What will it take to build a truly harmonious Malaysia

  • In Your Face
  • Saturday, 08 Dec 2018

I don't think anyone can deny that a lot - and I mean a lot - has been said about race and religion lately. It's something you can't avoid no matter how much you try, and that's to be expected in today's Malaysia with issues like International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) or the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in USJ25.

Like it or not, we're being saturated with messages both true and false and rhetoric both heated and calling for calm, and it seems to have come to a point where Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo has come out saying it is necessary to press pause on the suspension that the Pakatan Harapan government has put in place when it comes to laws deemed draconian.

Indeed, Gobind clarified that the moratorium that is being lifted on several laws, namely the Prevention of Crime Act (Amendment) 2017 (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), Sedition Act 1948 and Security Offences Special Measures Act (Sosma) is limited to incidents that threaten national security, public order, and race relations.

At this point, I'd like to say that the revival of these laws is just a stopgap measure. They might be necessary to keep all of us safe in the short-term, but they won't dampen the fires of racial and religious hate in the long-term.

To put it bluntly, we won't be sitting round the fire singing Kumbayaa anytime soon if all we have to motivate us are the shadows of the sticks above our heads unaccompanied by the sweet smell and taste of the carrots to motivate us to get things right.

Basically, we need to see and feel the benefits of harmony and help our children to truly feel these benefits from an early age - as only then do we have a hope of rhetoric-proofing the next generation.

So with that said, how do we do it? The first step begins with how we speak to our children; when they point out people who are differently dressed or speak a different language or pray differently from us - we tell them about the positivity of diversity.

We need to remind them that that at the end of the day, they are also people with their own hopes, fears and dreams and that as far as we can we should strive to find the joys and passions we share and come together in celebration of those passions - as naive as that sounds, it's probably the best way.

Aside from this, another thing we could do is to pick up book on the dos and don'ts of different cultures, religions and ways of life, or even Googling up reliable websites to learn those dos and don'ts to build a foundation for our interaction with people from different cultures, religions and ways of life.

We can then build on this by making sincere efforts to get to know our colleagues, classmates, or even neighbours of different races and religions.

A good way to do that is to celebrate their festivals with them, and to invite them to celebrate our festivals with us, as cliched as that might sound.

And we can also help in the process by being approachable and knowledgeable in our own culture, religion or way of life as we can build bridges by being open to questions and giving reasoned, informed answers to those questions.

Ultimately, we have a lot going for us as Malaysians - if only we can truly embrace the maturity we need to do the right thing and tap into it, filtering out the rhetoric of hate as we go about our day.

We just have to keep working at building those bonds until nothing can get to us.

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Opinion , In Your Face , Tan Yi Liang , Icerd , temple


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