An open letter to a Malaysian friend

Dear friend,

I feel compelled to write this letter to you due to recent events that are of concern to you and me.

Some weeks ago, a group of people gathered in front of your house of worship and demanded that you remove the symbol of your religion.

They claim that the symbol, an important part of your faith, offends them and that it may lead their children astray. They claim that you have no business worshipping in a place where you are the minority.

I know that you are troubled. The gathering in front of your house of worship is the latest in a series of worrying development in the inter-racial and inter-religious relationship of our society. One by one, your rights are being questioned and denied; both by institutions of the state and non-state entities.

Loud voices are asserting certain entitlements, even at the expense of your rights and liberties, because they are the majority. It also seems that voices to the contrary are not as loud. Our leaders have either been silent, or complicit in this state of affairs.

It must seem to you that we are drifting further and further apart, and nothing can be done to stop it.

This nation is founded on a set of ideals. It is founded on liberty and justice, peace and harmony. Our Constitution protects the rights of minority communities and faiths. Our diversity is supposed to be our source of strength, instead the differences between us have now become the fault lines of our society; the cause of tension and friction.

The nation dreamt of by those who strove to unshackle this country from the chains of colonisation and those who founded this country must now seem like some utopian fantasy. Not just improbable but impossible - or so it seems.

You must feel very lonely in the wake of the chorus of loud voices that are slowly but surely eating away at the rights guaranteed to you by the fundamental law of this federation.

But you are not alone, my friend. Believe me, we are in the same boat. You have never, and will never, be alone.

When the name you use to invoke the Creator is denied to you, I feel for you. When your sacred animal is paraded to protest against your temple, I am just as outraged as you are. When your children are taken away with seemingly no way to seek redress, I cry with you. And when your loyalty is constantly questioned and you are told again and again to return to your country of your ancestors, I too am offended.

I will stand up for your rights just as I know you will stand up for mine. I will speak up for you as you will speak up for me.

If we do nothing, it does seem like that dark days are ahead. If we do not arrest this regression, the future seems bleak. I know not of what tomorrow may hold for you and me.

But I know that we must stay united. The bonds we forged through blood, sweat and tears are stronger than those who seek to tear us apart. We must not succumb to those whose interest it is to see us divided and broken.

They speak in the language of hate, prejudice and divisiveness. We will speak in a language of trust, unity and acceptance.

The fate of this country lies in our very own hands. Yours, mine and all those who believe in each other - all those who believe that there is a place in the Malaysian sun for everyone, regardless of colour, creed, race or religion. To prevail against this great challenge, we must put our faith in the bonds we forged. We must believe in each other as fellow countrymen.

I end this letter, my friend, by reminding us that we share a common destiny. What we are destined for, I know not. But if we face it together, we will be the masters of our own fate.

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Religion , Moderation


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