Religions in Malaysia
Topic Conflicts Among Multi Religious Societies: Root Causes and Solutions
Group Members Divya Darsiny A/P Morgan
Fitrie Annastasia Binti Zainol
Intan Syafiqah Binti Ismail
Muhammad Aiman Bin Azizi
Prashaath Nair A/L Mathavan Nair
Yaashini A/P Selvam 24762
Lecturer’s Name Dr. Mohamed Mohideen Nayeem
TABLE OF CONTENT
TOC o “1-3” h z u INTRODUCTION PAGEREF _Toc520078300 h 3PART 1: OBTAINING PROPER LICENSE TO AVOID DESTRUCTIONS OF UNAUTHORIZED WORSHIP BUILDING PAGEREF _Toc520078301 h 4PART 2: WAYS TO DEAL WITH ISLAMOPHOBIAS PAGEREF _Toc520078303 h 6PART 3: RESTRICTIONS ON MEDIA TO PREVENT FURTHER CONFUSION AND DISUNITY PAGEREF _Toc520078305 h 9PART 4: IMPLEMENTATION OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES IN EDUCATION TO REDUCE MISUNDERSTANDINGS AMONG MALAYSIANS11 PART 5: AVOIDING SENSITIVE ISSUES THROUGH TOLERANCE PAGEREF _Toc520078309 h 15PART 6: AMENDING LAWS TO PREVENT UNILATERAL CONVERSIONS PAGEREF _Toc520078311 h 18PART 7: UPROOTING FUNDAMENTALISM THROUGH INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE PAGEREF _Toc520078313 h 21CONCLUSION PAGEREF _Toc520078315 h 24REFERENCES PAGEREF _Toc520078316 h 25
INTRODUCTIONMalaysia is a multi-cultural and multi-religious nation, which strives for harmonious living among the different cultures, ethnic groups and religion. Relating to the Religion Aspect of Malaysia, Malaysia has 5 main religions, namely Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and other Chinese Traditional Religions. For many years, these different groups have been harmoniously co-existing in Malaysia. Never the less, conflict is inevitable within different groups of people in a specific are.
According to the Oxford dictionary, conflict is defined as “A serious incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles, or interests.” It also says that conflict is a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one. Conflict between religions and beliefs is a reality in Multi-Religious Nations such as Malaysia. Though freedom of worship is guaranteed to Buddhist, Hindus, Christians and believers of other faiths, for the past 15 years, the situation in Malaysia had dramatically deteriorated.
As an example, the government continues to ban any form of non-Sunni practice of Islam, forbids apostasy among Muslims, and imposes fines and detention to those who commit actions against the shariah codes. It also limits evangelizations by non-Muslim religious groups and restricts the distribution of religious texts. “The government had also prosecuted some deemed to have “insulted Islam” under sedition laws and continues to take actions against Shia Muslims engaged in religious practice.” CITATION The16 l 17417 (The Bureau of Democracy, 2016). For an instance, in 2016, the Selangor State Islamic Department (JAIS) detained 50 Pakistani nationals believed to be Shia Muslims at an event to mark the Day of Ashura.
“In 2003, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, told a summit of Islamic leaders in Putrajaya, Malaysia that” Jews rule the world by proxy” and that the 1.3 billion Muslims should unite, using non-violent means for a “final victory. He further stated that Jews “invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy” to avoid persecution and gain control of the most powerful countries, providing yet another example of the continuing trend towards the increasing overemphasis of religious differences.” CITATION Cen l 17417 (Center For Reduction of Religious-Based Conflict, n.d.)
165985688976900Today, the religious-based problems in Malaysia continues. In this Report, we shall go over some conflicts faced in Malaysia, and other multi-religious societies. Moreover, we shall also discuss the causes and reasoning behind them and propose a possible solution to protect the harmonious living among different religions in Malaysia, and the rest of the world.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 1: The religious distribution in Malaysia
PART 1OBTAINING PROPER LICENSE TO AVOID DESTRUCTIONS OF UNAUTHORIZED WORSHIP BUILDINGDivya Darsiny A/P Morgan
Another important thing that contributes to conflicts among multi religious society is building worship places at unauthorized land. Many worship places such as Mosques, churches, Buddhist and Taoist temples, Indian and Sikh temples and Thai wats and churches play an important role when the word religion is being mentioned. These worship places are being prioritized by their worshippers as it is believed that worship places resemble the positivity and uniqueness of each religion.
Although people are being very religious and worshipping at their respective worship places, the real problem arises when the worship place itself is being built in an unauthorized land. Some people does not give importance in making sure about the authorization of the land being used to build their worship place They are not aware about the problems that might be caused with their neglection. Building worship places at unauthorized land will not only cause conflicts among religions, but it will also cause problems between government and society. For instance, the issue related to HINDRAF which created problem between government and a society and literally exploded as one of a big religious issue in history of Malaysia.
HINDRAF which is also known as Hindu Rights Action Force has made a huge impact in political landscape of Malaysia. HINDRAF with its slogan people’s power was created for the preservation of Hindu community rights and heritage in the multiracial country Malaysia in early 2006. It was formed with the union of 30 Hindu non-governmental organizations. Even though it was created as a voice of Hindu community of Malaysia for various issues, the issue of governmental destruction of Hindu temples in Malaysia and the involvement of HINDRAF attracted international notoriety due in some part of characterizations as a violation of religious freedom.
From April 2006 to May 2006, several Hindu temples were demolished by government of Malaysia. The Malaimel Sri Selva Kaliamman Temple which was situated in Kuala Lumpur was reduced to broken bricks after the municipal government sent in bulldozers on 21st of April 2006. CITATION Leo09 l 1033 (Leong, 2009) HINDRAF have protested these destructions by lodging complaints to the Malaysian Prime Minister in the same year but with no response. Other than that, many Hindu advocates and advocacy groups also protested the demolishment of the temples which was claimed as a systematic plan of temple cleansing in Malaysia. Malaysian government stated that the temples were built illegally as their official reason even when some of the temples were centuries old. A lawyer for HINDRAF also gave a statement that destruction of a Hindu temple in Malaysia happens once every three weeks. Anyways, the Deputy Chief Minister of Penang said the following statement in an article written by him in Malaysia Kini’s website:
28575070675500302831569723000″Although the demolition of the temple was done in accordance with the law, some parties including the opposition have made highly sensitive remarks about a religious matter” (Ramasamy, 2018)
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 2: Destructed Hindu Temple Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 3: The HINDRAF rally
Started from there, a rally or protest on the streets of capital of Kuala Lumpur was held. This rally grabbed the attention of many countries and it is considered as one of the biggest religious issue in Malaysia. This problem created a split between society of different religions in Malaysia as Malaysian Hindus felt that they are being discriminated and their rights being violated. HINDRAF was officially banned in 15 October 2008 by declaring it as an illegal organization. CITATION Yan12 l 1033 (Yang, 2012)
By researching the root cause of the issue stated, the destruction of a worship place of a certain society of people blasted this religious issue. Demolishment of the temples which is the worship place of Hindus is said to be due to its illegal construction at unauthorized land by the government. This small reason which triggered a religious issue must be taken into serious consideration.
Obtaining license and proper approval from government and related sectors can be the solution to avoid such religious issues. Linking with the stated issue, if the temple was built in an authorized land and had a proper license, the rise of such big religious problem involving HINDRAF could have been avoided. As worship places are considered as one of the identity of a religion, the society of people from that specific religion are being triggered when their worship places are violated or destroyed. Thus, problems are being created easily when it is related to their religion. As the proverb goes prevention is better than cure, it is better to stop some problems from happening than to repair the damage after it has happened. So, making sure that building a worship place at authorized or licensed place and it is legal is very important to avoid conflicts among multi religious society.
PART 2WAYS TO DEAL WITH ISLAMOPHOBIASFitrie Annastasia Binti Zainol
Today, there are a lot of negative stereotypes regarding Islam. Islamophobia is a dislike against Islam or Muslims. The term “islamophobia” is widely used after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. It was found that roughly about 50 percent of Americans have negative view of Islam in a poll conducted by the Washington post. They believe that Islam is not a religion of peace but are violent and threatening to the society.
On 7 January 2015, two Muslim brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The two brothers have killed 11 people and injured 11 others in the same building. A French National Police officer was killed too outside the building. After that, there were several related attacks where 5 people were killed and 11 wounded in the Île-de-France region. The objective of the attack was to seek revenge against a depiction of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) by the Magazine, hence Charlie Hebdo incident. This aftermath was the most significant turbulence since the terrorist attack on 11 September 2001 in the United States and multiplied the level of Islamophobia in France. Islam has been seen as a threat to the world. After the incident, there were shots fired at a Muslim prayer centre in Digne-les-Bains in Provence, and at a mosque in Soissons. Not only that, a homemade bomb was put outside a mosque in central city of Villefranche-sur-Saone but went off. A day after that, there was a pig’s head placed outside a prayer room in Corte in Corsia. There was a letter beside the head warned “the next time it will be the head of one of yours.” A mosque in French city of Le Mans was attacked with grenades on 8 January 2015. There were 4 grenades, one exploded while the three other grenades were undetonated on mosque property in the morning of that incident occurred (Besnik, 2017).
1285875134048500For an instance, a case in Kuala Lumpur where two pigs’ heads were found in a mosque. Such irresponsible action provoked the Malaysian Muslims’ anger because, according to Islam, pig is considered unclean – an animal that cannot be touched nor consumed. Cases such as this are not new to other parts of the world, because it happens often in places such as Ireland and Philadelphia, USA. The anti-Muslims left pig’s head on mosque’s doorstep. It was indeed a hate crime and an ignorant act by the anti-Muslims.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 4: A pig head in front of a mosque doorstep.
There was also a case in Albania, a woman publicly attacked and shouted at a Muslim woman “You are a terrorist” in a public bus” CITATION Bes16 l 17417 (Sinani, 2016). Not only that, on 21st July 2014, offensive comments were sprayed onto the wall of a mosque in Thornhill, Ontario. There were hateful messages too painted on the sidewalk.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 5: Hateful comments on the sidewalk in Ontario, Canada
Recently, there was an anonymous group in the UK declared that there will be “Punish a Muslim Day” on April 3, 2018. Leaflets were circulated in several UK cities urging people to attack on Muslims in many ways such as using knives, gun, vehicles and many more. The letter suggested people could win “points” for a range of activities aimed at Muslims, including removing a headscarf from a woman or beating a person up. Verbally abuse a Muslim will get 10 points, and the points get higher when a more serious action taken such as burn or bomb a mosque will get 1000 points.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 6: Punish a Muslim day leaflet.
This is a serious threat to all Muslims, creating fear within Muslim communities especially among Muslim women, who suffer the most from Islamophobia. Muslim women mostly get attacked for wearing headscarf, covering their awrah and so on. Muslim women were urged to hide their hijabs and stay indoor when the day comes. Not only Muslims are being attacked, but those who perceived as Muslims, are also attacked, such as the Sikhs. This is because they are mistakenly assumed as Muslims.
Why did this happen? How did islamophobia become “normal” to certain people? “One of the reasons is cultural misunderstandings” CITATION Joh11 l 17417 (Esposito, 2011).This is because the ones who attacks Islam are mostly lack of knowledge and desire to understand this religion itself. They are not willing to learn the culture of every religion, in this case is Islam.
There are a few ways to reduce this problem. The first one is by educating the citizens (Razack, 2008). They need to learn every religion’s beliefs and culture, not just Islam but every other religion. The teachers and lecturers can give an assignment regarding religion issues so that they can discuss the current misunderstanding of the religion itself.
Next, we need to talk rationally and give an analogy to them. For example, if someone asks whether Muslims can eat pork or not, we as Muslims should give them a social explanation of the Holy Quran and try to logically explain slowly why they are prohibited. Thus, helping them to acknowledge the real concept of Islam.
Moreover, we could share our story on social media if something happens to us. Awareness can be made so people will know what happens to our daily life. It will convince people that Islamophobia is serious and not made up.
To deal with this case every day is very tiring and frustrating. Nevertheless, we need to remain calm when handling with people who are afraid of Islam. Islamophobia often results in angry outbursts which will affect the views of the Islamophobes on Islam. They will see it as a confirmation that we Muslims are indeed terrorists and violent as what they see in the media. So, we need to stay calm although they provoke us. However, when being attacked physically or verbally and we feel like someone’s getting too close or violent, don’t be afraid to call for help. Don’t be too patient when in danger as it might get us in trouble especially when we are alone. For non-Muslims, they can stand up for their friends when their Muslim friends are attacked, because they need the support.
It is undeniable that there are some Muslims with problematic behaviors that contributes the “Islamophobia” problem. This is because the non-Muslims will see Islam based on the behavior of the Muslims, not the religion itself. Thus, the most effective way to deal with accusations is to explain to them the differences between religion and culture.
PART 3RESTRICTIONS ON MEDIA TO PREVENT FURTHER CONFUSION AND DISUNITYIntan Syafiqah Binti Ismail
As in general, media has always been an influence or a source of reference for varieties of topic which also include religious matter. It has been one of the main medium uses by many person or individuals to serve for many kinds of purposes. The concept of truth in media is still a blurred line and currently, every side could simply claim that it speaks the “truth”. This concept practiced in the present-day media would cause a lot of confusion to the people that depends on it. Conflicts happen due to the bias in beliefs that has been inveterate in every person since born.
Media almost hold the utmost power in influencing people as the person reporting can easily put their point of views and have a total control onto the content and context of the writing. This method can easily cause confusion due to a few factors such as having a writer who are not very knowledgeable in that religion to give their opinions and comments, having to take the story one-sided and make a conclusion out of that and undeniably having a simple bias towards a religion. It is true to say that media cannot force these ideas into the mind of the readers but it totally in control of the material or facts that we are exposed to. This is proven by having the same issue but different interpretations from a different writer with a different religion background which resulting in a totally different titles or headlines for each one of them. In a nation that is divided with a diversity of beliefs and religion, bad writing or emotional writing that is written based on hatred and own-bias would totally spark the flare off disunity among the different believers when sensitive words presented in an article.
It seems almost impossible to invoke the words ‘religion and media’ without recalling certain major events involved in manipulating stories and direct hatred towards certain religion. The events of ‘holy terror’ on 11 September 2001, the collapsed of World Trade Center thought to be as a fallen idol of global capitalism (Stolow, 2005). Since then, media channels have been bombarded on an unprecedented scale with images and stories about fervently held beliefs and implacable habits of ‘religious people’ around the world. Taking an example in our own country, Malaysia. On February 2009, The Roman Catholic Church led by Archbishop Murphy Pakiam filed a judicial review application to the High Court, declaring Home Ministry’s decision to ban its use of the word “Allah” in its Herald weekly as illegal.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 7: Article published by The Star after the judgement
The case came amid concern from minority religious groups who feel that their rights are under threat from rising Islamisation. On that time, every media published different stories, some tried to relate the Malaysian church bombing attack is prior to the Christian-Islam conflicts.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 8: Article published by US Time
Another recent example that we could consider is during Malaysia’s 13th General Election (GE13). Utusan Malaysia, a Malay language newspaper published in Malaysia, had published a controversial front-page headline that says, “Apa Lagi Cina Mahu?” CITATION Zul13 l 17417 (Bakar, 2013) which translated into “What else does the Chinese wants?”. The issue began when an opposition party in Malaysia which the majority race is Chinese had won many seats but the party was said to be unsatisfied for having most of the Malays whose religion is Islam in the Malaysian government. Words from the ministers were manipulated, saying that the opposition party were ungrateful and only seek help when it is needed. Malaysia is widely known for its diversity and unity despite their own belief. This kind of articles only spark the flames among all Malaysian.
-150050534798000Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 9: Utusan Malaysia’s controversial front-page headline
In a research paper written by Sofian, M. R & Hussein, A. (2013) entitled Media Coverage on Religious Conflict in Malaysia, they compared two different newspaper publishing the same article but on different views. The case study was based on the attempts to subvert the faith and believe of Muslims in a multiracial thanksgiving dinner at Damansara Utama Methodist Church, DUMC. Malaysian based newspaper, Utusan Malaysia and The Star was compared and the study was done to identify and differentiate how the Malay press and English press report this incident. Commonly, the ideologies and target groups of each press are different (Sofian, et. al, 2013). The study concluded that the newspapers tend to focus on events involving their own community. Utusan Malaysia known to be pro-government and focus more towards Islamic issue and backing up only Islam religion rather than other religion.
Solutions are given and thrown by a dozen thousands of people over the past decade to put a stop to this problem, but only a few that really has the chance to open the eyes of society. One of the main solution is to put a restriction towards the media received and perceived towards the people. The freedom of speech is often used wrongly by a person or individual for their own benefits. The media controlled by the government such as mass media that include the newspaper and the news in the television read by the news anchor, can be filtered before the information being released to the public. A simple media regulation must be prepared and set by government to protect the public from getting a false report on issues especially sensitive matter as such religion.
All in all, media manipulation can be minimised by using media regulation concept to almost everything from press, radio, television, film, music and internet. By this way, a civilised government can value the good and bad of an issue and addressed them properly to the public without being bias.
PART 4IMPLEMENTATION OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES IN EDUCATION TO REDUCE MISUNDERSTANDINGS AMONG MALAYSIANSKAREN TEMBE22332
Where there are differences in beliefs, ideals and lifestyles among people, conflict is destined to arise, as it is an inevitable paradox of human existence and civilization. As human beings, we were designed and equipped with a fight-or-flight response. This is basically a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack or threat to survival (Cannon, Walter, 1932). It helps us escape or fight dangers that are a threat to us, for example, if a lion tries to attack you, your organism interprets this as a threat, and therefore prepares for fight (you challenge the lion into a fight so to survive), or flight (you run away from the lion in order to survive).
The same thing happens in our societies, where the unfamiliar (which may not even be dangerous) may sometimes become a threat to us, therefore engaging a fight-or-flight reaction. Strong religious bodies often view other religious bodies as a threat to them, and this is exactly where conflict arises. It doesn’t even have to be among different religions, such as Christianity and Buddhism, but instead, within different schools of belief of a certain Religion (for example, conflicts among Roman Catholics and Protestant churches). Examples of conflicts due do misunderstanding of religions ca be seen in the Bible, where the Pharisees were completely threatened by Jesus’s teachings. They misunderstood, and misinterpreted Jesus’s saying.
“The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” … Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” … They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:18-22)
89662070294500The Pharisees became so threatened by the teachings that they began to plot how to kill Jesus, all because they didn’t understand Him, and the purpose behind all that He was doing. “But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.” (Matthew 12:14)
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 10: The Pharisees plotting Jesus’s death
Another example of conflicts in multi-religious society is in Nigeria, with majority of the people Muslim and Christian. Religio-political organizations such as the Boko Haram, who oppose Western Education (which is based mostly on Christian principles), thereby the name ‘Boko’ which is the Hausa word for western system of education and ‘Haram’ which mean ‘forbidden’ (Awoniyi, S., 2013). Failing to understand the benefits behind a Western culture, these extremist organizations use violence and terrorism to eliminate other religions such as Christianity and other Western teachings. Various incidents and terrorist acts were orchestrated by the Boko Haram organization, namely the Christmas Day Bombing in Abuja, which killed more than 40 people in 2012, and the famous Chibok Schoolgirls kidnapping which took place in April 2014, where 276 female students were kidnapped from their school.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 11: Christmas Day bombing in 2012 at Nigeria Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 12: Muslims marching in fight for the word “Allah”
Misunderstanding of other religions is also the reason behind so much religious conflicts in Malaysia. For instance, the issue that happened around 2014, where Muslims fought over in court to prohibit Christians from using the word Allah, which is the Malay and Arabic word for God. Muslims argued that the Christian use of Allah could persuade Muslims to convert and so jeopardized national security, which brings us back the point of misconception of different religions. In fact, Christianity and Islam all originated in what is known today as the Arab World and are monotheist religions. Monotheism literally means “the belief in only one God”. Meaning that the word “Allah” would be describing this “One God” that Jews, Christians and Muslim believe in. This conflict resulted in a court ruling, where Islamic authorities confiscated Bibles that used the word Allah. It also resulted in in two churches in Malaysia being firebombed on a Sunday, and thankfully no one was hurt.
In addition, because of such conflicts, Malaysia has been listed in the among the 10 most restrictive countries regarding religion, out of 175 in a survey done by the Pew Forum on Religion ; Public Life. The study covered events from mid-2006 to mid-2008. It is a true reflection of how conflicts in a multi-religious society can stain a countries reputation. So, what can be done about it? It would be impossible to completely overcome conflict, due to our sinful nature as humans – none of us are perfect. Nevertheless, there are some actions that we could take as individuals, as a group of people, and as a Nation, to keep the peace within Malaysia and within the entire world.
A way to overcome this issue would be to establish Religious studies in schools and Universities, to eliminate the ignorance among communities. Major religions in the world such as Christianity and Islam tend to get very defensive over their religions and beliefs. Many extremists forbid the believers to learn about other religions with the fear that they many convert to another religion. As hard as it might be, this mentality must be overcome. People should not be kept in ignorance, but instead learn more about the various options in the world, and willingly choose the religion that suits them the best. Unfortunately, it is a not a freedom that is exercised in Malaysia. Even though Non-Muslims are free to choose what religion they want to practice, if you are born a Muslim, you are not allowed by law to choose any other religion. In this extreme case, perhaps religious dialogues and studies might help raise awareness regarding the true meaning behind each religion. At the end of the day, I believe Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and other Chinese Traditionalists might find more similarities in their religions, that differences, and mutual respect and religion acceptance might arise in multi-religious societies such as Malaysia. The key to this, is communication!
PART 5AVOIDING SENSITIVE ISSUES THROUGH TOLERANCEMuhammd Aiman Binti Azizi
All religions have their own accepted dogma or articles of belief that followers must accept without question as those are words from God that need to be obeyed. As a result, it creates inflexibility and intolerance in the face of other believers. However, scripture and dogma are often vague and open to interpretation which can lead to conflict to whose interpretation is the correct one and attract most of the followers. Majority of faith takes the moderate views whereas the minority, who are extremists, are often motivated to bring their interpretation of God’s will to fulfillment. Extremists in religion contribute to conflict escalations as they are not able to tolerate with other beliefs and only see radical measures as necessary to fulfill God’s wishes. Religious fundamentalists are mostly driven by their dissatisfaction with modernity or the spread of Western materialism such as gambling and alcoholism (Scott, 2001). There is a need for purification of the religion in the point of view fundamentalists.
2662110190944500738505189841900Cultural globalization has become shorthand for this trend. The spread of western materialism is often taking the blame for increase in loose of morals in general. Religious nationalists have the perception that their religion tradition closely tied to their nation or their land that any threat to one of these is a threat to one’s existence (Brahm and Eric, 2009). They will respond to threats to the religion by seeking political entity in which their faith is privileged to the others. As an example, the Oktoberfest event that triggered conflict between Malay-Muslim and non-Muslim in Malaysia. Malaysia German Society Oktoberfest is a famous event in Penang and throughout Malaysia; a tradition which began since 1973.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 13: Oktoberfest advert Figure 2: Guests making a toast
The origin of the event is from the world-famous Munich Oktoberfest in Bavaria, Germany. Basically, the German Oktoberfest is a German traditional beer festival. It was celebrated in Germany to commemorate the royal marriage between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. The purpose of this event held in Malaysia as the cultural highlights, contributes to the thriving Malaysia-German relations and continuing friendship. The Beer Festival has been Malaysia’s largest craft beer festival, featuring 250 beers from 43 different breweries worldwide which will expect to attract 6000 visitors.
Malaysia as a nation with moderate Muslim-majority has laws which prohibit Muslims from drinking intoxicants; specifically, alcoholic beverages which are forbidden in the Qur’an through several separate verses. However, these laws are not applicable to other religious groups made up of the Indian, Chinese and Bumiputra minorities in Malaysia. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of protests by hardliners which opposed activities and events that involved alcohol consumptions and Western-styled music. These are seen in their perspective as un-Islamic. For an example, The Star had published that Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) had accused the event as “largest vice center in Asia” and the leading cause of criminal acts, free sex, and rape. Dr Riduan Mohd Nor, a leading member of the PAS central committee had also commented on the event saying that “It is something that is shameful for an Islamic country like Malaysia”.
This issue, first and foremost gained criticisms from the Muslim citizens and lead to a chain of reactions after some of the individuals from their community received the Oktoberfest’s promotional e-mails. Those promotional e-mails were offensive because it seems like the organizers were promoting Oktoberfest among the Muslim community. In a recent year, there has been a rise of vocal Islamist groups that has led to fears of an erosion in tolerance toward Malaysian’s non-Muslim minorities. Since the issue was rise as a political issue, some people seen it as an effort by the Malay-Muslim crimping the rights of non-Muslim in Malaysia and forcing them to accept the Malay-Muslim’s value. However, protester view it as an effort to block the deterioration of the greater public order that denies the festive party culture. The anxiety religious people feel when their core beliefs are challenged cause them to protest that they are expected to accommodate the rest of society at the expense of their fundamental beliefs. PAS claimed that it will lead to social problems, “but that’s their perception, that’s based on their knowledge. That doesn’t mean that other people have the same opinion on the issue. So, they must understand this is a multicultural society” (Teng Chang Khim, Vice Exco Selangor)
Supporters of the Oktoberfest claim that Muslim organizations are making a sensitive issue out of non-sensitive thing and even as a political weapon against the current government. Intolerance of Malay-Muslim on this issue proof that it is hard to build a moderate nation where people respect each other. Especially in a Muslim majority country where there is an established position in governance, legislation and social atmosphere. Based on their perspective, it is more to a celebration of culture rather than a beer festival. Culture can be celebrated in different places as Oktoberfest is like Gawai Dayak celebration where there will be plenty of food and alcoholic drinks to be served. Drinking of tuak which is made from locally brewed rice wine is a tradition during the Gawai Dayak celebration which does not triggered sensitivity of any religions. Oktoberfest will be a good for the state’s tourism industry to encourage the tourists visiting to the state which is proven statistically, there has been a 10 percent increase last year.
Religion is inherently conflictual as there is lack of tolerance between different religion in some point of view. Promoting a heightened awareness of the positive peace building and reconciliatory role religion has played in many conflict situations. Learning about other religions would be a great step to overcome misunderstanding. Being educated about other religion does not mean conversion but facilitate understanding and respect toward other belief. According to Islam, non-Muslim are permitted to practice their religion to extent permitted by Shariah alone without considering their agreement. In terms of food and drinks, non-Muslims can drink and eat according to their religion but disallowed to consume alcohol in public places or liquor parties. There is a need to distinguish between the act of drinking alcohol and organizing an open drinking feast to be made for both side to clearly understand the concept. Islam allows the first but not the second as its mean exposing the blasphemous teachings of the kuffar to the public.
As the solution towards the conflict, it should be clearly state that this event is not for Muslims and there is no reason for them to interfere with such events that is being specifically organize for non-Muslim. Such events should be done behind closed doors and are not openly promoted. A strict regulation also need to be implemented by the law enforcement to those who are participating in the event. Setting a limit on the consumption of alcohol to prevent unethical act or misbehavior among those who are celebrating. One of the initiative taken by Johor government was to defend the event and allow the celebration of Oktoberfest. “This thing has been around for a long time and it has not been announced or promoted. The programme were only run in closed locations, unlike certain states that run it by openly inviting members of the public. So, there is no need to play up the issue” (Mohamed Khaled Nordin, Chief Minister of Johor)
It has been organized for five years in a row without causing any negative effects on the people so there is no need to ban. This clearly shows that the organizer is being tolerate on the organization of the event by respecting the law of Islam which prohibit them from drinking liquor publicly. It is proven that conflict of religion can be avoided or overcome through understanding of rights and toleration between both sides. Interfaith dialogue would be beneficial at all levels of religious hierarchies and across all segments of religious communities. Tolerance is a two-way street which requires both sides to respect each other.
PART 6AMENDING LAWS TO PREVENT UNILATERAL CONVERSIONSPrashaath Nair A/L Mathavan Nair
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 14: Indira in tears after Federal Court ruled that the consent of both parents was
needed to convert a minor’s faith.
The unilateral conversion of minor children by their converted parent, often the father, without the prior consent of the other parent is not new to Malaysia. This unilateral conversion issues in Malaysia is still at the brink and such issues are present in a recent high-profile case, for an instance, Indira Gandhi’s causes in court. This lawsuit, gained mixed reactions among the concerned citizens of Malaysia and even caused some uproars among the conservative Muslim communities.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 15: A timeline of key events surrounding Indira Gandhi’s case.
In 2009, a newly converted man named K. Pathmanathan (now Muhammad Riduan Abdullah), converted his three children from his civil marriage with Indira Gandhi to Islam without any prior consent from her. He later, went to the Shariah courts to request custody over his children and this made Indira to challenge the unlawful conversion in the High Court. However, unfortunately in 2015, the Court of Appeal with a 2:1 majority reversed the High Court’s decision and at that moment, this ruling lead to numerous criticisms and brought Malaysia’s divided legal system into the spotlight. This was because, the Muslims who make up most of the population uses the Syariah court for matters involving religion and family issues, while on the other hand, non-Muslim Malaysians uses a secular legal system which was inherited from the British. These two different legal systems were in contradiction in Indira’s case earlier till it was resolved by the Federal Court. CITATION Mal18 l 17417 (Malaysia’s apex court declares unilateral conversion to Islam unlawful , 2018)Indira furthered her appeals to the Federal Court and continued to fight till 2018, where she managed to win over the case. Basically, the Federal Court ruled that the consent of both parents was necessary to convert a minor and thus, annulled the conversions of her three children which was performed without her. “There was no consultation if the reverting parent has absolute right to change the original religion of the children without consulting the non-reverting parent” CITATION Tan18 l 17417 (Ali, 2018)In the hearing of Indira’s appeal, there were several matters which were taken into consideration by the Federal Court. Firstly, Indira’s lawsuit was “not about the status of her children as Muslim converts, but the legality and constitutionality of the Registrar of Muallaf’s administrative action in the exercise of his powers” CITATION Tan18 l 17417 (Ali, 2018). It must also be made clear that the lawsuit by her was not questioning the Islamic law and practices in any sense, but on whether procedures and important legal requirements to convert Indira’s children were really followed or not. The Federal Court had also indicated that, Islamic principles obliges Muslim converts to seek for their non- Muslims partner’s consent before converting the religion of children born to a civil marriage.
According to Federal Court’s judge Tan Sri Zainun Ali, the Shariah courts do “not have the power to expand its own jurisdiction to choose to hear” Indira’s case. The Shariah court’s jurisdictions in this case was also limited because, Indira, being a non-Muslim, has no legal requirement to stand before the Shariah courts because the court have no jurisdictions over non-Muslims. Tan Sri Zainun’s judgement was later, undisputedly supported by the other Federal Court judges including the president of the Court of Appeal. Surprisingly, the ruling was praised by politicians such as the former Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Aziz. For an instance, he said the following statement during a press conference:
“I have always maintained that ‘parent’ means both father and mother, and it’s really wrong and stupid to interpret parent as either one. And when I was the (de facto) law minister, I had always maintained that the father had no right to do what he did… Islam is all about justice. When it is unjust it’s not Islamic, so, it’s a very good decision and from now onwards, there shouldn’t be any doubt in cases like this.” CITATION Mal18 l 17417 (Malaysia’s apex court declares unilateral conversion to Islam unlawful , 2018)The only solution to prevent unilateral conversions in the future is by amending the laws. Major conflicts between the civil law and Islamic law in Malaysia can only be solved by the Parliament by introducing reforms in the laws related to Section 88A of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act. The Parliament must work towards prohibiting such unlawful conversion of minors because it not only causes social injustice, but it also violates the rights of the non-converting parent and contradicts the Federal Constitution which may in the long run, even jeopardize the harmony among the citizens of Malaysia. Even though some conservative Muslim groups such as PAS has strongly opposed to attempts in amending the law to ban unilateral child conversion, the former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak however, said that the government will consider continuing to work to re-introduce a clause to ban such conversions to Islam.
In conclusion, a middle ground that is acceptable to both Muslims and non-Muslims must be achieved to be included into the proposed new section 88A of the Act. The victory won by Indira Gandhi in the Federal Court was not just for herself but for all those who were affected by unilateral conversions, and I hope the government should revisit other similar cases of the past to provide justice to safeguard the freedom of religion enshrined in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
PART 7UPROOTING FUNDAMENTALISM THROUGH INTER-FAITH DIALOGUESYaashini A/P Selvam
All the religions as social beings, people are naturally linked with certain beliefs, objects, groups, and ideologies. This affiliation generally happens on an acutely aware basis, in conjunction with the individual’s personal decisions, likes, and dislikes. It should additionally happen semi-consciously, therefore to talk out of socialization and learning processes that square measure on the far side the pure management of the person. In any case, all adults square measure supporters like liberalism, Marxism, nationalism, Hinduism and so forth.
Human affiliation in the form “ism” may be pathological at times. One of the most visible forms of “ism” pathology in today’s world appears to be religious fundamentalism and it is the one of the root causes of the conflict among multi religious society. CITATION Vas15 l 1033 (Saroglou, 2015) What is fundamentalism? It refers to all religious movement that seek to return to fundamentals of their faith. Fundamentalism is understood as the strict maintenance of traditional orthodox religious beliefs or doctrine especially belief in the inerrancy of scripture and literal acceptance of the creeds as fundamentals of one’s own religion. It can be explained in a simple word as an act of return to the fundamentals of a religion or a text which people belief to be literally true.
People are implementing Fundamentalism to seek to return to the traditional basis and believe their view is the only true view of the world. Besides, they justify their views by reference to sacred text and dogma which means by narrow minded beliefs. Usually thy will avoid contact with people who hold other view. They rely on guardians of religion to interpret sacred texts and lay down rules which determines their lifestyle. This root cause has made an issue related to Taman Medan Church problem which created problem between government and a society in Malaysia, bombing of religious places a hatred.
Taman Medan Church protest happened at Petaling Jaya on 19th of April 2015. About 50 residents staged a protest against the new church situated in a shop lot in Taman Medan after the congregation put up a cross on the building façade and claiming that it challenged Islam. CITATION Nic15 l 1033 (Cheng, 2015). The group, which gathered at about 10am while Sunday service was going on, contended that the sight of the cross in a Muslim-majority area “challenged Islam” and could influence the young. The protesters claimed that the presence of a cross in a Muslim-majority area posed a challenge to the religion and could sway the faith of the youth. The village leader later pacified the group and spoke with the church’s pastor on their behalf. After meeting with the pastor, the church agreed to take down the cross by next Sunday.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 16: The protest by Muslims in front of the Church
Besides, on January 2010 three of the churches were attacked in Kuala Lumpur. The attacked have caused an extensive damage to the church. These attacks happened because Christians using the word ‘Allah’ to mean ‘God’. Muslims, they do not like Christians from using the word “Allah”, escalating religious tensions in the multiracial country. Young worshippers defend Islam by carried banners at two main mosques in Kuala Lumpur. They stated that, Allah can only use by them and they will not allow the word Allah to be inscribed in the churches. The demonstrations were held inside the mosque compounds to follow a police order against protests on the streets. Participants dispersed peacefully afterward CITATION FAC l 17417 (FACTS AND DETAILS, n.d.). Motorcycles attackers threw a firebomb and destroyed three-story Metro Tabernacle church. The government said they will take a step to prevent these problems. Two weeks week after the initial church police arrested eight men, among them two brothers and their uncle, in connection with the arson attack at the Metro Tabernacle Church.
Socialization process is one aspect of religious fundamentalism. It is usually the case that individuals coming from religious families are generally more religious than those brought up within more secular environments. Such people, like their parents and ancestors, tend literally to interpret religious text in accordance with their traditions. They are usually ethnocentric, they would advocate language of militancy, but normally, they are not directly associated with physical violence.
In fact, a well-interpreted religion can foster inner peace, tolerance, and love, thus, creates an outer peace and social harmony in their broader sense. How it is interpreted depends on human mind, as well as social conditions. It can reflect subjective beliefs, it can be a vehicle of expressing accumulated frustration, and it can be a utilitarian activity aimed at certain changes for the better or desirable. As a solution for this root cause would be fine when the people start collaborating to have interfaith dialogues. Dialogue refers to communication with adherents of various religions and communities to foster understanding between one another. Dialogue is outlined because the involvement of two or a lot of parties that debate beliefs and their several non-secular beliefs, even viewing the conflicts that might probably erupt between religions and see that cooperation between them is possible. To achieve interfaith dialogues the issues of unity and understanding are very important to concern. This will create a more peaceful, and harmonious country, as well as complementary and understanding community. In reality, interreligious dialogues have informally taken place among Malaysians. For example, socializing and meetings between different religions in the context of neighborhood, community, employment, education, and administration, which usually trigger dialogues in an unplanned manner. This will also make the young generation to think and act rationally. Hence, they think that they do the right thing, that they will gain 30791152491476001070610250914900acceptance and love of their society.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 17: Examples of Inter-faith dialogues’ posters in Malaysia
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 18: Projek Dialog in Malaysia
CONCLUSIONMalaysia is often held up as a unique model for “other Islamic countries because of its economic development, progressive society and overall peaceful coexistence between the Malay majority and the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities who are mostly Christians, Buddhists and Hindus” (Hays, 2015). Nevertheless, despite being a peaceful country compared to the other parts of the world, Malaysia also has its own conflicts which tears apart its citizens. Malaysia would definitely be a failed state without its national unity and interfaith harmony which were planted by the founding fathers as its foundation.
As Malaysians, we should always strive to nurture this tree of racial and religious harmony and protect it from being infested with “termites”. For an instance, fundamentalist are examples of “termites” that eat up and breaks down the tree of harmony by their divisive arguments and beliefs.
Let us continue to uphold the concept of unity in diversity which is basically, the bedrock of our nation. We should strengthen our respect to other cultures and enjoy the multiplicity, by this, there would be an increase in the understanding of other religious belief and thus, maintains the harmony of Malaysia. Let us never forget that each of us, regardless of our religion and race, are responsible to create a beautiful and successful country.
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