In the present contemporary world many see religion and its ideological teaching as divisive and want a clear separation of state and religion. Why is this so?
Some see religion as a set of beliefs that tends to minus out the truth in other religions and this paves the way for domineering behaviour, bigotry and possible violence.
This has been notable in countries like Pakistan, India and parts of West Asia and Africa. Such ethno-religious divisive politics also exists in the US, especially among certain influential religious groups in the Republican party.
Identity politics with ethno-religious connotations tends to look at history from the perspective of once-upon-time dominance or glorious history, and it feels that it needs to resist aliens that it believes are not part and parcel of its historical identity and heritage.
Resistance is the key modus operandi of extreme identity politics.
Ethnic identity mixed with religious ideology in the Malaysian context today has become a convenient tool for political purposes since it has strong emotional elements that could sway people from reasoning and exploring what is truthful and authentic in all religions. It is obvious one is blinded in the name of preserving one’s ethno-religious identity.
As advertising focuses on emotions to cajole a buyer to buy a certain product, race and religion in Malaysia today have become a product that seems to bring handsome profits for politicians. Whether one realises it or not, religion has been reduced to a product of political expediency.
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While the Federal Constitution is clear on the special position, language, hierarchy and bureaucracy, which is led by the majority Malay- Muslim community, it still becomes politically expedient for politicians to play up race and religious insecurity as means to win an election.
The truth is, religion in itself is not divisive. It becomes divisive when it turns out to become ritualistic and ideological, seeking imaginary enemies.
Authentic religio-spiritual experiences seek truth in diversity, through dialogue, collaboration and working for the common good.
It has nothing to do with immature slogans of identity that polarise a nation. Its modus operandi is based on love and compassion towards others irrespective of ethnic and religious background.
It solidly believes in human dignity. One has to learn from the transforming mystical lives of previous sages and saints whose service to humanity bears testimony to the importance of respecting human dignity.
The question is, how far ethno-religious politics will go, and the implications for the unity of the people of Malaysia? In what direction will Malaysia progress spiritually and socially if it continues with divisive rhetoric?
Malaysia today is going through a crisis of confidence among investors. The value of the ringgit is deteriorating. The country has a trillion-ringgit debt, corruption and a state of uncertainty due to the divisive nature of the its politics.
The upcoming elections in six states will in a way determine the direction of the country. We will see whether the people as a whole embrace the value of multi-ethnic solidarity for a progressive Malaysia, or if the nation’s ethno-religious-dominated political landscape will continue to see others in Malaysia as a threat and ruin the unity nurtured since independence.
While there is a complexity of issues in relation to the choices facing the electorate, what is critical is the foundation of solidarity that embraces multi-ethnic solidarity.
Therefore, the Association for Welfare Community and Dialogue urges the people to reflect on our current socio-political landscape and vote wisely in the upcoming state elections.
It’s time for differences in ethnicities and religions to be seen as divine graces allowing us to learn from each other’s cultures and as a way to transform insecurity to love and solidarity for a better Malaysia.
For this to materialise, Malaysia needs to transform its ethno-religious consciousness. – Malaysiakini