For most of us religion was never a choice! We were born into a family complete with its socio-cultural and religious beliefs and practices. We were brought up observing the rites of passage – birth, first moon, puberty, marriage, divorce, death – and learning the tenets of our religion. 

As young children we rote-learned by habitual repitition. Growing up we respectfully observed our elders and imbibed their beliefs. Growing older we listened to the sermons and searched the religious texts to confirm our faith. In middle age we are at one with ourselves and our God. We spread the love and peace that our religion teaches us among family and friends.

Unfortunately not all of us are blessed with a calming and inspirational spiritual journey. Not all of us have the education to develop an informed experience of religion. Not everyone is privileged to have the exposure which begets understanding. Some remain totally cocooned in their primitive ways.  

By reason of ignorance, prejudice, abuse, injustice and persecution in their lives there are those who develop intolerance, fear and hatred of people different from themselves. This bigotry comes in different forms manifesting itself in ethnic, racial, sexual, cultural, and religious discrimination.

Europe has seen the persecution of the Christians in ancient Rome, the Jews in the Middle Ages, the Catholics in Ireland and more recently the Muslims in Bosnia. Currently the Muslims in Palestine and other parts of the world are taking a beating from zealots and religious bigots of all denominations. The modern-day irony is that ignorance and prejudice persist despite man’s ingenuity. 

Apart from ignorance which breeds deep prejudices, an interesting explanation is that religious bigots vent their feelings of inadequacy, dependency and hostility towards those in authority on to another group. They transfer their own sense of low self esteem and feelings of worthlessness to another racial, cultural or religious group.

In a country like Malaysia where freedom of worship is enshrined in the Federal Constitution there is no room for any kind of religious bigotry. Zealots must be meted out the harshest public censure. Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism have the same ends – the enlightenment of the soul and the well- being of mankind.

Birth, Death, Infinity! Our rites and rituals may be different but our goals are the same. Our houses of worship , the mosques, churches and temples must be shown the highest reverence. Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists owe each other the utmost respect and kindness.

Malaysians must seriously introspect the first tenet of the Rukun Negara Kepercayaan Kepada Tuhan and live it!


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