23 April 2015
What to do about those people that protested against a church in KL recently?
It goes without saying that I disagree with them. I find their reasons to protest as misguided, racist, bigoted and wrong theologically.
But do I want them punished? Not in the slightest. It is their right to assemble and it is their right to say idiotic things looking like fools in the process.
There have been those who call for their charging under the new revamped sedition act. Well apart from the fact that I am unsure if the “new and improved” amendments are in force yet I don’t think anyone should be charged under any law for expressing themselves. The exception being if their words were meant to incite violence.
If one does not like laws like the sedition act to be used against people like opposition politicians and political activists, then one must also oppose the use of any such law against bigots and idiots.
So what can be done?
Well, the best way to battle bigotry is to point out the flaws in their arguments and logic. Also there has to be clear and unswerving condemnation of their actions, preferably by the leadership of the country. And such condemnation has to be consistent.
Along with the condemnation there must also be firm protection of those who are being protested against. It is the responsibility of the state to protect the rights of all citizens. This responsibility takes two forms. First is a negative duty to not restrict one’s rights. And secondly a positive duty to protect those whose rights are being challenged. Therefore in this situation just as the protesters have a right to express themselves which ought not to be curtailed, the church and its congregation and their right to worship has to be protected too.
Let’s face facts, there are nasty people out there with nasty little brains and nasty big mouths. This will never change. But shutting them up would mean disrespecting the very rights which we desire for ourselves. As the philosopher once said “I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
But consistency is the key. Consistent intellectual repudiation of bad ideas and the pushing forward of good progressive ones. And strong leadership which condemns such backward thinking even if it is at a political cost to themselves.
It is only in this way can there be created a norm accepted by the community as a whole. A norm based on humanism, humanity and the respect for one another. No laws can ever do that.