10
Jun
13

MODERATE VOICES

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MODERATES NEED TO SPEAK UP

Published in The Sun on 9 June 2013

WHEN world leaders such as the then US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, endorsed the movement of moderates and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak made it his special platform at the international, regional and domestic levels, the express purpose was to counter the growth of religious extremism, in particular radicalism in the Muslim world.

The call for moderation was a timely move to galvanise the voices of international leaders in condemnation of terrorism, a dangerous trend which saw the systematic use of terror mainly by Muslim groups claiming to defend their territory and faith.

In the eyes of the perpetrators, they were reacting to the invasion and military occupation of their countries/territories in the Quranic spirit of jihad.

Western leaders aided by their media labelled this as “Islamic terrorism”, encouraging a wave of Islamophobia with its reactionary anger and deep-seated prejudice against Muslims.

There’s nothing more destructive than reactionary politics whether it takes place at the international or national level.

Branding and name-calling beget more of the same, and when this happens as a result of ignorance, misguided interpretation and prejudice, it creates a vicious circle of festering anger and aggression all waiting to burst at the slightest provocation.

It is of the greatest urgency, therefore, that all nations double their efforts to fight cross-border insurgencies as well as those within their own shores.

In Malaysia, moderation adopted the name wasatiyyah and The Wasattiyah Institute was officially established to promote moderation and harmony in Islam and to ensure modern Muslims adhere to the true spirit of the Quran, which is to spread love and peace.

According to their official website “The institute will interact with Muslim professionals, community leaders, scholars, students, non-government organisations and the masses in order to spread the word of peace and moderation as the basis of Islamic teachings.

It is also said that the institution is an alternative to combat terrorism and extremism that has been a plague in the Muslim world for so long.”

While national institutions and agencies have official roles and definitive functions, it is necessary for them to actively involve the public in realising them.

Ordinary Malaysians must hear the call for moderation clearly and be repeatedly reminded that the path of harmony is the right one, not only for Islam but also for the other faiths and denominations. Such calls from religious and community leaders have become too far and few between.

The voices of moderates who believe in peace, conscience and reason must prevail and ring louder across the spectrum of Malaysia’s multiethnic and multicultural communities to quell those that ironically scream out dissent and discord in the name of democracy.

And there are indeed many ordinary Malaysians who uphold the principles of moderation but are not speaking up publicly. Yet in emails and face-to-face communication, they provide the most calming and rational arguments.

Agreed, the issues of concern such as terrorism, violence and aggression and their causes, injustice and inequality, need urgent measures to contain them.

These small-group outbursts have the potential to escalate into mass protest if not sensitively handled by sensitive leaders.

However personal a cause is, leaders who are enlightened must surely know that inspiring rebellion against authority will only see citizens dissent in the same spirit of en masse revolt should they themselves step out of line.

Is this the national spirit that they want to instil and the legacy they wish to leave behind? Rather than stand and shout profanities, is it not better to sit down and engage one another sensibly?

It is time for moderate Malaysians to voice their concerns regarding this dangerous development in our society. Daily in the social media, blogs and internet news portals readers are fed with postings and comments which echo the discontentment among a certain sector of the outside community.

These are mainly the people who refuse to move out of their anti-establishment mood and authority-bashing mode into a more constructive discourse.

Mostly, they bring up the same issues of injustice and discrimination with the attendant problems of corruption and abuse (of authority). What they collectively fail to do is to analyse the issues objectively and suggest measures to improve systems and mechanisms.

For let’s face it, no nation is perfect; no government, faultless; no policy, flawless; no leader, invincible. But let’s move forward and better each in turn, or better still, simultaneously! Let’s learn from the furtive boo-boos in history and chart a modern path that is open and transparent.

If national policies have been unfair or discriminatory, they must be reformulated and efficiently implemented to demonstrate the spirit of democracy and egalitarianism that we so desire for our children and grandchildren. This is what all moderate Malaysians must speak up for.

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