Posts Tagged ‘interfaith’

Who’s Scared of the Talk?

June 3, 2007

Like most kids I had an irrational fear of the dark. I was convinced that monsters lived under my bed and that if I wasn’t careful one would snatch me by the leg, drag me under the bed and make a meal of me. To calm myself I would pull the covers over my head as if the sheets formed a powerful barrier. Most of the time that worked pretty well. Hiding under the covers eventually made the monsters go away. Perhaps they got bored (or grew too hungry) and moved underneath a less savvy kid’s bed.

Britain’s The Times newspaper recently reported that an international conference intended to foster greater understanding between faith communities scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur was cancelled at the last minute due to a request by the Malaysian government. Apparently religion is a tense subject in Malaysia and it would appear that there are those who believe that hiding under the covers will make the nation’s problems go away.

I hope I have let go of all my irrational fears by the time I reach 50!

I am also left wondering…if everyone’s heads are under the covers, who is steering our ship?

The folks at Malaysiakini were kind enough to publish my letter on the subject and I shall let the letter do the rest of the talking. [EDIT: But not without adding a few more thoughts!]

[NOTE 1: The letter below was published before the Lina Joy decision. If anything, there is a more urgent need for the government to act in a constructive manner, because the decision has garnered so much international attention, that our Information Minister has decided to get in on the action.]

[NOTE 2: Post-Lina Joy our PM and others have gone on record to ask Malaysians to not get too emotional about the issues raised. I posed this question in the letter but let me ask again – what positive steps is/has the government taken to defuse the situation?]



Interfaith Conference: Quit the Ostrich Act

Umran Kadir
May 14, 07 5:52pm

I refer to the malaysiakini report Confusion reigns over inter-faith conference.

Malaysia has long prided itself as a beacon of progress and moderation in the Muslim world. However, in the last few years the world has borne witness to the rising tide of religious intolerance and ignorance in our country. First we had the tussle for Shamala’s children, then we had Ayah Pin’s commune being destroyed, next it was a tug of war for Moorthy’s body.

More recently it was the embarrassing issue of the Barnhardts’ rude 2 am. awakening in Langkawi. Lina Joy’s saga to determine her own destiny continues still. Today, tales of families being torn apart by the religious authorities are surfacing with alarming regularity.

Despite all these incidents being widely reported in the international press we still find politicians, academics and theologians coming to Malaysia to learn how our government has been so successful at managing our diverse population. What a shock it was to learn of the inept decision to stop the ‘Building Bridges Global Interfaith Seminar’.

It was further disillusioning to read a comment in The Times by a would-be participant that ‘… there was contention at the highest level in Malaysia’ on whether the conference should proceed.

The effect of halting the Article 11 forums was to send the message that Malaysian citizens cannot discuss issues that our government deems to be ‘too sensitive’. It now appears that this same prohibition extends to the most learned of foreign theologians and academics. Perhaps it wouldn’t seem quite so bad if the government were shown to be actively trying to resolve these ‘sensitive’ religious issues. Yet the government’s approach to resolving these issues…well…just what is the government’s approach?

The government may choose to conduct itself with its proverbial head in the sand but the rest of the world doesn’t work that way. The perception of some appears to be that these problems can continue to be swept under the carpet because those most affected are either poor, insignificant or both. To those who hold such a view, I can only ask the following:

How much more will the international community be prepared to witness before Malaysia is branded as an oppressive and intolerant state?

Such a question should not be viewed as the sole concern of bleeding heart liberals, interracial couples or apostates. It should rightly concern our political leaders and captains of industry. For if it should come to pass that Malaysia is perceived by the outside world as oppressive and intolerant then not even the slickest of Tourism Malaysia advertisements will salvage our reputation.