Today, the world begins a week-long celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week (3rd – 9th Feb) first proposed by King Abdullah of Jordan and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in October 2010 to spread the message of harmony and tolerance among the followers of the three monotheistic faiths and all the world’s religions.
It also seeks to promote the common basis of “Love of God and Love of the Neighbour, Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour” among religions to safeguard world peace.
Malaysia was in the global forefront last year in the celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week.
The Prime Minister not only visited the places of worship of the nation’s five main religions in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, but also addressed a gathering of religious leaders at his official residence in Seri Perdana.
At this gathering, Najib stressed that the “World Interfaith Harmony Week” sought to raise awareness and understanding between religions, for universal peace and drive the world to be more progressive and prosperous.
He said that all faiths in principle promote moderation, through conduct and words.
He also boasted that “if there is a country which wants to showcase itself as a model of multiracial unity, I don’t think there is a country better than Malaysia”.
Najib would not dare to repeat such a boast 12 months later in this year’s World Interfaith Harmony Week, as Malaysia has fallen from its pedestal as a model of interfaith harmony.
In fact, in the past weeks and months, Malaysia has become a sick example of “interfaith disharmony” in a multi-racial multi-religious country.
What is worse and most deplorable, Najib as Prime Minister did nothing in the past few weeks and months to stop or check the seditious and treacherous conduct of a small number of irresponsible and reckless people to incite racial and religious hatred, tension and conflict to create racial chaos and religious conflagration in plural Malaysia.
Last Friday’s sermon of the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) ,which comes under the Prime Minister’s Department, was the best example as it incited inter-religious acrimony, animosity and hatred instead of spreading the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the mosques, churches, temples, synagogues and other places of worship.
Najib should take serious note of the World Interfaith Harmony Week message of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said:
“It is imperative that the moderate majority is empowered to stand firm against the forces of extremism. But, this can only be achieved through strong leadership.”
Najib failed the moderate majority in Malaysia in recent months as he defaulted in standing firm against the forces of extremism in Malaysia, who were allowed a free hand to escalate their incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension to destabilize the country and most blatantly and wantonly to even raise the spectre of May 13 riots.
Does the right hand of Najib know what his left hand is doing?
How can he allow Jakim under the PMO to incite religious acrimony, animosity and hatred while another department in PMO, the Department of National Unity and Integration is entrusted with promoting inter-racial and inter-religious goodwill, understanding and harmony?
On the occasion of the 2014 World Interfaith Harmony Week, will Najib provide the necessary leadership as Prime Minister of Malaysia?
I visited the website of the National Unity and Integration of the Prime Minister’s Department to find out what are the activities planned by the government to celebrate the 2014 World Interfaith Hamrony Week, but I could not find any reference to any such programme, as if the Department is quite abashed about the whole subject this year.
However, there are silver linings to the black clouds from the incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension to destabilize the country – that the moderate Malaysians from all races and religions are beginning to move and speak up as they are not prepared to allow the country’s inter-racial and inter-religious unity, goodwill, understanding and harmony to be torn asunder by a small group of irresponsible and reckless traitors out to achieve their nefarious and treacherous ends.
The “silver lining” incidents of Malaysian moderates from all religions speaking up dissociating themselves from the forces of extremism include:
• Flower-bearing progressive Muslims led by Datuk Paduka Marina Mahathir who took a stand outside the Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Klang on Sunday, January 5, as mass was in session to send a clear message that Islam is a religion of peace and to show solidarity and defend Christian Malaysians from a conservative Muslim group threatening protest;
• The revelation by the Council of Churches secretary-general Herman Shastri that the Church, over the years, engaged with several prime ministers over the fears that the use of the word ‘Allah’ by Christians in the Malay language Bible could confuse Muslims, but the three Prime Ministers, Tun Mahathir, Tun Abdullah and Najib had all failed to uphold the formula worked out with them – the latest being the 10-Point Solution to resolve the Bible controversy endorsed by the Federal Cabinet in April 2011;
• Shastri’s reaffirmation that the Christian community is committed to peaceful negotiations and solution because of the sensitivity of the matter;
• The statement by Tan Sri Razali Ismail, the Chairman of the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF) that Malaysians should reject the “extreme position” taken by the “minority factions” in the country opposing Christians’ use of the word ‘Allah’;
• A group of ordinary Malaysians, dressed in purple, who handed out flowers, candies and bookmarks at Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park on Sunday Jan 26 to promote interfaith solidarity and peace; as social activist Azrujl Mohd Khalib said: “We must reject this hatred, we believe in a pluralistic society, one which is united regardless of different creed, religion and race”.
• A group of Malaysians led by Ally Hazran Hashim and his friends handing out oranges, goodies and flowers at the Kajang Holy Family Church yesterday to foster ties between Muslims and non-Muslims.
• Incident-free Sunday in Penang after the Molotov cocktail attack on the Church of the Assumption and the hanging of provocative banners with the word of Allah outside five churches without the knowledge of the church authorities. Tribute to the no-nonsense warning given by the Penang Chief Police Officer Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi of a war against those out to stoke religious tensions with a 283-strong police squad to monitor all places of worship in the state.
I call on all patriots and moderates in Malaysia to step forward to commemorate World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014 with the resolve to make Malaysia a global model of interfaith harmony and not example of inter-faith acrimony, strife and conflict, by dissociating themselves from the extremists and traitors in the country who want to create chaos and conflagration with their irresponsible and reckless incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tensions.
Let them in their everyday life and own circle of contact spread the message of inter-religious unity, goodwill and harmony. It is now left to the moderates of all races and religions to save Malaysia from the extremists and traitors!