The recent general election has shown that the nation is polarised ethnically and religiously in voting patterns, and these are warning signs that should be taken seriously by those who helm the education portfolios in the government.
While democracy is an instrument or means that is used to elect a government, democracy by itself has little value if the ends do not meet the common good of the nation.
Malaysia, with its identity politics of using race and religion in the democratic process to attain power, seems to ignore the basic inherent value that all human beings – irrespective of ethnicity and religion – have goodness, beauty and truth, which if nurtured well could unleash the potential of communities to contribute to the country.
It was disappointing that Bersatu youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal was quoted as saying that when it comes to politics in the Malay-Muslim community, one cannot separate religion from it as it is part and parcel of their political philosophy.
What Wan Fayhsal failed to see is that ethno-religious politics that pursues power takes on a morally self-righteous tone or a black-and-white description of an opponent, which goes against a deeper and contemplative spiritual consciousness of unity.
The mixing of partisan politics and religion tends to divide rather than unite humanity. The implication of such politics for the nation’s long-term wellbeing should be comprehended rather than justifying it with a simplistic notion that secularism is not part of Malay-Muslim politics.
To resolve this issue related to unity and polarisation, it is vital that the education curriculum does not merely focus on technical and academic courses but should also promote the expression of poetry as a means of unity.
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One could refer to well-known poets in all religious traditions that have expressed unity and solidarity that comes from life experience and goes beyond simplistic ideologies.
Poetry, like any form of artistic creation, is one of the pillars of the humanities. By following the parts of emotion, sensitivity, and imagination, poems transmit knowledge and human values, besides shaping the body and soul.
Malaysia could transcend the politics of race and religion in the future if the young can express unity through the poetic expression of unity and justice.
Therefore, the Association for Welfare, Community and Dialogue urges the Ministry of Education to initiate programmes among the young about the value of poetry. This could help stretch their imagination to embrace unity in diversity, which would reduce the divisive nature of politics of race and religion in the country. – Malaysiakini