Respect out of fear is no respect at all


By Roysten Silvanathan

If I could put myself in others’ shoe than I believe I may treat others better.

I try to live by this saying every day.

To be honest, the recent incident outside a surau in Johor Baru hit me real hard even with the constant turmoil that is affecting our country.

I saw how quickly racial and religious bigotry started to spread like wildfire on social media.

Over the years, I have learnt that tolerance is key to any relationship. Be it with your wife, your son or friend, we have to accept certain things that we may or may not agree upon but we know that’s what sets them apart from others.

This give and take policy allows us build a relationship with the people we love and we care about.

Such a relationship is born out respect, understanding and love for the well-being of the others. For well over 45 years that seems to have worked, for the last 15 years, however, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Every day I could drive by and not a single day goes by where I don’t see cars parked at the left and right side of the roads to pick up or drop off their children from school.

I hated using the roads and try to avoid them as much as I can during those periods because, even as much as I hated it, I understand that there is always a constant struggle between work and family and we are constantly trying to get it right.

I’m sure many are doing the same. If we can do that for our family, why can’t we do the same for our spirituality?

I studied at St Johns Institution in Kuala Lumpur and the holy month of Ramadan was my favourite time. School would finish early and there would be this great array of food whereever I went in those 30 days.

As time went by things began to change. There was a particular year we had a general rule that there should be no water bottle on the table during classes.

There was once when this boy drank water in front of my teacher. She got so mad she asked him to leave the class.

The joy that I had soon changed into fear. The whole purpose of fasting became oblivious to me.

How is it a sacrifice when it was more like a norm?

How is it holy when you lose your empathy?

We demand people give us the respect we deserve. We demand others to give what is rightfully ours. If only we could sit down and put ourselves in others’ shoes.

This incident is a symptom of a much larger underlying problem in this country, and that is, that we are growing apart instead of towards each other.

Respect given out of fear is no respect at all, respect given out of love eclipses it all.

Wishing for a peaceful Ramadan ahead.

Roysten Silvanathan is an FMT reader.

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