Just For Reading!

Jesus wept — Mariam Mokhtar
January 11, 2010 . http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

JAN 11 — The views of some contributors to The Malaysian Insider at the weekend, over the “Allah” issue may be repugnant, but in a mature democracy its members are entitled to voice them.

Thus, I hope to be an antidote to any loathsome, angry and hate-filled opinions of certain small-minded individuals.

And I am confident there will be more moderate Muslims who will add to the voices of a slowly growing group of like-minded people like Marina Mahathir and the others whose names I fail to mention.

When I was in primary school in the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, the Muslims had agama lessons, whilst the Christians had catechism.

We were taught that oft repeated phrase — “death to the infidels (kafir)”. My best friend and I exchanged looks with each other; that meant our gang — friends like Jennifer, Susie, Maria, and others — Indian, Chinese and Eurasians. What about our favourite teachers — Mrs. Kong and Miss Hew?

We were afraid for them — will they come to harm, but who will harm them? These thoughts are not impossible in an eight-year-old.

I was more afraid for myself, when I finally plucked up the courage to put my hand up and ask the agama teacher the question, “Death to our friends, too?”

With a wave of her hand, I was immediately brushed into silence and told to read the rest of the page in silence, by the teacher. No explanation. Nothing. I do not blame her. It was a weighty question. But that phrase has lived with me and resurfaced with our recent troubles.

But, I do blame our heads of education and religion, who I feel have a duty of care towards their students.

I also blame our leaders for cowardly refusing to address issues that are contentious. There are areas of conflict and sensitivity but our leaders seem to treat these as hallucinatory, in the hope they will disappear. They are wrong.

Evil thoughts or conflicting ideas should not be allowed to foment in weak-minded and impressionable individuals, for it can only breed monsters in the future.

I strongly believe that the teaching of religion should be overhauled. Even in the early stages of school.

Later, when I went to Britain for further education, my family warned against being influenced by the dakwah movement. There was little chance of that in a public school but at university, I observed that these seats of learning were equally capable of breeding loathing in vulnerable groups of people, many of whom were Malaysian Malays.

These Muslims cluster together, had few friends outside their immediate circle, were confused and had little in common with the British student social scene. They excluded themselves from other students and wrongly assumed that British university life revolved round “sex, drinks and rock and roll”.

The raging conflict within them, between Islam and secular views, made them easy prey for Islamic radicals who gave them companionship, a narrow view of the world and a false sense of identity based on fundamentalist and extremist ideas.

Universities — the world over — need to encourage more social cohesion among different social groups. They also need to increase personal development by promoting interaction with other student community groups, all of which may prove difficult because of cuts in funding.

Muslims, and anyone else, who preach violence and who express intolerant views should be made to realise that public order laws which demarcate between free speech and an intentional call for violence will be used against them. Thus, these laws must be executed without fear or favour. Sadly, this has already been abused in Malaysia.

Why do our leaders not wish to upset certain Muslim constituents? Why do they play politics with extremists? Their ideologies are extremely complex, as we have found to our cost.

I find that my nieces and nephews, who are in their early teens, have limited or no knowledge about other world religions. To them, Christians were only Catholics. They’d never heard of Protestants, Methodists or Seventh-Day Adventists. All Chinese were Buddhists and all Indians were Hindus. Judaism might as well have been a Martian religion.

We won’t have a truly cohesive society if we fail to know how our neighbours live. What right have we to demand respect when we refuse to give it, too?

When these Muslim miscreants objected to non-Muslims using the word “Allah”, they in one fell swoop caused “Allah” to become a dirty word, associated with dissent and violence, instead of all the good things associated with it.

Our government offers too little, too late. Rather than being open-minded and initiating intelligent public discussion, the government denies there is a problem and instead panders to these troublemakers.

The only way to move forward as a nation is to engage with all the religious leaders, including the offensive repugnant ones, through argument and debate. We need the courage to force them to defend their loathsome views in public.

But why are these people so worried? They are the ones wanting to impose totalitarianism on the whole country. The Catholics are not trying to force their faith onto them or their children. The Catholics, like moderate Muslims such as myself, are only trying to make sense of our current societal madness. It is a world gone crazy.

Areas of conflict are dotted around the world, caused by the combination of economic, racial, ethnic, religious and other factors. It would be a tragedy if we allowed our country to join this list of hot spots, where religion forms the basis of civil unrest.

I want a Malaysia free from threats of Islamist extremist views, to see my children and their cousins grow up in a country where they are not judged by others by how they dress — hijab for the girls or white robes for the men, and without threatening other Malaysians of different faith.

I want them to live in a Malaysia that is proud of its unique Malaysian identity.

* This article is the personal opinion of the writer or the newspaper. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.


  1. Where is 1 MALAYSIA? Is that just a rhetoric word like before???

  2. I usually don’t post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful …


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