Inter-religious relations meanwhile have taken a turn for the worse, and a resourceful Zaharom Nain decides to take the matter up at the highest levels – in a manner of speaking. But no, not another open letter to the Prime Minister – but one addressed to God…
This is the first – and, hopefully, the last – time in my life that I am writing an ‘open letter’. Since it is addressed to you, I think you will appreciate that I don’t take these things lightly.
Why write to you, you may well ask?
Well, it’s like this. Earlier this year, two of your subjects – friends of mine – wrote open letters to a couple of pretty high-ranking individuals in this land they call Malaysia.
Looking back, you’d probably agree that in the overall scheme of things, these ‘high ranking’ individuals – the prime minister and the higher education minister, no less – can’t really be too high or mighty, given the small country that Malaysia is, without too long a glorious history.
But, to further digress for a moment, we are working on this small, backwater image, striving to be cemerlang, gemilang and terbilang (excellent, outstanding, revered). But you’ll understand that this is going to take some time, despite the fact that we love to take ridiculous and embarrassing short-cuts in the spirit of Malaysia Boleh.
Anyway, to get back to the matter at hand, the open letters that my friends, Jacque and Azmi, wrote were extremely pertinent, voicing their concerns about the state of higher education and the state of this country generally. Unfortunately, as far as I know, the hoped-for responses have not been forthcoming.
Hence, I felt that it’s best to go straight to the top, as it were, and pray that some action will be taken. Of course, since it has become a cliché that you work in mysterious ways, I won’t be expecting you to respond in the way that my friends were hoping that mere human beings – no matter how ‘high’ up – would respond to their appeals.
Okay, permit me to get down to brass tacks.
For a fairly long while now, this blessed country I currently reside in has been a fairly harmonious one. Its multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious mix of peoples have been getting along pretty well by international standards.
Indeed, at one time, not that long ago, I remember us all genuinely respecting each other as fellow Malaysians. As one writer put it, our different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds served as bridges, linking us all together, enabling us all to call each other Malaysians, urging us to try to understand and share the uniqueness of our different heritages.
Now, sad to say, these differences appear to have become high walls, preventing us from reaching out to each other, from understanding one another.
For some, all this began with communal segregation under the British colonial policy of divide and rule and started to become really bad in the early 1970s when communalism was institutionalised.
Now, dear God, it seems to have reached nightmarish proportions.
We are being told that it is not right to congratulate each other on our different religious festivals.
With the advent of new technology, especially mobile phones and the Internet, we are now getting some sick-in-the-head miscreants spreading vicious hate mail, urging gullible people to disrupt other peaceful groups’ silent moments of prayer and reflection.
Whoever it was who said ‘information empowers’ certainly hadn’t bargained on this.
I’m also more than a little concerned about religious bodies invading peoples’ privacy, especially this moronic group that burst into an elderly American couple’s holiday condo and mistreated them for no apparent reason.
All in the supposed name of religion.
Could you possibly impress upon these people in some divine way that the hallmark of a truly religious person is being courteous and respectful of others, and not merely having the ability to break down doors, to terrorise people, and to spout verses in another language?
In both these cases – and an increasing number of other similar cases – of religious intimidation, could you possibly open the hearts of these people, so that they will, at the very least, apologise to the innocent individuals affected – the children attending their First Communion, the religious authorities there, and the American couple?
While you are at it, could I beseech you to enlighten these groups that ‘morality’ goes beyond claiming theirs is the best religion, beyond intimidating other groups who so happen to believe in something else?
Why is it so difficult – if, indeed, they are religious and fearful of you – for them to apologise for what were clearly ill-judged actions?
On a wider scale, do you think it would be possible for them to look beyond their noses and see ‘morality’ in its wider sense? Like in the sense of questioning and criticising the abuse of power by the people’s representatives?
Indeed, I am often puzzled that these same people who love intimidating others in the name of religion refuse to turn their attention to the corruption and abuse of power that is there for all to see.
For these zealots, why, indeed, is it so morally wrong for a couple to hold hands and perfectly acceptable for the people’s representatives to flount the law and construct palaces illegally?
I guess all I’m asking is that you open their eyes so they can see, open their ears so they can hear, open their hearts so they can feel and, perhaps most importantly, open their pea-sized brains so they can think.
Your humble servant,
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