Malaysians caught in a cultural gridlock

Terence Netto
Nov 6, 2011


At least, we have the MRT, the biggest infrastructure project in Malaysian history, on the cards to ease the traffic jams that have been building up on our roads, particularly in the Klang Valley, over the past three decades.

But what solvents are there for the cultural stalemates we increasingly encounter these days, those that threaten to render public discourse in the country an exercise in which the argumentative appear to be talking to the deaf.

Strident Muslim groups, aided and abetted by a ham-fisted police force, frowned on an annual rite of commiseration for gays, lesbians, transgender and transvestites because, they asserted, it would promote an alternative lifestyle considered repugnant in some religious traditions.

People of unconventional sexuality are outraged and their sympathisers appalled because the police have moved in to stop Seksualiti Merdeka’s annual workshop on the grounds that the project is a threat to national amity.

The ban supposedly placates Muslim sensitivities, thought to have been rendered taut by the suspicion that proponents of unconventional sexuality are pushing to have their orientation given public respect.

Muslim sensitivities are Muslim sensitivities, but in a plural society they are not the only sensitivities extant.

Slaughter of cows in schools

Today is the feast of the sacrifice (Aidil Adha) for Muslims. In mosques and other places the ritual slaughter of cows is held, considered de rigueur in imitation of Patriarch Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram on Mount Moriah, the seminal event that launched the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Ritual slaughter of cows within designated spheres ought to be no problem, even to those to whom the animal being slaughtered is an object of reverence.

But when it is held, in extended celebration of the feast of the sacrifice, in places not usually known to be the proper ones for such rituals, it hints at an overweening sensibility. Like grass overgrowing its verge, it ought to be pruned.

The NGO for non-Muslims religions, MCCBCHST, have implored the authorities not to allow the ritual slaughter of cows in schools because not only are educational institutions not the proper place for staging such spectacles, but the action itself is deemed insensitive to Hindus and Buddhists to whom cows are scared.

So authorities who earlier appeared to be inordinately solicitous of the sensitivities of one set of religious believers are now requested to be mildly respectful of the beliefs of other sets of believers.

It is just the situation for a bout of harrumphing by the Oxford don, Richard Dawkins, who is the world’s most renowned atheist.

In his book, ‘The God Delusion’, in a few years back, he famously proposed the theory of “memes”, which would make religious belief a kind of dangerous virus of the mind.

Respect for certain boundaries

But Dawkins’ argument for the futility, obsolescence, and ludicrousness of religious belief is likely to meet the same fate as Marx’s prediction that nationalism would disappear as a force in the world once the working class become the owners of the means of production: burial by history from much contradiction.

Because the religions are here to stay, their sensitivities are in for the long haul. For that reason, it is politic for everyone to join in the reining of the overweening and allow for respect for obvious boundaries.

But, in plural societies, the problem is that what may be obvious to the goose may not so for the gander.

Still, common sense, which only an overweening sensibility would be in revolt against, impels the respect of boundaries.

Pushing the envelope in matters of religious sensitivities is unwise. So long as sensitivities are regarded as a two-way street, their placation would not entail too much a sacrifice of sacred principle.

Otherwise, in a multiracial, multi-religious society, the gridlocks that would be engendered would be such that people would much prefer being stalled in vehicular jams than in cultural dead-ends.

The latter would induce people to feel about others the way existentialist philosopher Jean Paul-Satre observed: “Hell is other people.”

  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 8:58 pm

    The United Nations has resolved against discrimination gays, lesbians, and transgender. To discriminate against persons based on sexuality is a violation of human rights.

    Malaysia however is serving on UN Human Rights Council.

    Yet our authorities have banned Seksualiti Merdeka’s annual sexuality rights festival seeking public recognition of Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)’s rights .

    What is Pakatan Rakyat’s position on this ban of Seksualiti Merdeka’s festival, if indeed it has a position?

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 11:31 pm

    The banning of Seksualiti Merdeka merely reflects the infantile mindsets of our ministers/leaders.

  3. #3 by tak tahan on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 11:33 pm

    Aiyah,why care so much about people’s sexual orientation?Wake up Malaysian,as long you keep true faith to yourself,nobody will harm you or can influence you.Everbody regardless of race,gender,creed has his/her right.No?Then question God yourself why this and that kind of entity is created so.Easy way is to blame God lor.Habis cerita.

  4. #4 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 12:09 am

    In Spain, bull fighting is no longer allowed. A human being is supposed to be much cleverer than a bull. With that kind of cleverness, shouldn’t a human have better things to do than to find pleasure in torturing the animal before thrusting the sword into its’ heart ? We say go green and eat green. As for this gay thingy, there are many issues. Please be reminded that Malaysia is not exactly westernized, not exactly democratised, not exactly this and not exactly that. So if so and so come out and say he or she is a gay, can you accept ? In fact, few Malaysians have already made headlines because of their gayness. Question to you Malaysians, how far can you take this gay issue thing ? Will you the law legalize this gay marriage thing ? You know that Christain gay pastor got married in New York to that man. Real issues. If hudud exists, imagine what will happen ?

  5. #5 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 12:38 am

    Way to go,Malaysian,be more mature and accept everyone else without prejudice and one track mind.Respect every god’s created being and don’t try to be superior than God.The present general outcome is exactly how our nation has been fooled around by the self-appointed Umno-God-non-progressive social,welfare and economic.

  6. #6 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 7:24 am

    Watch the video for the Islamic way of sentencing a person to death.

  7. #7 by monsterball on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 7:27 am

    When you keep on feeding chosen Malaysians like babies…from day one born non stop…these babies becoming adults..have lost their natural will power to survive and become meek and mild…where their hormones changes to be floating …undecided…be a man or a woman…for they become totally illogical people…where easy money given by the the cause of their beings.
    This is Malaysia’s Dr.Frankenstein…with different name. We call him Dr.Mahathir.

  8. #8 by Godfather on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 8:40 am

    You can’t win an argument today if the other party invokes religion.

  9. #9 by dagen on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 9:15 am

    We are being anti-agung, anti-sultan, anti-islam jenis umno, anti-melayu (actually umnoputra), unpatriotic, ungrateful, communist, terrorist etc etc here merely by discussing this issue. But yeah, WTF!

    Umno started this sensitivity thingy; no this super mega hyper sensitivity thingy about islam jenis umno. And it started because umno, begining with dr mamak, gave the malays (actually umnoputras) the stupid idea that they (actually umnoputras) are a supreme race in the world. And being supreme, they have special rights; special and untouchable rights; special, untouchable and unquestionable rights; special, untouchable, unquestionable rights that must be protected and defended at all costs even against any and all perceived minority threats. And because they are special rights that are untouchable and unquestionable, those rights naturally turned into super sensitive issues.

    So you see umno, with the passage of time the rights have accumulated varioys parts and pieces in large numbers. In fact the rights have accumulated enough of them for it to morph into a whole being. No, more like a monster. And worse, the monster has taken on an identity and character of its own. I think the monster wants to eat you, umno, up.

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