Sending wrong alarm signals

All moderates in Malaysia will warmly welcome the rational views expressed by Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa and his three honest compatriots of the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) in “What is Himpun about?” (The Star, Oct 22).

They have courageously stated that there is very little information or research to support the concerns of Himpunan Sejuta Umat and about a dozen NGOs that apostasy is a growing problem in our country.

According to Dr Ahmad Farouk, the Statistics Department, in its population census this year, has clearly stated that there has not been a single Malay convert or apostate.

So why, please, may I ask the leaders of Himpun, was it necessary to organise the rally at Shah Alam last week?

It was much ado over nothing. And although it turned out to be a storm in a tea cup, we have to realise that it has sent the wrong alarm signals that there are negative and even extremist forces at work which can cause irreparable damage to interfaith relations and harmony in Malaysia.

In all that we do in our multi-racial multi-religious country, we have to ask ourselves constantly whether what we do adds to or detracts from our path of national unity?

As the IRF has wisely stated in its letter, “without proper dialogue across communities, the situation will only lead to defensiveness and a perpetuated sense of insecurity from all sides”.

The IRF is right. Indeed there is still no effective national forum for interfaith dialogue in our country. We pride ourselves in promoting Malaysia as a moderate majority Muslim country, but alas we need more evidence to show that we are really sincere and determined to become a truly moderate country.

This means we must all strive to contribute to developing a model country for better interfaith understanding, mutual respect and appreciation of each other’s religions and faiths, but we have a long way to go in this vital journey of national unity.

So perhaps progressive organisations like the IRF and other well meaning NGOs and religious groups need to come together in unity of purpose and goodwill to promote greater inter-religious harmony, hopefully with more active government support.

We – the Government and the people together – need to rise to the challenges of our times to protect the integrity and progress of our beloved country through better inter-faith understanding and cooperation.

Article published in The Star.

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