No cause for paranoia


  • On The Beat
  • Sunday, 06 Jul 2014

It was a procession steeped in tradition and engulfed in religious solemnity as thousands of pilgrims and devotees as well as non-Christians converged at Malacca St. Peter's Church to partake in a Good Friday candlelight procession.-File picture

HERE we go again. This newspaper has just been given an unprecedented, if not unusual, distinction of being branded a “Christian extremist linked daily” and purportedly connected to some denomination banned in Singapore by a blogger.

I can only think of the Jehovah’s Wit­nesses, which was officially banned in the island republic as far back as 1972 supposedly on the grounds that its members refused to perform national service, salute the flag or swear oaths of allegiance to the state.

This denomination is also frowned upon by the mainstream churches in Malaysia.

I suppose we have plenty of liberals, secularists and moderates in the newsroom, but Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons, I surely can’t detect any.

But Christian-bashing has become fashionable in Malaysia, especially among some politicians, retired politicians, writers and some one-man-show non-governmental organisations.

It’s simple – the Christians are easy targets because they are among the smallest of the minority religious groups. Malaysia has an estimated 30 million people now with Muslims making up 61.3%, Buddhist 19.8%, Christians 9.2%, Hindus 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions 1.3% and others (either no religion, other religions or no information) at 2.1%, according to the 2010 census.

According to the same census, the breakdown of population by ethnicity of the three major groups is Malays (60.3%), Chinese (22.9%) and Indians (7.1%).

The reality is that the Chinese population has shrunk to half from its peak in 1957 when it was 45%.

It wouldn’t be a surprise either if there are now more foreigners, particularly Indonesians and Bangladeshis, than Indians.

Let’s look at the bigger picture. We are said to have over three million migrant workers, which is about 10% of the Malaysian population. Why is it that most of us feel there are more than the estimated numbers, especially illegal workers?

Look at the mess we have ended up with in Sabah, where 25% of the state’s three million population are said to be illegal foreigners, with some groups claiming the actual number could be as high as three million.

We all know how problematic it is for Malaysia to deal with the problems associated with these foreigners. From blatant armed intrusions to kidnapping, their activities continue to be a problem because of poor enforcement, lack of firepower, vast coastal areas to monitor and suspected corruption.

We have a big security hole to worry about. The last thing we need to get worked up over is some imagined threat from the minority Chinese and Christians in this country. Everyone in Malaysia should know that going by current trends, the Chinese community has been shrinking. Well, maybe some racist individuals with a warped sense of imagination might think otherwise.

Of all the racial groups, Malays and bumiputra fertility rates are at 2.8 children per woman, Chinese 1.8 children per woman and Indians 2.0 children per woman. It is also reported that Malay fertility rates are 56% higher than the Chinese and 40% higher than Indians.

In short, Malays are better at producing children than the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia. So it is also noticeable that Malays tend to have bigger families than the others.

Here’s the point – the sums obviously don’t add up if anyone still wants to make the Christians and Chinese as the bogeyman in Malaysian politics.

This is the political reality – except for tiny Penang, the Chinese voters can never make any serious impact on the political scene in any state in Malaysia.

It is the predominant Malay voters who have determined and shaped the political scenario in PAS-controlled Kelantan and the small majority Barisan Nasional-held Terengganu. So is the impact on PKR-led Selangor, which is where the Malay voters also play the most significant role.

The Chinese urban voters, with less understanding of the rural sentiments, have also often over-estimated their political strength, or rather the lack of it. Many often assume that their political beliefs are shared by everyone. Many rarely travel beyond Kepong or Bangsar, the urban enclaves, and they have little understanding of the political terrain in Malay rural settings.

In this murky situation, where the Chinese voters have increasingly become marginalised due to their decreasing numbers, many politicians have now tried to be the champion of the Malay community – using race and religion, unfortunately.

A few years ago, there was this incredulous claim by a state religious department that it had in its possession “talking Bibles” purportedly used for proselytising to Muslims. And before that, there were also claims that Christians were using solar-powered talking Bibles to convert the Muslims.

There are actually some who believe that there is some covert conspiracy to turn Malaysia into a Christian state. As with all religions, there will always be adherents who believe in everything their leaders, especially theologians, tell them.

It doesn’t help either when some church leaders take sides in politics, turning their pulpits into weekly government-bashing sermons. When you have openly taken sides and become partisan, then you must be prepared to face the political heat.

But the majority of Christians, whether in the peninsula or in Sabah and Sarawak, are just peace-loving people like all other Malaysians. We love Malaysia, our homeland, as much as our Muslim brethren.

We are passionate about giving Malaysia our best because this is our one and only country, and there is no cause for any selfish and paranoid politician to treat us as some kind of religious and security threat.

Moderate Malaysians, of which the majority of us are, believe that there is good in most people. All religions – Islam, Christianity or others – teach good values and, certainly, we should emphasise on the commonalities, especially the universal values that bind us together.

This country would never be able to achieve independence without the cooperation of all the races. Malaysia will never be what it is today without the diversity that is truly our strength.

Let’s spend our time on work that is more rewarding to the country instead of on mindless politics that split rather than bring Malaysians together.

If a shrinking community and a small religious group are seen as threats, then some of us have lost the plot and the ability to reason.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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