The speeches by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday – one delivered by him at the national-level Christmas Open House in Penang and the other read out for him in Kuala Lumpur by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Paul Low, at the Christian Federation of Malaysia’s Christmas Hi-Tea – should have been received in elation by all reasonable and moderate Malaysians but this time, they failed to evoke such a response.
Why? Is it because men and women of reason and moderationn in Malaysia have become extremists rejecting the sentiments of moderation, harmony and co-existence preached by Najib in his two Christmas speeches yesterday?
This cannot be so and it is not so.
In his address at the National Christmas Open House celebration in Penang, Najib said both Christianity and Islam have common roots and are Abrahamic religions.
He noted that the Muslims may not be able to accept the Christian interpretation on the concept of God and vice versa for the Christians.
“So, rather than choosing this path of fighting over these differences, it is better that we find a common ground to preserve the peace, harmony and stability of the country.”
He told both groups to understand the sensitivities of each others’ religions so as not to offend one another.
“Muslims should not hurt the feelings of Christians and likewise, Christians should not hurt the feelings of Muslims.”
Very correct and commendable sentiments. Why should Malaysians be divided by an issue which had not been a cause for contention, dissension and division for the first half-century of the nation’s life?
In his speech prepared for the Christian Federation of Malaysia’s Christmas Hi-Tea, Najib said that a moderate and rational approach was needed to keep Malaysia peaceful and harmonious.
“I always believe that differences in religious faith is not a weakening factor in our society, but rather a strong element in nation building for it serves as a constant reminder that we have so much to share in common, the values which are universally accepted like patriotism, peace, love, kindness, helping the poor and needy, social justice and so on.
“We may differ in our faiths, but we are not divided.”
Men and women of reason and moderation have always been guided by these sentiments and values expounded by Najib yesterday, and they should have been very relieved that the Prime Minister is on the same page with them on the need for national policies to be guided by these principles.
Why then have the reaction to the two Najib speeches yesterday been less than adulatory, if not highly suspicious?
This is because the time has come for Najib, in the second term and fifth year as Malaysia’s sixth Prime Minister, to prove that he is a moderate by deed and conviction and not a political chameleon who alternates between moderation and immoderation in his speeches depending on the crowd and occasion.
For instance, when Najib took aim at politicians accused of stirring controversy for political gain and without regard for peace and harmony, Malaysians of reason and moderation fully agree with him – except they would disagree on the identity of the “irresponsible politicians” being referred to.
Najib said that he is aware of disagreements due to misunderstanding on certain issues among the people.
“Time and again, these have tested our resolve to remain a tolerant and peaceful nation. Like all tests that have come before, we have been exercising restraint in our responses yet resolute in defending our moderate and harmonious way of life.
“Irresponsible politicians who only seek short-term fame at the expense of harmony, will constantly evoke the sensitivities and fault lines to portray oneself as a hero for political mileage.
“I have always frowned upon such irresponsible conduct and I trust all citizens will view this conduct nothing but a folly.”
To Malaysian men and women, these “irresponsible politicians” described by Najib are mostly to be found in UMNO, and on a number of ocasions not excluding Najib himself, which are clearly not the people the Prime Minister has in mind.
This illustrates the wide gulf between the thinking and perceptions of the Prime Minister and Malaysians of reason and moderation.
How can Najib be the national and even international spokesman of moderation when he has to prove to Malaysians of reason and moderation that he is one of their number?
Najib has said that he is not interested in winning an argument or in winning a legal argument as his main concern is on pursuing harmony, peace and stability for the country.
This is a good basis for the ending of the recent worsening religious fault lines in our plural society and I fully endorse the proposal by the Archbishop Emeritus Tan Sri Murphy Pakian urging the Prime Minister to cement his own call for an end to Muslim-Christian hostility by withdrawing Putrajaya’s legal challenge against the Catholic Church’s use of “Allah”.
The ball is in Najib’s court to act on the message of moderation, harmony and co-existence of his two Christmas speeches yesterday. Will he or won’t he?