Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Danger of Intolerance

Sin Chew Jit Poh
15 November 2013


The papers have been filled with scary news recently. Serious crime seems to be screaming at you from every headline. The murder of Ahmad Rafli of the Pahang Religious Department was particularly horrific and one can’t help but feel sympathy for his family whose distress was so clearly displayed on the front pages.


The police have some suspects in mind, and one hopes that after a thorough and just investigation that those who are responsible are brought to trial.


However, there was one undercurrent throughout the reporting of this sad affair that bothered me. Due to Ahmad Rafli’s job, his murder has been linked to groups which have been deemed “deviant”, as it was amongst his duties to investigate them. In fact the suspects that the police want to question come from a particularly odd sounding cult.


Personally I don’t believe in stopping any group from practicing their beliefs, “deviant” or not. Unless of course they are violent or they do things which are patently wrong, such as holding members against their will and conning people. So, unless a group is peaceful, then why should we bother them?


Any infringement of people’s right to do what they wish, must only be done if there is clear evidence that they are up to hurting people or stealing from them or something of that sort. Which is why I was upset that the Muslims practicing Shia Islam has been, without any indication that there exists some evidence, linked to this crime and even when they are not directly being linked to it, they are consistently mentioned in newspaper reports as though they are not only deviant, but dangerous.


The Amman Message which was endorsed by then Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, clearly states that the Shia branch of Islam is valid. How can it be then that the followers of this ideology are now being demonised and their teaching, in some states, banned?

It is patently unfair and hypocritical for a government to, on the one hand accept a principle as all-embracing and inclusive as the Amman Message, and yet on the other hand take such measures as to fly in the face of that same message.


It is bad enough for the Shias of Malaysia to be persecuted in this way, but the demonising and the not very subtle associating of them to violent acts of which there is no proof offered, is very cruel and dangerous indeed.

One of the biggest threats in this country, is not the fact that there are many people with many different viewpoints. The single biggest threat is to not respect those viewpoints and to not allow people to peacefully live their lives. Words and actions which supress people and which give rise to hatred for the “other” not only comes dangerously close to justifying wrongful actions against them, but it also creates a sense of persecution and anger amongst the victims. This sense could very well lead to an explosion borne of frustration and a feeling of grave injustice.


Having different ideologies and beliefs is not the danger that is so often perceived by the powers that be. On the contrary, it is disrespecting the rights of people to peacefully live as they wish is what can cause the greatest danger.




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