Friday, August 11, 2006

Sensitive talk

There is no denying the sense of impotence and despair that has engulfed Malaysians in recent days. And we are not talking about the recurring haze. Muslims feel their position and their religion are being questioned, while non-Muslims are increasingly paranoid about their status as citizens under one common Constitution. There is a chasm that cannot be bridged anytime soon and I see people taking positions and digging in.

Some parties think dialogue will solve the issue (albeit behind closed doors) but the reality is not so encouraging. Correct me if I am wrong - there is no state in the world with a Muslim majority (or a significant minority) that provides any platform for dialogue. None. There are too many taboos, too many non-negotiables; non-Muslims are right to ask why they constantly have to acquiesce in the name of ‘tolerance’ when none is forthcoming their way

And what’s happening along the corridors of power? Is an ‘elegant’ response coming from the PM who in his election speeches advanced himself as PM of ALL Malaysians?

Ioannis Gatsiounis of Asia Times provides a commentary that not so delicately suggests that history may already be written (or is it rewritten?) even as we look for answers.

Abdullah has been less than resolute in handling Malaysia's creeping fundamentalism, which is not to suggest the former Islamic scholar is promoting an intolerant strain of Islam. To be fair, Malaysia is a tricky place to govern. It requires deftly balancing the needs of the majority Muslim Malays with those of the Indian and Chinese minorities to prevent social unrest. And yet Abdullah knows that maintaining political control will require first and foremost placating the Malays.

But by caving in to hardline sensitivities over inter-faith dialogue and the supremacy of the constitution, Abdullah, inadvertently or otherwise, appears to be going beyond merely accommodating the Malay community to the point of empowering its fringes. And the dangers this may engender should not be underestimated - this being an era in which a growing number of Muslims around the world are resorting to intolerance to advance their causes and feeling inspired by the results (violent protests against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed is but one example). [More]

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