By Syerleena Abdul Rashid
Malaysian society has now devolved into a society that has become increasingly rage driven, polarised and strident for all the wrong reasons. We find our loyalty tried and tested especially in matters concerning faith, beliefs and tradition. As the elections draw closer, the tendency to exploit such issues will indeed intensify. Political organisations and politicians from the opposition will be demonised by the ruling regime and their lackeys because those in power will do everything they can to maintain the status quo, no matter how destructive that can be for a nation. As a result, Malaysians can no longer have legitimate differing opinions without being branded apostate, traitor and heretic or accused of proselytisation.
Recently, Universiti Utara Malaysia lecturer Kamarul Zaman Yusuf lodged a police report against Hannah Yeoh for allegedly driving a “Christian agenda” through her book “Becoming Hannah: A Personal Journey by Hannah Yeoh” (published in January 2015). According to Kamarul, he was shocked to discover that the book had included excerpts from the Bible, hence, foolishly deducing that the book was an attempt to ‘persuade, influence or incite non-Christians including Muslims to embrace Christianity or become inclined towards Christianity’.
Any sound minded Malaysian would laugh at the absurdity of his remark and quite possibly question his credentials as a learned academician but we know too well how the overzealous and self-righteous have taken the Malaysian Constitution hostage in their never ending quest of unrelenting piety.
One cannot disagree that every religion’s core identity strongly emphasises exclusivity but what is also stressed upon is mutual understanding; while maintaining faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect and appreciate other beliefs. After all, this is the quintessence of Article 11 (freedom of religion) of the Malaysian Constitution and the essence of multiculturalism. Kamarul and his ilk should delve deeper and attempt to understand the constitution in the way our forefathers and foremothers had envisioned.
Hannah Yeoh, who is a second term state assemblyperson and a fellow DAP comrade, has done nothing wrong and is an obvious victim of malicious slander by dodgy individuals who may or may not have hidden political motives. DAP is party that upholds “fundamental right of freedom of religion which encompasses the freedom of the respective religions from being subject to oppressive laws and discriminatory acts” by restoring the “Malaysian Constitution in its original secular framework as the supreme law of the land which respects democratic values and basic human rights” – these rights are extended to every Malaysian citizen irrespective of race, religion, gender and social class. Thus, it is obvious that the notion of social equitability does not sit too well with the ruling regime – whose lifeline relies solely on hate filled rhetoric and unabashed bigotry.
Islam preserves compassion as a core spiritual principle which is reflected in the very name of God (the compassionate and merciful) that appears at the beginning of every chapter in the Quran and because of this, a Muslim should always show love and respect towards all of Allah’s creations, regardless of what religion they practice. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) once said, “Make religion easy for others to follow; do not make it difficult. Similarly, present religion in a pleasing manner; do not make it repulsive to others.” The Prophet vigorously promoted peace, tolerance and compassion for all including non-Muslim minorities. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case as we now live in a time where the opposite is being propagated and accepted.
Using half-baked accusations such as driving the Christian agenda is just tasteless and obtuse. While Kamarul may have experienced some questionable level of ‘self-doubt’ and fleeting confusion after reading Yeoh’s book, it is safe to say that the rest of us are not as gullible and daft like he is. Perhaps, it would be in Kamarul’s best interest to save himself first and leave the rest of the nation alone in his misguided endeavours.
Syerleena Abdul Rashid is DAP Wanita National Assistant Publicity Secretary and DAP Wanita Penang Political Education Director. -FMT