Let’s celebrate inclusivity and moderation this festive season

It is hoped that everyone in this country will come to appreciate the significance of these invaluable attributes, and learn to respect one another’s differences.

Today is the fifth day of the Chinese New Year. Allow me to take this opportunity to say “Happy New Year” to all our readers here.

When visiting or having gatherings with friends and relatives over the past few days, many people not only enjoyed the sumptuous spread of good food on the dining table, but often also washed it down with some beer, wine or Whiskey. Of course, there are plenty who would prefer Chinese tea and strictly no alcohol.

In addition, mutual visits among Malaysians from different cultural backgrounds during a festive season have evolved over the years into a veritable Malaysian hallmark. Many foreigners living here are immensely fascinated by our ethnic, religious and cultural diversity. The harmonious coexistence among people of different races, in particular, has impressed them tremendously.

We have been living like this for so many years on this land, because we believe in a spirit called inclusivity, and an attitude called moderation!

Every year during the Chinese New Year, my Malay neighbours would invariably drop by our house, and we would unfailingly reciprocate their goodwill on Hari Raya. We would never stay away from them just because of our cultural or religious differences because we believe in this spirit called inclusivity and the attitude of moderation.

After the results of the recent general election were released, non-Muslims in the country started to feel a powerful conservative gust initiated by PAS sweeping across much of our country. Forced to choose the lesser of the two evils, many of us would rather opt to support Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who still has many court cases awaiting him, because we did not want the country to fall into the hands of the advocates of religious conservatism and their Perikatan Nasional allies.

Gerakan president Dominic Lau said recently that he had arranged a “heart-to-heart” close-door dialogue with PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang to reflect the voices of non-Muslim community in hope of allaying the Islamophobia among non-Muslims in the country.

What I am trying to say is that non-Muslims in this country are absolutely not resisting Islam, and that there is no Islamophobia among us, although we do feel uneasy with some of the things PAS has done in the name of religion.

Take for example, PAS’ Permatang Pauh MP Muhammad Fawwaz Mohamad Jan stormed into Sunway Carnival in an attempt to block a beer promotional event at the Seberang Jaya mall. He said he had received complaints from some Muslims arguing that such major beer promotional event had made Muslims feel uncomfortable.

Obviously the MP’s move was meant to incite public emotion ahead of the state election in Penang and elsewhere. And this also proves that Dominic Lau’s attempt to whitewash PAS’ extremist image has failed badly, making it even harder for non-Muslims to change their deep-rooted perception of the Islamist party.

Actually, if we care to look back at all those little things we have experienced and shared in our day-to-day life with our fellow Malaysians from other cultural backgrounds, we should be able to feel that there is indeed this spirit called inclusivity, and attitude called moderation in this beloved country of ours.

1. Muslims in the country offer their subuh prayers early in the morning each day, and non-Muslims still sleeping soundly have learned to accept this unique Malaysian way of living with a respectful and accommodating heart, as the sounds of prayers are blasted through the mosque speakers disrupting their sleep.

We do this because of this thing called “inclusivity.”

2. Every time during Chinese New Year, Hari Raya or Deepavali, deafening fireworks will explode in the night sky as soon as the clock strikes twelve, but no one will feel offended by the sleep-depleting noise because we will simply share their joy and celebrate together, for we believe in the spirit of inclusivity!

I regularly attend luncheons or dinners the prime minister or ministers host for the chief editors. Occasionally beef is served on the table, but I as a Buddhist will never feel offended or uncomfortable, because deep inside me I believe in this spirit called inclusivity.

Malaysians of different races have been able to live together peacefully since the dawn of nationhood as we embrace our diversity, mingle together and respect one another with a spirit called inclusivity, and attitude called moderation.

Such a unique way of living must be passed down to our future generations. Each and every one of us has this obligation to promote such merits and embed them in our everyday life.

As a media practitioner, I am convinced that I can use the humble pen in my hand to help promote national unity by carrying heart-warming reports of great deeds among Malaysians which can be shared and appreciated by all irrespective of race and religion, with the objective of fortifying our inclusivity in molding a strong and moderate multicultural society.

And this is the one thing I have been doing since taking over as Sin Chew Daily’s editor-in-chief in 2016, because I see the importance of inclusivity and moderation.

It is my sincere hope that everyone in this country will come to appreciate the significance of these two invaluable attributes, and learn to respect one another’s religions, cultures and lifestyles.

Many non-bumiputras tend to feel marginalised or even sidelined, but Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim assured us that his unity government would not allow this thing to happen again in future, while launching the “Malaysia Madani” concept lately.

By right our politicians should portray themselves as role models for the rakyat, and respect one another’s differences with an inclusive heart instead of enforcing their narrow-minded value into other people.

So long as we insist in inclusivity and moderation, the Malaysian society will continue to thrive in peace and harmony and foreign investments will flock into the country, bringing greater prosperity to all Malaysians!

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