Friday, June 20, 2008

Politics, Religion and the Cloth in Between

Posted by St Low
Thursday, 19 June 2008

Let's face the facts. LIFE is all about controlling lesser beings that fall under our dominion. Even in highly advanced democratic countries, it is the government who wields actual power over the people despite them being elected into office by the people. Forget about People's Power and Makkal Sakhti for the moment. These are merely slogans that we use to propel our chosen leaders to the top.
The truth is it only takes a small fraction of the population to run the lives of the other millions below them. It seems like a heavy task for a few people to control the whole nation, but that is just what leaders have been doing everywhere throughout history. This is where religion and other mass control tools such as race and class come into play.
Religion has been used, misused and reused by figure heads throughout the centuries to exert control over tribes and nations. Unscrupulous leaders use it to create fear in people and then offer the promise of salvation. They label and brand religion to cater to their own goal of amassing a growing crowd of followers.
The introduction of Islam Hadhari by the Prime Minister was essentially a rebranding exercise that he had hoped would gain him more support from the people. However he did not take into account that Malaysians have generally become a well informed society. Most people do not see the need to change their way of practicing Islam, least of all one which expounds more or less the same values they have been following all these years.
I suppose that is why Islam Hadhari remains controversial and has not really gained any ground in the general populace. And that is why Pakatan Rakyat is slowly dismantling this concept in their states. After all, there is only one teaching of Islam – the religion of peace.
The other reason for its unpopularity is because people are fed up of being told how to practice their own religion. Many consider religion to be a private matter and in my opinion it should remain that way. Once religion becomes a state matter, it will somehow turn into a political tool which will ultimately destroy its own sanctity. No matter how sincere a politician is, it must be noted that he is STILL a politician.
We should leave religious matters to the imams, priests, monks and rabbis. These men of the cloth are the ones who are qualified enough to expound the teachings of their various religions. Politicians should not don the robes of religious men and vice versa, religious men should not preach behind the masks of politicians.
All the major religions of the world teach their followers to be at peace with oneself and to exist in peace with others. If you put a priest, a monk, a rabbi and an imam together in a room, I am sure there will be no quarrels. But once a politician enters the scene, the chances are high that sparks will be ignited.
The war in the Middle East and other parts of the world today are not due to religious differences. We don't see rabbis dropping bombs on imams and imams throwing stones at rabbis. The real war is actually between greedy politicians who misuse religion for their own selfish gain.
It is dangerous for politicians to step into the sacred grounds of any religion. If they do, it will be like a flame walking into a tinder-box.
Fortunately, Malaysians are wise enough and they can see through the crystal-clear facade of Badawi's Islam Hadhari just like they can see through the walls of the Crystal Mosque of Terengganu. Even PAS has realized that politics and religion should be treated separately by restricting the aspects of religion to themselves and joining hands with other parties to build the nation. This, I truly respect.
On the other hand, will UMNO ever learn from their mistakes?Great leaders do not need to hide behind the cloak of religion to lead the nation. Neither do they need to play the racial card to gain support. Great leaders should simply adhere to the values of justice, equality, humanity and humility.
The dismantling of Islam Hadhari in the Pakatan States is a good start towards the elimination of religious enmity and segregation in our society. It is time we move forward and leave behind 50 years of unfounded fears generated by preachy politicians. Let's remove the cloth that has been hiding their ulterior motives all these years.
By Edmond R

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