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Friday, May 19, 2017

How about more conviction in our own faith?

If an individual's conviction in their own faith is strong and steadfast, no amount of external influences, no matter how persuasive, would be able to shake that belief.
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I am not entirely sure that filing a police report against Universiti Utara Malaysia’s (UUM) Malaysian Institute for Political Studies’ director, Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, was the right thing for Hannah Yeoh to do.
The Subang Jaya assemblywoman should have instead sent him a gift and a heart-felt thank you card for generously creating so much free publicity for her book ‘Becoming Hannah: A Personal Journey’.
In fact, Yeoh should seriously consider hiring Kamarul as her publicist for he has most certainly done a stellar job of thrusting her book into the limelight and getting many Malaysians all over the country to engage in discussion about it.
I personally didn’t even know such a book existed prior to this entire debacle and I imagine that many others were equally unaware about the existence of Yeoh’s autobiography, until the university lecturer very kindly directed our attention to it.
Kamarul’s review of the publication is so convincing and persuasive that I am highly tempted to go out and purchase a copy of the book for myself, so I too can see first-hand the amazing effects he claims it is able to have on those who read it.
The academic’s critique however, comes with a grave warning about the narrative, which he claims is so compelling that it is able to influence readers into admiring the greatness of Yeoh’s God and the Christian faith.
The biography detailing the Selangor State Assembly Speaker’s rise to political prominence and her personal recount about her life thus far, according to Kamarul, contains elements of proselytisation.
The lecturer therefore strongly feels that the book should not be made easily available to the general public and should instead be subjected to certain restrictions due to its many references to the Bible and Christianity.
Evidently a story about an individual crediting their faith with shaping them into becoming a successful public figure and providing them with strong ethics and good values, is somewhat of a dangerous element and something we should all be extremely cautious about.
As an academic himself, not to mention, the head of an institute within a university, I imagine that Kamarul is familiar with the basic concept of books and how they work.
For starters, a book is a motionless entity. It is not capable of flinging itself at someone, flipping its pages independently and burying its contents in someone’s face or forcing someone to read it.
One can safely walk past a book without worrying about it affecting them or influencing their thoughts in any way.
Even after one chooses to open and read a book, if one finds the contents offensive or not to one’s taste, one has the option of closing the book, putting it down and walking away.
The book has absolutely no power to chase after someone and force them to absorb its information from cover to cover until the last page.
As for Kamarul’s worries about the book’s predominantly Christian theme and his alleged claims that Yeoh may have broken the law by trying to incite Muslims to become a member of a non-Islamic religion, perhaps some rational and reasonable intellection might be able to assuage his concerns.
If an individual’s conviction in their own faith is strong and steadfast, no amount of external influences, no matter how persuasive, should be able to shake that belief.
No number of quotes from the Bible and no amount of praise for the Christian God should be able to alter, even in the slightest, a non-Christian’s religious compass, if that person’s faith was based on an exceptionally firm, unshakeable and solid foundation to begin with.
Seeing the good in a religion that may be different to ours and learning about the successful journey of an individual shaped by a different faith, will not and should not in any way compromise nor diminish the value and worth of our own belief systems.
If we know, without a flicker of a doubt that WHO and what we belief in, is unquestionably all that counts, then everything else should cease to matter.
The beauty and greatness of our own faith and values, cannot in any way be marred or swayed by those of others, unless we ourselves allow, through our own doubts and uncertainties, for our convictions to be open to influence.
It truly is about time that we learnt to live and let live.
Gayatri Unsworth is an FMT columnist.

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