Saturday, September 13, 2008

Malaysiakini Update: A plea for dialogue and free speech

This year's Mooncake Festival will be special, so full of meaning.... Millions of candles will light up tonight ... 

Meanwhile, Malaysiakini updates ...

A plea for dialogue and free speech

There have recently been innumerable public statements, from the ministerial level to the general public, which assert that various people - or everyone in the case of the most recent statement from our deputy inspector-general of police - should stop discussing various subjects deemed inappropriate and dangerous.

The ambiguity of these statements casts doubt on Malaysian understanding of the principles involved in free speech.

Free speech cannot be either legislated or regulated by such terminology as ‘responsible’, ‘non-divisive’ or ‘sensitive’. The public relations effect of government officers attempting to forbid discussion of certain topics is basically dangerous and most likely counter-productive because it only encourages people to rebel against control.

Police especially should never be put in the position of enforcing notions of ‘divisiveness’ or ‘non-divisiveness’ without proper, detailed rules with review by competent authorities, assuming that expression needs to be regulated to this degree in our society.

As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put it, government has no authority over the thoughts of the citizenry. It is only when such thoughts are expressed in actions, deleterious to the public good - either by direct physical confrontation or ‘inciting’ words which may probably result in such action - that government can take action.

And in order to guarantee that this fundamental principle of free speech is secured, we must promote an effective and respectful network of communications among the major races and religions residing in this nation. 

ISA detentions destroy public trust

Until such time as Muslims can produce an acceptable model of Islamic governance, the government should not even try to regulate and discipline what we citizens are thinking, or even saying.

The definition of sedition has little meaning in a society in which so many thoughts and sayings are pronounced seditious by officials who may feel threatened by such talk; the word becomes political-speak for "you are dangerous to us and our established order". ISA detentions can be particularly destructive of public trust by the very virtue of this component.

Inter-faith dialogue in the service of ‘common cause’ is always welcome to Muslims so long as it does not intrude upon matters of faith or rituals. This is because the differences between Islam and other religions, as for example glossed over by the principles of secularised Islam, are very difficult to reconcile, but by discussion, understanding evolves and respect for the beliefs of others grows.

Inter-racial dialogue, on the other hand, comes much closer to fulfilling the Quranic verse which explains creation of the different races and ethnic groups as a means of interest to each other and learning from one another, rather than confrontation. Malaysia must prove Samuel Huntington wrong in his thesis of ‘civilisational clash’.

Inter-faith diologue more difficult

Nowadays, individual identity relates primarily to culture, whereas religious belief constantly crosses cultural lines. Therefore, dialogue among the cultures here in Malaysia should be organised and promoted according to ethnicity rather than religiosity.

We should have no shame in relating to others from the viewpoint of our culture, whereas inter-faith dialogue is very much more difficult and must be approached more delicately and with both faith in your beliefs and openness to respect the faith of others.

The rules of courtesy should regulate our inter-ethnic relations precisely because almost no one can agree about the various priorities followed in the name of religion. If government does not wish to follow a policy of "forced assimilation", it must promote inter-racial dialogue at every opportunity, in order to avoid degeneration into religious conflict.

It must also have a similar strategy on religious issues to encourage an understanding of this component of the different cultures. We do not interfere with each other's religion, and we follow our Quranic admonition to approach each other with sincere interest, which especially implies full personal security. There is no other way to achieve civilised life.

AZRIL MOHD AMIN is a Kuala Lumpur-based lawyer and the vice-president of Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim). The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the institution to which he is affiliated.


Nostradamus said...

The Courage to Build a New Malaysia.

The year is 2008. This is the year most Malaysians finally woke up from a deep slumber. Most Malaysians were just too busy earning their living and building up their lives to take notice that times have changed and the idealism spouted by our founding Fathers have still not been accomplished for this country even today.

It was not so long ago in 1957 and then for our fellow East Malaysians in 1963 when the ideals and dreams preached by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj (Bapa Kemerdekaan and Bapa Malaysia) for Malaysia were first announced and was greeted with joy in the hearts and minds of all Malaysians. The late Tunku Abdul Rahman had a dream and ideals, just like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many others including the prophets over the history of mankind.

Many a times such dreams were hijacked and led astray under the guise of nationalistic, racist and religious idealism by so called politicians and self declared and appointed righteous and religious persons (Little Napoleons). Individuals who have risen to continue some of such idealisms are gagged, isolated, bankcrupted, blasphemied, rehabilitated or worst jailed, for it is deemed not in consonance with the dreams and idealism of the elected parties agendas.

Laws are legislated and passed at whim in Parliament to change the idealism of the Supreme Law of the Land (The Malaysian Constitution) and to cloak such party and individual agendas. It is true, Malaysia, conforms to the democratic process as practiced by most western countries in elections (even though tainted but unproven). But once given the trust to be elected as a leader or representative of the people, party and individual idealism overtook national idealism, and The Jeykll and Hyde personality emerged to be repeated over and over again at each and every election and by-election.

Malaysians have being led astray for so long, that what is right is blurred, what is wrong is tolerated, what is evil is condoned, what is fair is pouted as unfair, what is immoral becomes moral and corruption and close one eye need to become a part of our accepted daily lives. Jealousy, hatred, greed, racism, plundering and satanism starts to breed in Malaysian minds, and brothers, friends and fellow Malaysians were looked upon as enemies or as inferior human beings. Once a while, such nets were cast ashore to include anything to do with other countries or other races which do not belong to one's own race or religious beliefs.

The minds and souls of Malaysians are so polluted and poisoned for so many years that it seems that Malaysia is the only all correct country and we should rule the world by our way. Examples of countries which follows Malaysia or is it we following them are, such as North Korea, Zimbabwe and Israel. What justifications can you tell your own generations or future Malaysian generations that what you are doing to fellow mankind and more so to your own fellow Malaysians that it is righteous and correct, when, it is at the expense and sufferings of your own human kind and fellow Malaysians?

Can you say to them I did it to follow the orders and teachings of God or party political agendas? Who gave you such inspirations and idealism? Do not absolve your own wicked mind and greed nor take a ride on someone else wicked mind and greed. Do not pick and choose in the Books of God nor the man-made laws to justify or suit your own twisted and idealistic minds. You can fool others due to their ignorance or emotions at some time but you can't fool forever a man's conscience nor your own children or hopefully one day your own when such enlightenment comes to you.

The courage to change things which are not right in Malaysia nor achieve the ideals of the Founding Fathers is not impossible. Most Malaysians have woken up to the fact that the future is going to be determined by it's own citizens thru their own conscience guided by their own religious beliefs to live a harmonious and productive life of correctness and not the type of political, racial or religious correctness as preached.

Parties and their own agendas do not take priority over the Founding Fathers ideals and hopes of all Malaysians. Religion and principles are as a guide to your own conscience to make sure whoever is the leader do not lead Malaysians nor society astray.

For in the end, what is just and right should surely overule anything else for any leader or their party agendas.

Does your Representative of the People (Wakil Rakyat) or You! have the courage?

Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...

The truth can never be concealed
Even with draconian hammer to seal
Better off with whole society to heal
Than to use harsh dictatorial methods to deal

(C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng - 130908.
Sat. 13th Sept. 2008.