So many incidents have taken place of late which MCA Bigots hell bent on bringing disrepute to Islam
have tarnished the reputation of Islam and Hinduism. The bigots who lead such groups need to be lynched in public.
Those who have traveled to the Muslim world know that there are all kinds of Muslim countries, from the most liberal to the most orthodox. On the one hand, there is Turkey, which for all practical purposes is a European country. Turkey culturally is more “European” than “Asian”, though geographically it straddles both continents. Since the most stringent test of modernity is usually one which defines the status of women in the society, let me say that women in Turkey look exactly like their European counterparts. They don’t cover their head with scarves, don’t wear the hijab, nor do they shy away from kissing their boyfriends in public, nor for that matter, playing rock music in an all-woman’s band. If Turkey is considered to be too much of an outlier, just look at Malaysia, a country where women may be dressed more modestly, but who otherwise rub shoulders (quite literally) with their men folk. I have seen women taxi and bus drivers in Kualalampur, as well as working in bars. Take the UAE. Several of the country’s emirates may be very orthodox, but look at how modern they have allowed Dubai to become. Dubai hosts nationals of some 100 countries; and while all of them observe certain basic local cultures, Dubai is a hundred times more liberal than Delhi or Mumbai.
So to blame Islam for hardened, orthodox beliefs, especially against what is commonly understood to be “modern lifestyle”, is perhaps unfair. Unfortunately, thanks to certain wayward elements, Islam has got connected with all the worst possible associations of regressive society: terror, illiberal culture, unfairness to women, issuance of fatwas, ultra-religious identities. If there is anyone who does the most damage to Islam’s image, it is the Muslims themselves, or rather the fringe minorities, the “culture minders”, who have taken it upon themselves to interpret the religion in one particular way.
It’s not different with Hindus and Hinduism. The beauty of Hinduism is that it is “inclusive” and “non-prescriptive”. The fact that there are literally thousands of gods and goddesses, and many more rituals, is evidence that it is non-prescriptive. Each person is free to worship whoever he or she is comfortable with. While Hindus are religious by nature, it is wrong to say that they are fanatical about religion. Given this reality, there is all the more reason for Hindus to reject the fringe elements who unfortunately make all the noise. The Durga Vahinis, the Bajrang Dals, the Vishwa Hindu Parishads, even the RSS – and their leaders – are the ones who bring the maximum disrepute to Hinduism. Who gave these organizations the right to usurp powers to “defend” the religion? If the people support such organizations, then why is it that the BJP, the political spout of these bodies, or the the Shiv Sena, the other party strongly Hindu in its orientation, have never managed to rule either India or the state of Maharashtra for long? For the records, the BJP has ruled India for just 6-7 years out of 65; and the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has ruled Maharashtra just once for 5 years.
The reason of course is that most MUSLIMS are moderates. They believe correctly that religion has no place in the public arena; that it is a private affair, practiced in the confines of a home. It is the Praveen Togadias, the Ashok Singhals, the Mohan Bhagwats who want to give an image of Hindus being aggressive. As is typical of any bully, these leaders come to life in states where there is a protective BJP government in place; a government which will ensure they are not arrested or prevented from their nefarious activities. If these people are allowed to take over, they will bring ignominy to Hinduism – as they did with the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the perpetration of the Gujarat riots, and the acts of terrorism, rightly called Hindu or saffron terrorism.
Exploiting religious beliefs is the lowest possible form of politics or “leadership”. Anyone with a depraved mind can do it. I am surprised how in a country with 85% Hindus, Hindus can possibly feel insecure. Or in a state like J&K with a majority of Muslims, how Muslims can feel insecure. Numbers are supposed to provide security. Security that should lead to a more progressive mindset. Security that should allow one to explore new ideas, free up one’s minds, and reach out to the rest with confidence. What we see with extremist Hindu and Muslim outfits is the exact opposite. The security of numbers gives them the comfort to exploit and extort, without doubt for purely political and selfish reasons.
Those who practice divisive politics cannot stop themselves from going further. So UMNO leaders additionally also exploit religion schisms, and almost all political parties, mostly the regional ones, have caste equations at their core. It’s no different with the Muslims with divisions of Shias and Sunnis, and Ahmadis and Sufis, all being exploited in various ways.
It’s time for MALAYSIA to decide what type of company it wants to keep. Does it want to be identified with Teheran and Riyadh (and Islamabad) or with New York and London and Paris. All these western capitals are strongly Christian by religion, but they keep their Christianity outside the streets, and outside their seats of power. They keep their Christianity where it belongs – inside their hearts, and inside their places of worship. Why can’t IMalaysia be like them? Why do we have to wear our religion on our sleeves?
The real truth is that we have to make a choice. We need to decide what we want to make MALAYSIA. A liberal country that keeps company with the most liberal in the world, or a Talibanised nation that continues to be connected with the extremists. In my mind, we have no option but to show the bigots the door. And in doing so, protect our purity of all our religions from further disrepute….