Sabah should be model of inter-religious harmony, understanding, solidarity and unity with zero tolerance for extremism to Malaysia and the world
My three-day visit to Sabah, partaking in the Pesta Kaamatan celebrations in Bingkor in Keningau, breaking fast with Sabahans of diverse religions and diverse ethnic groups whether Bajau, Murut, Kadazan or Chinese in Tanjong Aru, and visiting the more than 10,000-strong Bajau fishermen Kampung Numbak squatter settlement in Sepanggar who had been marginalised after being forced to move from Teluk Sepanggar over a decade ago because of the Sepanggar Submarine Naval Base project, has reinforced my belief that Sabah should be a model of inter-religious harmony, understanding, solidarity and unity with zero tolerance for extremism not only for Malaysia but also the world.
There are scores of ethnic groups in Sabah, with adherents of diverse religious faiths in one family or village – but all living harmoniously with understanding, tolerance, solidarity and unity, taking part in each other’s religious festivities without distrust, suspicion, venom or hatred!
In Sabah, we see Wasatiyyah or moderation and tolerance in action, lived in real life and not just preached from minbars, rostrums, pulpits or international conferences!
This is an useful and even precious experience and example in today’s very troubled world, where the rancorous and discordant voices of extremism or fanaticism, preaching hate, distrust, suspicion, intolerance and conflict are trying to hijack and dominate public discourse and mainstream space.
Malaysians do not want to see in the country the bombings and killings of innocent people, including children, as happened recently in Manchester, London, Paris, Jakarta or Mindanao, the result of extremism or fanaticism as a result of the incessant preaching of hate, distrust, suspicion, intolerance and conflict, whether by Islamic State or other extremist and fanaticial elements.
It is time for Malaysians to wake up and realise that moderates of whatever race, religion or politics will lose by default to the extremists and fanatics, if they are not prepared to stand up to defend and fight for moderation in the country and refuse to cede any ground in public discourse or mainstream space by demonstrating a strong resolution of zero tolerance for extremism or fanaticism.
History tells us of the heavy price moderates have to pay when they failed to stand up against extremism or fanaticism of any form.
A man, whose family was from the German aristocracy prior to World War II and owned a number of large industries and estates, was later asked by a well-known German psychiatrist how many German people were true Nazis.
He said: “Very few people were true Nazis but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed our factories.”
This German psychiatrist wrote:
“The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel and bayonet. And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery? Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were ‘peace loving’?”
The precious lesson of history, which are “often incredibly simple and blunt”, is that peace-loving moderates, of whatever race, religion or nation should not be made irrelevant by their silence.
It is pointless Malaysia preaching the Wasatiyyah principles of moderation, justice, fair play, balance and excellence on the global level, when in the past sixty years of Malaysian nation-building, the Wasatiyyah principles of inter-racial peace, harmony, understanding, tolerance and solidarity have been in retreat and regression.
This is obvious if we ask the question whether there is greater Wasatiyyah and more inter-religious harmony, understanding and solidarity in the year 2017 as compared to the early years of the nation, whether Merdeka in 1957 or formation of Malaysia in 1963?
In the first decades of our nation-building, It would be completely unthinkable to hear of demands in the public domain that non-Muslims should be excluded from buka puasa events in the month of Ramadan.
The holy month of Ramadan would also not be defiled by lies and falsehoods, especially on the social media, like the frequent false and defamatory allegations against rival politicians, with DAP leaders recently becoming favourite targets of such lies, falsehoods and hatred.
This is where Sabahans can step forward and offer the Sabah example to Malaysia and even the world as a model of inter-religious harmony, understanding, solidarity and unity with zero tolerance for extremism.
This will be a second great way to commemorate the Double Six Tragedy.