Monday, January 11, 2010

Now only they are talking about inter-faith/religious initiative

When Najib unveiled the 2010 Budget last year, I have already pointed out to a few friends that there is no allocation of funds for inter-faith or inter-religious initiative. This is a serious deficiency. However when Steven and I prepared a theological critique on the budget, this point was not included in the piece. Here's what I had previously proposed in November last year:

Prime Minister Najib emphasizes the 1Malaysia concept as a nation with multiple cultures and ethnic groups since his enthronement to the parliament; hence it is rather surprising that no budget is allocated to develop interfaith or inter-cultural relation among the rakyat. It is apparent that the multicultural setting in Malaysia is taken for granted by the Prime Minister’s office.

The government while under the rule of Najib’s predecessor, Abdullah Badawi, was clearly against such communal effort when he arbitrarily and abruptly cancelled the significant Sixth Building Bridges inter-faith conference in May 2007, two weeks before the event. That move betrays the government’s apathy over the socio-cultural setting of the rakyat. Keep neglecting the real diversity among the people. The budget shows us that there will not be much difference in the current government’s stance over the rakyat’s cultural sentiment.

And now, after several attacks on local churches, the government finally willing to talk about inter-faith initiative. Malaysia as a supra-secular state should have funds allocated for these matters. Failing to do so betrays a fatal misunderstanding of the fabric of Malaysia's social and political landscape. Without serious undertaking for the development of inter-faith relation, the UMNO-BN has forfeited its sovereignty over such rich and diverse society.

UMNO-BN government proposed to hold closed door inter-faith dialog led by Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia (IKIM). The organization is chaired by Tun Abdullah Badawi, the disgraced former Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The 2010 budget betrays the ignorance of UMNO-BN over (1) the fabric of the social reality of Malaysia, and (2) the essential place played by inter-faith dynamic in such social reality. Coupled with previous under-handled cases over inter-faith dynamic and from Badawi's previous mishandling of the Sixth Building Bridges inter-faith conference in May 2007, I have serious doubt that there will be any good coming out from these proposals. They just simply lack not merely the sight but also the mind to take on such issues.


Steven Sim said...

It's never too late, although UMNO's sincerity to espouse dialogue is highly doubted.

Is UMNO admitting its past mistake of racism and communalism and its grave sin defending of racial supremacy? Is UMNO endorsing Pakatan Rakyat's formula of a new socio-political setup where dialogue and consultation will be norm and not segregations of Msians into false categories of race and religion?

Pakatan Rakyat has been calling for dialogues towards nation building and racial-integration and the stance was even entrenched in our common policy document which includes the following course of actions:

1. "Strive to eliminate the practice of racial politics through various means
including education, mass media, dialogues and consultations.",

2. "Organise dialogues and consultations between cultures and religion in
order to strengthen the understanding between them",

3. "Set up a comprehensive mechanism to provide just resolution to cases
which involve the overlap of civil and Syariah laws, including a Royal
Commission to deeply study all the relevant issues.",

and in terms of racial integration, to

3. "Enact a Race Relations Act to safeguard unity and harmony of the people
and to eliminate discrimination between the races."

It has to be noted that even from the onset of the "Allah" issue, Pakatan Rakyat, not least conservative PAS has been advocating dialogue as a step towards amicable solutions. Also, PR leaders had a closed door meeting with national Church leaders yesterday ( as part of the effort to mitigate the escalating crisis.

UMNO is just not doing enough, but kept playing lips services. UMNO leaders have been leading protest on the High Ct's decision on "Allah" and they, including UMNO's mouthpiece Utusan are inciting certain segments of the society towards anger and hatred, if not directly towards violence. BN's component parties, notably MCA, MIC, Gerakan have been suspiciously silence, or at least proven ineffective to contribute to a solution. This may be their traditional subservient to UMNO's supremacy and also due to grave internal crisis within each parties.

Our Country is in a mess, but we are also a a crossroad. Many ppl have decided to take a different path from that of UMNO-Barisan Nasional. All of us have to bear with the pain of Change and continue to offer ourselves as part of the solution towards this time of national crisis.

May God have mercy on us all,
Mohon Allah mengasihani kita semua.

May God save our Country,
Mohon Allah selamatkan Negara kita!

Steven Sim

Sze Zeng said...

The PR's approach is definitely more preferable than the current ruling government.

While going through the downs and downs at this current moment, we are now just anticipating 2012 when once again the people can flip our finger to UMNO-BN.