Let’s start talking to one another as a nation | Selangor Times
Friday
31·03·2017
Issue 118

 

Senedi
Let’s start talking to one another as a nation
Writer: Tricia Yeoh
Published: Fri, 13 May 2011

It seems to be a worldwide phenomenon that people are driven by insecurity and fear, especially of what they do not understand or know.

When news of Osama bin Laden’s death came in, Americans rejoiced on the streets. In this tit-for-tat world, a murder was cleverly orchestrated and celebrated, in the end boosting the public perception of US President Obama, whose ratings had been previously falling.

For the less bloodthirsty of us, it was discomforting to note the level of enthusiasm displayed. Sure, the man was instrumental in the deaths of so many, but, as some have pointed out, the modus operandi was distasteful. He was unarmed and did not fire any weapon when the killing took place, a decision the US embarked upon unilaterally without international consultation.

The celebratory response was only too telling of people’s ignorance. Surely this would not stop “terrorists” from detesting the West’s arrogance. But the ignorance runs deeper, not knowing what Islam truly stands for, and thereby creating a culture of fearing Muslims among many conservative Christians – the worst sort of generalisation, which national leaders take advantage of for political gain.

But they are not the only ones guilty of politicising fear and insecurity. I witnessed the same being cultivated in the recent run-up to the Singapore elections, where the PAP (People’s Action Party) government used stability and economic wealth to woo voters, threatening that the opposition parties would fail to deliver and hence jeopardise Singaporeans’ quality of life.

Fear and insecurity at home

Back home, we are probably the worst lot. The human race is already prone to bouts of fear and insecurity as a natural instinct, but in Malaysia it is made worse by the multitude of subcultural groupings of ethnicity and religion. The mantra is true that political parties have capitalised on both race and religion for their own personal gains at the expense of national unity. How so?

Most recently, following the success of the DAP in the Sarawak state elections (winning 12 out of its 15 contested seats), there was some concern that its dominance in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition would juxtapose a Chinese-strong opposition against a Malay-strong Barisan Nasional coalition (where Umno calls the shots and other parties meekly comply).

This has culminated in a rather bizarre chain of events. A Christian meeting in Penang organised by the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship with other partners was accused by pro-Umno bloggers of conspiring with the DAP to firstly replace Islam with Christianity as the country’s official religion, and secondly to put a Christian prime minister in office.

Christian leaders denied that these calls were part of the session, which they say was an ethical seminar organised to “discuss and address the issue of bribery and corruption in the marketplace and the Christians’ contribution in addressing such issues”.

Just preceding this, Pembela, a coalition of 20 Muslim bodies, issued a statement expressing concern that Islam’s position in Malaysia is under siege. The Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism responded with their own statement, in which they say Muslims’ position would never be threatened in Malaysia as they would still possess political control, being in the majority.

Thus began the domino effect, the seemingly unending downward spiral. The DAP, the Bar Council, and a group of non-governmental organisations, which includes the Centre for Independent Journalism, responded in uproar, essentially implying that no verification was done to prove the accusation against the DAP was true.

Perkasa demanded punishment imposed on those challenging Islam as the country’s official religion; a police report was made on the Bar Council’s constitutional committee lawyer who said there was “no official religion” in Malaysia. The verbal banter goes back and forth – it is like watching a badminton game live on court.

Shutting out the noise and thinking

All that is taking place in our country is not new. New incidents, perhaps. But these are merely manifestations of a deeply rooted problem. They stem from age-old sentiments of ignorance of “the other”, which are for years and years never corrected – prejudices that stick like cling-wrap, which teachers, parents, and mentors never bother to change.

And this is the real indictment on our leaders and elders: that the generations to follow will adopt these false notions of people outside our respective comfort zones.

The noise that has been churning around for the last week are symptomatic of the problems, yes; but they are also being made by groups intentionally stoking the fire. In the debate that revolves around race and religion, for the rest of us who are by-standers, it is not good enough to passively allow these extreme views to represent that of our own. That is not innocence.

The critical mind must shut out the noise and stop to think.

Christians have to realise that Muslims are genuinely fearful of evangelical Christians. Under such circumstances, Christians must address this fear first and foremost, or risk further suspicion and anger.

Muslims, on the other hand, require some soul searching to rid themselves of any false insecurity and fear on their part. With the instruments of the law, the Federal Constitution, government, and religious institutions at their disposal, there should be adequate security that their faiths are not, in fact, being threatened.

The wishy-washy answer is to “start talking to one another”. Friendships abound between adherents of different faiths. But this is not enough. Conversations have to dig deeper into unveiling the prejudices against the other, which can be a painful process.

Perhaps false misconceptions can then be corrected.

A preference, of course, would be to see each other as humans first – never mind which god one prays to, resisting the temptation to save the person opposite you from the doom of Hell, and treating the person as if he or she were someone whose views and conversations you would perfectly enjoy in a regular Malaysian mamak stall because of his or her  humanity and dignity.

A player in this merry mess put it aptly: “Allowing the debate over which race or religion wielded precedence in the matter of who is qualified to become a holder of high office … diverts from what is more important … a person’s intellectual and moral fibre for high office.”

We criticise the West for their foolhardy reactions against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the like. But the real question is, do we not feed ignorance, fear and insecurity on home ground itself? And the ugliest of them all is that the ruthless game of politics has reared its vicious head to capitalise on this. Creating divisions for selfish gain.

The only way out is for us, the people, to stop fearing and start learning. About each other. Properly. For real. We have to do this. To save our souls from the eternal damnation of politics.

 

 Selangor Times

 

 

Also by Tricia Yeoh:

Towards a New Malaysia

THE term “think tank” may evoke images of stuffy bespectacled researchers sitting behind desks towering with stacks of paper.

The Personal and The Professional

YET another Malaysian incident has made it into international news. 

The PAS conundrum – or is it really?

At a recent policy dinner at St. Mike’s, a cozy Ipoh restaurant, I spoke of civil society, reform issues and my experience of having worked at the Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor government. The discussion eventually centred on one subject alone, that being the ‘PAS conundrum’ (titled by me); conundrum being defined as a confusing and difficult problem or question. 

‘Tis the season to be rallying

THE past weekend has been a busy one indeed. Not only was the city’s annual arts festival, Urbanscapes, taking place, but this time Sigur Ros, the atmospheric Icelandic band graced the occasion and performed right in the heart of Petaling Jaya. 

Can overseas Malaysians contribute?

At the Singapore FreedomFilmFest 2012 where the three documentaries were screened (including The Rights of The Dead, on the late Teoh Beng Hock’s story), a sizeable number of Malaysians interspersed the audience. Roughly making up 20% of the crowd size, the question-and-answer session following the screening reminded me of the aspirations Malaysians living overseas continue to have about their country, back home. 

Models for state and city

As part of the Penang launch of my book, "States of Reform", as well as the FreedomFilmFest screenings of my documentary, "The Rights of the Dead" in the same state, I spent several days in Penang recently (a sister state of Selangor, in the sense that both are governed by the Pakatan Rakyat coalition as a result of the March 2008 elections). 

Lessons from Selangor show way forward

It was an entertaining thought that my friend, Keith Leong, would have spent long hours in the very English Cambridge University writing his MPhil thesis on the Selangor experience under Pakatan Rakyat. 

Dark look at the country’s financial situation

In the lead up to the 13th General Election, economic issues will inevitably be hotly debated by all sides of the political divide. It is within this context that a book of great relevance to Malaysian readers and voters has been recently published. 

Walking the narrow path

I had the privilege of speaking to a group of young interns under the Otak-Otak Internship Programme this week.

Decentralisation the way forward?

At the launch of my book, “States of  Reform: Governing Selangor and Penang” last Saturday, three esteemed panelists, YB Liew Chin Tong (member of Parliament, Bukit Bendera), YB Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (state assemblypersom, Seri Setia) and Dr Ooi Kee Beng (Deputy Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore) took on the increasingly popular, but also controversial, subject of decentralisation of government in Malaysia.

Wading through the so-called ‘water crisis’

Election fever is in the air, and the games have begun. Last month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak stated that Selangor was heading towards a water crisis, after the state government blocked the building of the Langat 2 water treatment plant.

That Religious Issue: Faith, Space and Justice

Every now and then arises a hot potato issue that few are inclined to comment upon, namely that of religious sensitivities. This week former Selangor state executive councillor and head of new NGO JATI, Hasan Ali, revealed a video of purported proselytisation of Muslims by a group of Christians.

Four years of PR in Selangor

What the Debate says about the Chinese

The much hyped-up debate between Lim Guan Eng and Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek last weekend took place with as much drama as there was in the days leading up to it.

Politics vs Policy: How do people really vote?

Malaysian lessons from Bolivia

At the Centre for Independent Journalism’s Human Rights in Outer Space series of events last week, I was asked to speak on a panel analysing the Our Brand is Crisis documentary and draw comparisons between issues arising within it and the Malaysian context.

Sewerage privatisation once again?

Cyberspace was on fire last week after the Auditor-General’s 2010 annual report revealed a host of financial irregularities perpetrated by several government agencies and government-linked companies.

Of schooling and the Budget

In my conversation with Malaysian parents, the topic almost always steers back to the issue of the country’s education system. They are most often in a dilemma about which schools they should place their children in, and which system to opt for.

Setting the tone with Selangorku

Selangor was one of the first governments in Malaysia to have officially celebrated Malaysia Day on Sept 16 in 2009, which was followed thereafter by the federal government in 2010 when it was declared a public holiday.

This year, Selangor launched its version of an agenda in con- junction with Malaysia Day, called "Selangorku", or “My Selangor". The project took about a year to complete, having been initiated when I was then Research Officer at the Selangor Menteri Besar's office. Although I have since moved on, it was indeed a gratifying moment knowing the agenda has finally

 

Assimilation versus integration

Last weekend, I was invited to speak at a forum organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports and Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Isis).

Water deal makes Malaysians RM6.5b poorer

A new chapter has unfolded in the long-drawn-out Selangor water saga recently. Acqua SPV, a Special-Purpose Vehicle set up under the gederal government body PAAB (Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad), has announced plans to acquire 100% of Selangor water bonds. The total outstanding bonds come up to RM6.5 billion.

The dead have rights, too

Malaysia is in desperate need of a reliable and trustworthy institute to conduct autopsies, especially in relation to deaths in custody. Last week, the body of customs officer Ahmad Sarbani was found on the grounds of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Federal Territory office.

 

 

VIEWS

 

 

MEDIA

 

 

 

TECHNOLOGY

From Windows to a Mac: A guide

 

 

FOOD

In for a sweet treat

 

 

TRAVEL

A Majestic presence

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Selangor Times. All rights reserved. Designed By Senedi
Twitter