Tolerance, even though easier said, is a very tough act to do; especially for political organizations and when it relates to religion or race. Fortunately, there are many examples that we can learn, from age old history as well as recent ones. In this article, I would like to bring forth a few samples for us to share.
India is one of the most divisive society when comes to race, religion and ethnic groupings. There are more than few hundred ethnic groupings; it has many major religions (Hindu, Islam, Sikh, Buddhists, Christians, and even Judaism). Indian leadership has one massive challenge: How to keep the whole country intact, and prosper as a nation; to do this they have to content with the issues on how to keep all the religious and racial conflicts at check. The key word that we can learn from them is “tolerance”. This is the basic message of great Indian leaders such as Akbar (a Muslim Moghul Ruler), Ashoka ( A Buddhist King), Mahatma Ghandi (Father of Independence), and Rabindranath Tagore (great Bengali poet). Despite all the news that we hear about religious violence in India (such as the desecration of the Babri Mosque by the Hindu activists), these are minor compared to the challenge that India is facing.
The forces of “separation” and “extremism” are always at works; an example is the Hindutva movement, which takes the political form of the BJP party. Using Hinduism as a base support for the party, BJP manages to take control of the Indian government for a term. The Hindutva movement, whilst in power tries to rewrite everything possible, to shape what is called as the Hinduism world view, as well as Hinduism brand of politics, socio and economic policies, even to the extent of rewriting Indian history based on Hinduism bias. They failed miserably. During the next election, the BJP lost everywhere, and almost becomes a marginal party in India. Why did they fail?
The answer lies to the subject that I have brought, “tolerance”. India as a society has been taught with a very strong culture of tolerance amongst it people through ages of education by various leaders, that when any forms of extremism took place, the society as a whole will revert back to the basic: tolerance. And they practice this through the democratic process – i.e. the ballot box.
Racism and religious extremism – in the history of mankind stands testimony to killings, genocide, violence, and years of misery and sufferings. Therefore, any society should resist and detest anything that brings us into such direction. The recent events in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Balkans, and of late the Russians and Georgians, the Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka – are examples of racism and religious conflicts – that tells us that this “monster” in this modern day and age are still alive. Therefore, we should be on guard against it.
Of late, the events of May 13th 1969 were being brought up to stir old memories of racial conflicts in Malaysia. To what benefit does it bring? To most Malaysians, May 13th is not well understood, and what exactly happened was never being explained. In honesty, my view is that, the event is nothing more than a ghost from the past. It should just be forgotten and buried. Why? Because the truth is May 13th was in many ways “staged” for justifying policies favoring the Malays (which NEP is one of the result), and resulting the BN and UMNO at the helm of power for the last 30 years. In another word, May 13th event is UMNO and BN, main reason for existence. And no wonder why now, UMNO is reminding the Malays (and warning the non-Malays) of May 13th, because they can see that their influence and status under a severe threat. Honestly, this is treason of the highest kind and should be condemned.
I wonder what the Malays are worried about?. The federal and state constitutions have enshrined a lot of things to protect the Malays – and unfortunately most of us Malays don’t even know or realize or understand it. Furthermore, many of our rights are even being denied by the same people (Government or political party), such as many of our civil rights. Malays are being prosecuted politically by other Malays in power. The National Land code on Malay reserves lands actually hurt the Malays more than help them. Just imagine what Kampung Baru can be – another Bukit Bintang; a slum versus a modern development. So on goes the lists. This so called Malay racial “supremacy” is so vague to me: is it Malay supremacy with the objetcive that Malaysia will be the most competitive nations in Asia ? Is it that Malay supremacy such that we become the best educated, most modern and advance nation that can compete in the global economy? Or are we going back to the world that dominated by Keris and Tombak, and the “Glory” days of Kerajaan Melayu? Which are in reality a shame, as the history shows how these “small kingdoms” are mired by politicking and bickering, as well as conspiring against each other – to the point that they need the Chinese (Ming dynasty) earlier on to help them; and the British (later on) to unite them. (Historically – there were easily about few hundred small kingdoms in the Malay archipelagos during the years 1000 to 1700 AD).
If we learn from the history of the United States – it is a nation of immigrants. Over a short period of time (about two hundred years), it rise to become the main super power of the world. How did they achieve this? It absorbs the best of the people. The immigration and adaptation policy was the key to their success. They receive the best thinkers, the best brains; they attract capital from all parts of the world. They have an open society; they encourage entrepreneurs, and so on. Even though the US has its own share of other problems (of racism and religious intolerance), on the overall, we can learn a lot from it.
Why Malaysia can’t be another model of melting pot in Asia? We have multi race and religion in existence. This can be seen as the strength of Malaysia rather than as its weakness. In fact, by virtue of this composition, Malaysia has prospered over the last 50 years since independence. So are we turning back and taking steps backward, to undo the many steps that we have taken forward? We all should resist such actions.
Therefore, we should preach tolerance among us and among our children. We should preach acceptance and embrace each other, because that will strengthen us and our country. We should call for integration, as it will insulate us from the evil of extremisms. We should pray that God protect us and our beloved country.