The world is watching

by R. Nadeswaran
The Sun
Posted 7 August 2011 – 07:43pm

READERS will remember that in the past, this columnist had refused to touch on race, religion and politics. Today, an intrepid step is being taken to address an issue which has tarnished the name of the country. The actions of a few have embarrassed all Malaysians, especially our leaders who exemplify moderation, tolerance and restraint. The many words of our founding fathers and their successors appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Instead, selfish individuals are defying the government in their zest to impose their own beliefs and values without any consideration whatsoever.

In May, I was sitting in the audience and applauded after the prime minister gave a resounding talk on Islam and moderation at Oxford. Quoting the Torah, the Bible and the Quran, he explained Malaysia’s success in embracing multi-cultures and multi-religions. Two weeks later, watching the royal wedding on television at a street party, I gladly pointed out to English friends the presence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Raja Permaisuri at Westminster Abbey.

My English friends asked me about religious restrictions and my reply was: “As far as I know, Islam does not restrict its followers from entering a church. I have met many Muslim colleagues and friends who attend church weddings.” The king of Malaysia, they were told, is head of Islam in Malaysia like the queen of England is the head of religion in England. Last month, the prime minister was granted an audience with the pope with a view to establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican, endorsing our country’s temperance on religion.

These actions reinforced the principle that although Islam is the official religion, there’s room for other faiths to co-exist without any fear or harassment. It took just a few hours last Wednesday to demolish these efforts of promoting a “moderate Malaysia” to the world. The raid at the community hall of the Methodist Church in Petaling Jaya and its repercussions reverberated around the world, painting Malaysia and the religion as intolerant establishments.

One publication summed up the action as “religious police harassed Christians attending a dinner”. Sitting away from Malaysia, one cannot make a valid judgment and verify such claims, but reading online versions from Malaysia and around the world, one cannot deny that, yet again, we have shot ourselves in the foot.

A report filed by the Associated Press which has thousands of subscribers said: “Malaysian Christian officials accused Islamic authorities on Thursday of unlawfully entering a church and harassing guests at a community dinner. The incident reignited criticism that authorities in the Muslim-majority country fail to respect the rights of Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities. Government officials have repeatedly denied being unfair to minorities, despite complaints about a wide range of issues including court disputes involving religious conversions and restrictions against Malay-language Bibles.”

This and others by news agencies have put not only Malaysia in bad light, but Islam itself. To make matters worse, British newspapers reported on Friday that a Westminster court had found four Muslims guilty of putting up posters declaring “Christmas to be evil”. The posters claimed Christmas was “responsible for rape, teenage pregnancies, abortion, promiscuity and paedophilia.” Reading both reports together could very well present an entirely different picture.

The four may have acted as individuals and may not have belonged to any religious organisation or were backed by any group but their actions have resulted in the religion being perceived as intolerant. Similarly, the raid in Malaysia may have been carried out by religious officers, but when it makes the news, it is perceived and reported as “Malaysian religious police”, although we do not have a separate arm of the Royal Malaysian Police enforcing religious diktat.

When government servants misuse or abuse their powers, it is reflected on the state and the leadership. People who read the reports tend to attach labels to both the country and the religion.

The government and its leaders are spending time, effort and money in trying to promote Malaysia both as a holiday destination and for investment opportunities. Besides, we are wooing talent from abroad. What messages are we conveying to them with such actions? We have to take immediate steps to change the perception of the outside world by re-emphasising that religious acceptance – not mere tolerance – is the hallmark of our multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. That means that the actions of zealots and fanatics must be curtailed and those who choose to misuse and abuse their power must be dealt with severely.

To the legal mind, it may be just trespass because religious officers have no power of search and entry. It is much more than that. If a group that allegedly distributed pamphlets and was in possession of T-shirts can be charged with subversion, than what these officers have done is much more serious. Let us be reminded that the world is watching and if nothing is done, let us not blame anyone but ourselves for being labelled in the same lines as Iran or Zimbabwe. The western media, the opposition or “anti-national” elements should not be the scapegoats for the country being pigeon-holed and written off as intolerant and insensitive.

R. Nadeswaran is compelled to make a stand as the actions of a few are hurting all Malaysians. He is theSun’s UK correspondent based in London and can be contacted at: [email protected]

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Monday, 8 August 2011 - 11:56 am

    The whole raiding of Methodist Church is NOT about religion, its not about Islam, its not about Christians or Churches. Its not even about real politics.

    Its fundamentally about people that don’t care about real issues of Malaysian in general. These are people more concern about being right about what they think and benefitting from that thinking than they are about fixing real problems of Malaysians that they don’t want and don’t have to be concern about.

    In other words, it was about selfishness and self-centredness with religion and politics all wrapped up in it as an excuse,

    The problem is, these people don’t care what the world thinks. They don’t care what Malaysian think, they certaintly could give a hoot what Christians and especially, even hate, those that don’t think they deserve any attention at all.

  2. #2 by k1980 on Monday, 8 August 2011 - 12:04 pm

    //In May, I was sitting in the audience and applauded after the prime minister gave a resounding talk on Islam and moderation at Oxford. Quoting the Torah, the Bible and the Quran, he explained Malaysia’s success in embracing multi-cultures and multi-religions. //

    That’s what a snake forked tongue is for. To speak 2 languages– one to fool the foreigners abroad and another to fool the locals within. Try holding a Torah in Bolehsia and you will be arrested for insulting the “master race”

  3. #3 by drngsc on Monday, 8 August 2011 - 12:08 pm

    Well written Nades.
    I wonder what the King ( head of Islam in Malaysia ) was thinking when he was in the Westminister Abbey, looking at the cross, listening to the hymns and the prays recited??

    In Malaysia, Islam is severely corrupted by selfish politicians, who have no qualms about using Islam for their own selfish ends. They are prepared to cause racial religious strife, and disharmony. So sad.

    We must change the tenant at Putrajaya. GE 13 is our best chance. Let us all work hard, to cvhange the tenant at Putrajaya.

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Monday, 8 August 2011 - 12:08 pm

    Finger pointing, who was responsible? Was it UmnoB or BTN or Perkosa? No. HAli n Jais – fr where? Selangor! PAS n PR must b responsible lor, must answer lah

  5. #5 by dagen on Monday, 8 August 2011 - 1:25 pm

    Dear drngsc,

    Dont you know? He had his ears plugged with miniature encoding machines and his pupils fitted with special polarised lenses. Both are super top israeli military secrets of course.

    The word “Jesus” when spoken would be encoded and reproduced as “kekayaan” etc. Errm I cant mention what the polarised lenses do. It is not appropriate. It sort of well, sort of … .

  6. #6 by boh-liao on Monday, 8 August 2011 - 1:47 pm

    With frens like HAli n Jais, PAS n PR/DAP/PKR don’t need enemies but they need robotic prosthetic legs cos they keep shooting themselves in d feet, 该死
    Now MCA n Gerakan got bullets 2 shoot at DAP/PKR/PR – tembak lor

  7. #7 by cemerlang on Monday, 8 August 2011 - 4:33 pm

    wow…islam is so holy…so good…but once you go in, you can never come out…

  8. #8 by Cinapek on Monday, 8 August 2011 - 5:33 pm

    Why does JAIS and the Selangor Govt. takes no many days to come out with a report and a clarification on something so serious? If JAIS has justification for the raid and done nothing wrong, it is just a simple matter to clarify the issue. The longer they take to make a clarification the more hollow the report will sound when it finally comes out because it smacks of attempts at cover up.

    The Penang controversy alleging that Christians are plotting a takeover of the Govt and the Home MInister’s infamous snide remark that “there seems to be justification for the report” has never been explained until today despite promises of police investigations etc. Why? Because it was lie? And the facts, if revealed, would embarass UTUSAN and their UMNO masters and might even lead to strident calls for appropriate punishments to be taken against these liars and also make the Home Minister look biased and irresponsible for his comment?

    Mr Minister, trying to stay silent and hope it will fade away will not work. We will remember and continue to remind you of your total abdication of your responsibility. Because by keeping quiet and breaking your promise to reveal the truth you have sent a strong message to your [deleted] to continue their lies leading to further damage to interreligious relationships which no amount of PR work by your cousin boss will cure. If anything, it makes him look like a co-conspirator to these lies and makes a mockery of his international proclamations of “moderation and acceptance”.

    What a sick joke!!!

  9. #9 by k1980 on Monday, 8 August 2011 - 5:55 pm

    //In May, I was sitting in the audience and applauded after the prime minister gave a resounding talk on Islam and moderation at Oxford. Quoting the Torah, the Bible and the Quran, he explained Malaysia’s success in embracing multi-cultures and multi-religions. //

    Malaysia’s success in embracing moderation so much so that wearing yellow is a criminal act? Nades, you should had walked out of that room as soon as the word “moderation” left his mouth. Then Queen Elizabeth would be obliged to award you with an OBE with the title “Sir Nades”

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