Decontaminating the future

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Our vote is for change, for decontaminating the future and for an independence that allows us to celebrate an inclusive Malaysia, writes 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 the Democratic Action Party (DAP) as anti-Nalay and anti-Islam is to deny history. This party has been in the opposition in Parliament for several decades. This is akin to saying that Pas or Umno is 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 grown mature enough to keenly tackle issues of concern for all Malaysians on the ground – issues such as poverty, crime, unemployment, urban challenges and migrant workers.

Today’s politics reveals a further fragmentation of votes across the divide. Pas is now divided and their claim to a moral high ground on Islam is being debunked. Who are their role models? What do they stand for in the context of multi-racial Malaysia as a whole? They seem to rarely express the inclusive nature of Islam.

At best, Pas will be a spoiler in the general election, dividing the Malay vote, and possibly benefiting Barisan Nasional (BN). But by being perceived to be aligned with the corruption-tainted and undemocratic Umno, Pas will pay a heavy price. This may be the beginning of the end of its relevance to politics in Malaysia.

Though Islamic in expression, this is a party that brings much discredit to themselves by their inconsistent stance on various issues. Exploiting the divide against people of other faiths, will in effect turn against the party and will be equally divisive within the Pas community, as we are now witnessing.

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By sidelining or neglecting people of other ethnicities and religions, Pas and Umno contaminate the atmosphere and do a disservice to Islam. Islam is not about race. Visit Mecca during the Hajj and one would witness people 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.”

Indeed, the message of Islam has always rejected any racial prejudice or superiority. Is this true for the way Pas or Umno practise the faith?

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

Ultimately, civilisation is moved forward through the spirit of humankind and a commitment to moral values that shapes conduct and character. This is what reveals the congruence between belief and practice. This is the significant contribution that we can all make for the cause of humanity and in the creation of a humane society

This is so aptly stressed in the Qur’anic law and revealed in the words of the Almighty: “Lo, Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts…” (Sura 13:11).
This change which emanates from the heart comes from realisation and forgiveness. This spirit is born from silence, reflection and introspection.

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…”

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

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

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 especially 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. As my Naga friend says, “Hurts not transformed will be transferred.”

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 and 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.

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Political parties taking part in the coming general election must realise that they are playing with fire when they resort to narrow divisive issues of identity be it religion, race, colour or class. Anyone denigrating any class or ethnic group in a multi-ethnic society is nothing less than an agent of contamination, and this could be done by a mufti, religious scholar, swamiji, ulama, priest, monk or politician.

If we are unable to reach out to another community, another believer or someone different from you, then we 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 coming 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 Rukunegara and 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 not based on conviction. We have had so many slogans that people have lost faith in the sincerity of those in power.

Our vote is 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 with the present lot but we can through change hope for a better future. May yours be a hope-filled vote.

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