Let’s be inclusive as we move forward

It is very important for multi-ethnic societies to mix and blend and reach out to one another.

By K Haridas

When will political parties in Malaysia address issues that are relevant and are ground-based rather than play on the sentiments of people?

To continually demonise DAP as anti-Malay and anti-Islam is to deny history. This party has been in the opposition for several decades. This is akin to saying that PAS or Umno are anti-non-Malays and anti-other faiths.

While race is a reality and diversity a fact that we have to contend with, surely after six decades of democratic politics in Malaysia, we should have matured enough to keenly address issues of concern for all Malaysians on the ground?

Issues relating to poverty, crime, unemployment, urban challenges and migrant workers, to mention a few, have to be specifically addressed.

Today’s politics reveals a further fragmentation of votes across the political divide. PAS is now divided and its claim to a moral high ground with regards to Islam is being debunked. Who are its role models? What does it stand for in the context of multiracial Malaysia as a whole? It seems to rarely express the inclusive nature of Islam.

At best, PAS will be a spoiler at the forthcoming elections, dividing the Malay vote, and any gain may possibly go to the Barisan Nasional (BN). However, by being perceived to be aligned with the “corrupt and undemocratic” Umno, PAS will pay a heavy price. This may be the beginning of the end of its political relevance in Malaysia.

Though Islamic in expression, this is a party that brings much discredit to itself by its expressions regarding Islam.

By denigrating people of other races and religions, PAS and Umno contaminate the atmosphere and undermine the respect many have for Islam. Islam is not about race.

A visit to Mecca during the haj will show that Muslims come from all over the world. The “ummah” is beyond colour and race.

Arnold Toynbee, the noted historian credits Islam when he says: “The extinction of race consciousness between Muslims is one of the outstanding moral achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagations of this Islamic virtue.”

Islam has always rejected any racial prejudice or racial superiority. Is this true for Islam a la PAS or Umno?

However, between the expression and the experience, there is a great gap and it is sad when tribal loyalties and ethnic differences are exploited within Muslim societies, as in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Malaysia. There is no monopoly on intelligence, knowledge or originality globally by any one race or group.

Ultimately, civilisation moves forward through the spirit of man and his commitment to moral values that shape his conduct and character. This is what reveals the congruence between beliefs and practices.

This is the significant contribution that we can all make for the cause of humanity and in the creation of a humane society.

Malcolm X, the noted black American Muslim leader, speaks about this change in the final chapters of his autobiography: “But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions….

“Perhaps, if White Americans could accept the oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality of the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure and hinder and harm others in terms of their ‘differences’ in colour.”

He left Mecca a new man, reaffirming for us that Islam has the key for the realisation of a multiracial society.

Breeding prejudice and bigotry

Our early leaders believed in this inclusive approach. History reveals to us that no one people or race has exclusive possession of civilisation or been specially endowed with unique capacities for discernment.

When we denigrate people of other faiths or espouse ethnically charged causes like “Ketuanan Melayu”, we breed prejudice and bigotry. “As you sow so shall you reap.” Such divisive expressions eventually hurt the very people who propagate the same.

These further contaminate society and people pass these prejudices down to their children. The next generation inherits these prejudices, unhealed hurts, anger and bitterness of past suffering and loss, subconsciously creating a slow-burning fuse of stories of grievances that contaminate a future yet to be.

Only as we change from within and accept an inclusive Islam — likewise also for other faiths — will we be in a position to decontaminate the future through stories infused with apology, forgiveness and acts of kindness or compassion.

We have much to share with one another, rather than build walls around us.

Many do not realise that in deepening the divides within society they hurt their own cause and their faith. Religiosity is not the answer. Rituals, prayers, obligations all have a part, provided these inspire an inner change and realisation. Otherwise, these remain mere dogma, rituals and theology, a garment to be worn and taken off as desired.

Political parties taking part in the forthcoming elections must realise that they are playing with fire when they resort to narrow divisive issues of identity, be it religion, race, colour or class.

Denigrating any class or ethnic group in a multi-ethnic society is to be an agent of contamination and this could be done by a mufti, religious scholar, swamiji, ulama or a politician.

If one is unable to reach out to another community, another believer or someone different from you, then one will forever remain trapped within a narrow mindset born out of ignorance and a lack of understanding.

That is why it is so very important for multi-ethnic societies to mix and blend and reach out to one another.

We have an opportunity through the forthcoming election to regain our independence and reassert our faith in the constitution and ensure that every Malaysian has a place of respect and consideration.

Being true to the Rukun Negara and being inclusive in our love for all Malaysians is the call of the hour.

We must act to make this a reality because the BN formula has not worked and appeasing people prior to elections with new slogans is a sham and not one based on convictions. We have had so many slogans that people have lost faith in the sincerity of those in power.

Our vote is one for change, for decontaminating the future and for an independence that allows us to celebrate an inclusive Malaysia.

We can only have the status quo from the present lot but we can, through change, hope for a better future. May yours be a hope-filled vote.

K Haridas is an FMT reader

The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily the views of FMT.