MALAY rulers, led by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Sultans of Johore and Selangor, have set a good example to all Muslims in Malaysia by wishing “Merry Christmas” to Christians in Malaysia.
This global example epitomises a plural nation where there is unity, understanding and harmony among the different religions in the country, consistent with Islam as the official religion of the country.
This is also in line with what Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman aspired for Malaysia to be “a beacon of light in a difficult and distracted world” – to show not only the presence of unity, understanding and harmony in diversity, but that the diversity of ethnicities, languages, religions, cultures and civilisations is a reality in the global world.
If we cannot co-exist among different races, languages, religions and cultures in a national environment, how can there be co-existence among different ethnicities, languages, religions and cultures in the global world?
Wrongly accused of being anti-Malay/Islam
This is why I have always believed in inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue and exchange, for we must promote unity, understanding, harmony and common values and not allow room for the existential threat to Malaysia and the modern global world – the toxic and divisive politics of lies, fear, hate, race and religion.
This was the reason why 41 years ago, I invited Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim – then regarded as a firebrand ABIM (Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement) Islamist – to a DAP retreat in Cameron Highlands in early 1981 – to dialogue and exchange views with DAP leaders on how to make Malaysia great.
In my 57 years of public life, I have been accused of being anti-Malay and anti-Islam when in fact, throughout my life I have ensured that the DAP is a party of all Malaysians regardless of race and religion.
I initiated the inter-civilisational dialogues with the then Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat in 2001 (died Feb 12, 2015) to promote greater understanding between the different communities in Malaysia by subscribing to different spiritual faiths and political ideologies.
This is because I believe what Malaysia needs to harness the twin efforts of ridding firstly, ignorance and lack of understanding among the different ethnicities and religions; and secondly, the toxic politics of lies, hate, fear, race and religion which are deliberately pumped up by certain political personalities and movements.
In my 57 years of political life, I have travelled to and visited more parts of Malaysia than an average Malaysian, and I can say with conviction that there is no anti-Malay, anti-Chinese, anti-Indian, anti-Kadazan, anti-Dayak or anti-Muslim, anti-Buddhist, anti-Hindu or anti-Christianity sentiments on the ground, but certain political personalities and political parties want to continue to poison the minds of the people that the Malays and Islam are under threat.
Origin of threat to Malays and Islam
As I said in 2019, I am prepared to pay this this price for integrity as I would not be accused by the PAS president Tan Sri Hadi Awang to be anti-Malay, anti-Islam, a communist and even an Islamaphobe if I had supported Hadi as the Prime Minister (PM)-designate of the Pakatan Rakyat in the 2013 General Election (GE13).
Before the GE13, Hadi through the PAS leadership had approached me to broach the subject of a PM-designate on grounds that Anwar was not a suitable candidate.
PAS leaders were quite astute as not to suggest themselves that Hadi should be the PM candidate for Pakatan Rakyat, and diplomatically suggested that their proposal for a suitable PM candidate was veteran UMNO politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
When DAP leaders dissented and held to our view that Anwar should continue to be the PM candidate for Pakatan Rakyat, and we made no suggestion that Hadi should instead be considered as the PM candidate, PAS leaders knew that the DAP would not support Hadi as the PM-designate and the proposal to replace Anwar as the PM candidate was not further pursued.
Malaysia risks being left behind
Malaysia should be the nation to show the world how a plural nation of different races, languages, religions and cultures can live in peace, harmony and understanding in keeping with an increasingly smaller global village as a result the advances of information technology, but we have failed to do so.
We have ceded this role to Indonesia where President Jokowi attended church during Christmas to spread the message of understanding, goodwill, harmony and unity among different religions in Indonesia.
With Anwar as Malaysia’s 10th PM, we now have a chance to return to the original nation-building principles of our nation’s founding fathers – personalities like the first four UMNO presidents, Datuk Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak Hussein and Tun Hussein Onn as well as other Malaysians like Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Tun Tan Siew Sin, Tun Lim Chong Eu and Tun V.T. Sambanthan.
Malaysia must not be left behind by a world which is opening up. The Communist Chinese President Xi Jinping was lavishly welcomed in Riyadh by Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, heralding China’s “epoch-making milestone” in its relations with the Arab world in contrast to the frigid visit of US President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia earlier in the year.
But time will tell whether Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup will have lasting effect on improving the human rights situation there.
Malaysia should represent new thinking in the international arena to promote peace, understanding, harmony and unity by being an exemplar in plural nation-building.
We must also leverage on Malaysia’s unique place as the confluence of four great civilisations – Malay/Islamic, Chinese, Indian, and Western – to promote the values and virtues of these four great civilisations for the benefit of mankind and realise Tunku Abdul Rahman’s aspiration for Malaysia to be “a beacon of light in a difficult and distracted world”. – Dec 30, 2022
Retired DAP supremo and veteran lawmaker Lim Kit Siang was the former MP for Iskandar Puteri.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: AFP