like Education and Information to do their part, and this includes the active role of the Minster in charge of Islamic Affairs too. There must be continuing education among the children at schools on this score. We cannot allow religion to divide us from being pure Malaysians irrespective of our religion or ethnic construct.
Secondly, is the issue of intra religious dialogues. Dialogues within the same faith but with differing views. I believe that this matter also should be addressed before we walk the way of the other countries where shites and sunnis are unfriendly to each other. There needs to be greater liberalization of space to discuss Islamic perspectives. This is better than to allow differing views to ferment underground. The age old autocratic method of immediately branding another fellow Muslim of deviationism simply because of his differing understanding must stop. Views on Islam cannot be allowed to be the monopoly of an elite few and discussions cannot be hijacked on the basis of accusations of “liberal”, “western educated”, “deviant”, etc. The idea should be to allow the proper understanding of Islam to evolve among the Muslims themselves. Again, we must learn to be united by commonalities and not be divided by differences of opinions and ideas.
Muslim leaders who speak on Islam must be consistent with their public behaviours and pronouncements. For example, how can you, on one hand speak on the brotherhood of Islam and in the same breath have a policy that disqualify Chinese Muslims, Indian Muslims from certain institutions of learning which is exclusively for Malays? This certainly counters the notion of ukhuwah Islamiah. When such intra discrimination occurs, how can non-Muslims even believe that they will be just policies for them?
Likewise, Islam will be misunderstood when Muslim leaders speak in a language that is couched with racism, arrogant responses or public behaviours and such. Further, it is sad that misconceptions such as “Quran only for Muslims” is gaining ground because of vested interests and politics. It is not true. The Quran is for all mankind.
Thirdly, is the problem that crops up because of conversion between faiths. This problem exists and must be addressed by using common sense, practically, and on a non-emotional basis. We have to understand that these issues has a tremendous impact on the lives of the people involved. It may even be cruel to turn a blind eye.
Lastly, politicization of religions must stop.
I know, this is a tall order. I also know that politicians will not take up such challenges. But suggest I still must for the sake of the country and the future generations.
If the Government is serious towards 1Malaysia, a lot of Ministries will be involved with the issues that I have briefly outlined above. They have to work together.
The challenge is: what do you do to keep “religion” and so-called “religious issues” from derailing the 1Malaysia Vision?
The simple answer is: create the atmosphere that will allow “religion and religious issues” to achieve the 1Malaysia Vision.