Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Himpun and the politics of religious polarisation

Written by Maclean Patrick, Malaysia Chronicle

The silence of the Najib establishment in the face of the Himpunan Sejuta Umat (Himpun), or Gathering of a Million Faithful, organised by various right-wing groups such as Perkasa with the backing of both Umno and PAS Youth could raise religious tensions.

Coming hot on the heels of a much-criticised decision by the Selangor Sultan over the alleged proselytization of Muslims by Christians at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church, the rally will do little to abate the anger seething amongst Christians although they may keep their feelings under control.

Politicians behind the scene

Many political watchers have accused Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Umno party of hatching the plot to rally Muslmis in Selangor behind them ahead of general elections widely expected early next year. It is aimed to wrest Selangor from the Pakatan Rakyat state government and nothing much to do with religion.

It is also telling of Najib's style of governance and the questionable sincerity of his 1Malaysia plans to unify the races. His is a government that says “1Malaysia” on one hand yet, given the chance would allow the politics of religious polarisation.

Sadder still is that Muslims in Malaysia are led into a state of fear that the “sovereignty of Islam” would be challenged and could be removed. This in itself speaks volumes about the results and continual push by the BN to keep the Muslims in this country tucked away under the shell of ignorance and fear.

There is no other country in the world that has federally constituted legislation that protects its Muslims majority. Only in Malaysia, by law, a Malay is deemed a Muslim by birth and thus accorded Bumiputera or special rights and economic privileges. Parallel to this, the courts make it almost impossible for a Muslim to convert or to change their religion. By law and legislation, the Muslim is afforded protection that is non-existent for the practitioners of other religions.

So, why the need to rally against the Christians? Muslims are already so protected by law and legslation. And why must it be only Christians? Do not other faiths have in place a system to convert new believers into their fold? And can alleged proselytising really undermine the “sovereignty of Islam” in Malaysia as emoted by the organisers of Himpun?

Festering insecurity for evil reasons

The answers are actually already known by most Muslims themselves because racial and religious politicking are nothing new in Malaysia. Helped by Umno's right-wing NGOs and mainstream media like the Utusan newspaper, the idea is to constantly remind Malays that Christians are the enemy of their faith.

Divide and rule remains the Umno order of the day despite Najib's cosmetic efforts to show that all is hunky-dory with Malaysians of all colours and creed under his 1Malaysia, which sadly by now is clearly a bogus platform.

Perhaps they don't realize it, but it also seems rather sad that Himpun and Utusan are ready to underate the faith of Muslims in Malaysia. Does Himpun and Utusan truly think that Muslims are easily turned off from their faith?

This is hard to fathom when you take into consideration that the level of Islamic study incorporated into the education system in Malaysia. The average Malay child is exposed to the Islamic teachings from day one of education until they graduate from a local higher learning institution. Plus, being the majority religious group in Malaysia; peer pressure alone will keep the sheep within the fold.

Is Himpun also saying that all these past efforts to educate and enlighten the Muslim majority have been failing? That all governmental funded mechanisms to help and assist the Muslims in Malaysia can be so easily undermined by Christian organisations that live on personal donations and well-wishers?

The real questions remain untouched

Truth be told, the presence of Christianity has been around since the Portugese landed in Melaka in 1511. So why the sudden rush to demonise Christians in this day and age?

Moderate Malaysians from all religions should not be fooled by such efforts like Himpun which seek to pit Muslims against Christians. There is nothing to win and yet so much to lose.

If Himpun is thinking of galvanising the Muslims in this country, then should not Himpun work towards ratifying the social ills still prevalent in Malaysia's Muslim society? What long-lasting effect or remedy can a short-lived noisy rally bring?

Can a million Muslims rallying in Stadium Shah Alam be galvanised to help the growing number of poor, marginalised, uneducated and the widows or single mothers in Malaysia?

Can a million Muslim turn to each other, and while protecting the “sovereignty of Islam” also show the “magnanimous nature of Islam”?

Or is Malaysia destined to be forever divided along religious lines - unable to find peace and harmony? It is sad to contemplate these issues, especially when as Malaysians, we are called on to give our “Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan” or Faith in God.

Source: http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=21345:himpun-and-the-politics-of-religious-polarisation&Itemid=2

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