The long journey of unity

Race and religion issues never end in Malaysia, and it seems to be getting more and more. 

Just for the last week, we have seen several incidents related to race and religion.

A social media user was sentenced to 10 years 10 months jail for insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad. Three more were charged with the same issue as well. I believe these are not the only cases that we see in social media. 

While in the political arena, DAP’s Lim Guan Eng cautioned that the cooperation of UMNO and PAS would put non-Malays in the political crosshairs. The statement was corrected when initially he used the words “declare war on non-Malays”.

His comrade Nga Kor Ming stated that the UMNO and PAS union would turn Malaysia into a “Taliban state”. 

Even UMNO’s Nazri has questioned the appointment of non-Muslims as the attorney-general, chief justice and finance minister. He has also warned non-Malays not to question Malay special privileges. 

This coming out from a Finance Minister, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament and a former Minister has shown that Malaysian politics has not grown since independence.

We know that somehow there are certain politicians regardless of which side they are from who have used such racial or religious remarks to score points from their community. 

It probably enables these irresponsible politicians to convince voters of how they are protecting the people, but it is definitely a dangerous method which could result to racial and religious misunderstandings along the way.

This can also be seen in the last few by-elections, and in fact, the previous general election; that politicians made racially charged speeches aimed at inciting hatred just to secure votes from the people of their own race and religion.

We are now being threatened by selfish and self-centered politicians; those that only aim to win in the elections, form the government and take control of power.

We need a new breed of politicians that takes the lead of a new political culture whereby we are against playing racial and religious issues. We must educate and believe the maturity level of Malaysians that we do not have to identify ourselves with any race or religion to determine our support for any politician.

While we may know historically, it might be pragmatic for our country to have race-based parties, to enable the voices of every race and religion to be tabled in the Government. But today, we should be advocating for a matured society whereby we do not need people of the same race to protect us. As long as we are all living in the same community and country, we can always back each other up and work together. In fact, we all should belong to one race only, which is Malaysian.

The politics of today is building too many obstacles between different races and religions, rather than building bridges between them. We are moving backwards rather than moving forward.

At the same time, I believe the people play an equally important role. To achieve an united community, actions should be the priority.

Every year when it is near the Merdeka celebrations, we often see people sharing touching videos about unity on social media. It shows so much how many Malaysians wanted unity so badly? But how much of these thoughts were turned into actions?

Ironically, it is easier said than done. Sometimes, some who have shared those videos thought that they had done enough to play their role in promoting unity. But in reality, we need much more action than that. Put it simply, when we were young until we grew up, what kind of friends do we mix around with often? Community of the same or a mixture of race and religion?

We have to often ask ourselves, how often do we see race and religion being stereotyped among our friends and family?

Achieving unity is a long journey which needs effort from all levels and Malaysians from different backgrounds. It needs a strong political will from the politicians. We need a new political culture to move it forward.

As long as we are moving forward and not backwards, we do not have to worry about how fast we will achieve it. The importance is that we must take the right steps.

Even a country like the United States which was formed for more than 200 years; is still struggling in the issues of race and religion.