KUALA LUMPUR: The biggest challenge to Malaysia’s unity and integration is “being in a perpetual state of mistrust”, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup.
The minister in charge of unity said that such mistrust was created by intolerance, especially as a result of religious and racial bigotry.
“Such bigotry is proving to be a destructive phenomenon for Malaysia’s social harmony, political stability and economic growth,” he said in a keynote address at the National Unity Forum here yesterday.
The nation’s oneness was and always will be the bedrock for its progress, Kurup said.
“But today we face serious new challenges. Peace and stability that serve as a vital root of our development have somewhat weakened,” he said.
He said the most serious threat to peace and stability was the “rise of right wing NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and in some cases, extreme far right forces with their increased intolerance”.
“The incidents of intolerance and intimidation involve radical individuals and groups that spread misinformation about another group’s beliefs and practices,” he said.
Kurup said that such individuals and groups also ridicule other faiths and attempt to force their own beliefs on others.
The minister said that all the recent unity problems were related to religious issues, including that insensitive Facebook posting during Ramadan, threats to burn the Bible and incidents to belittle the Hindu religion.
“We must not condone these extremists and their actions. The time has come for us – the Government, civil societies and citizens – to ensure that they do not flourish,” Kurup said.
Describing The Star’s campaign to promote moderation as “timely”, he said it was a noble effort to galvanise the silent majority and moderates in the fight against racial and religious intolerance.
“The Star has my fullest support to suppress these loud (extremist) minorities,” he said.
Kurup appealed to the people to go through a process of reconciliation, to break down divisive walls, to build bridges and to achieve an even better understanding of each other.
“We must look beyond the prejudices, the scepticism and cynicism that are paralysing us. Instead, we must recognise that we need each other,” he said.
The forum was organised by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) and the Centre for Public Policy Studies with The Star as media partner.
“Strengthening the Voice of Moderates, Moving Forward Together” was the theme of the one-day forum.
Its aim was to promote and strengthen the spirit of moderation.
The Star has launched a campaign to remind readers that the newspaper has always been and will always be open to “Brave Views, Bold Ideas” but tempered by the voice of moderation.