Too much of anything is good for nothing. That proverb by the old folks indicates that too much or too little of anything is bad. This has been true all the while as it is proven that we need a balance in everything we do in our life.
We need sugar to provide energy, but extreme consumption of it will cause diabetes.
A lot of Malaysians love Western countries during winter due to its cooling weather, but extreme coldness will cause frostbite and probably death.
Workout at the gym is a healthy thing to do, but extreme workouts will injure and damage the muscles.
Same goes to politics and advocacy; it is the right of the people to fight for the rights of their race and religion, but when it is too much, it is EXTREMISM.
History itself has proven again and again that extremism keeps repeating, despite the fact that many are aware of it.
Biblioclasm or libricide, the practice of burning or destroying books or other written material is one of the methods of extremism that history has known since centuries ago.
In 213 BC, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty of ancient China burned the books and buried Confucian scholars to prohibit all heterodox thinking.
During the siege of Baghdad in 1258, the House of Wisdom along with all the libraries in Baghdad was destroyed by the Ilkhanate Mongol forces. The books from Baghdad libraries were thrown into the Tigris River in such quantities that the river ran black with the ink from the books. Scientists, philosophers and academicians were also killed by the forces.
The German Student Union conducted a book burning campaign in the 1930s to ceremonially burn books in Nazi Germany and Austria by classical liberal, anarchist, socialist, Communist, Jewish and other authors whose writings were viewed as subversive or whose ideologies undermined the National Socialist administration.
Earlier a few months ago, Ibrahim Ali sparked a controversy by suggesting to burn the bibles written in Malay.
And then we have the sex blogger Alvin Tan and her then girlfriend posting their Ramadan bak kut teh on Facebook. Then we have the activist Ali Abd Jalil asking for the royal institution to be abolished and that he was not afraid to die for saying so.
Extremism has existed since the birth of humans when we have certain groups of communities trying to get too many rights for themselves while ignoring others.
I suppose most of us have to agree that the freedom of speech in Malaysia has increased compared to the past decades. Some may argue that it’s due to the government’s inability to control the social media sites which belong to foreign countries. Whether we like it or not, I think we must say that a lot of people have been making criticisms openly without fear or favour.
In the past, the people in our community restricted ourselves from saying sensitive remarks and words especially those from the May 13th generation. That generation has always used the tolerance or avoiding conflict method.
As our country has developed since 1969, so has the mindset of our community. The young generations are not bonded by the May 13th fear or any historical baggage anymore as they have never experienced such bloodshed and conflict. They are more daring to speak out their minds compared to their fathers and grandfathers. But sometimes, they voice out in an overly extreme manner such as the cases of Alvin Tan and Ali Abd Jalil.
Yes, it is their right to speak and voice out. But when a community is in a transitional phase towards a more freedom and democratic society, not everyone is able to accept the criticism of others towards their beliefs and culture. And Malaysia is going through that phase now. Yet, even the people in a country with real freedom can’t accept criticisms that don’t make sense.
I have always heard from a lot of people that they are neutral, unbiased and moderate. These are some of the characteristics that made them look holy or divine. Unfortunately, I have also seen that these people hardly practice what they preach. Being Chinese, I have always heard a lot of friends complaining about the loud azan during the Muslim prayers. But have they ever thought of the loud getai singers during the Hungry Ghost Festivals or any Chinese festival celebrations that last until late night?
Being moderate does not only mean you are considerate for yourself or your own race. It requires huge courage to actually stand up and fight for everybody in a fair manner. And sometimes being moderate, you have to face some extremists claiming that ‘you are selling out your own race.’ In this case, if we want others to be fair to the activities in Chinese celebrations, then we have to be fair to the azan as well.
Every now and then, we have extremists voicing out their biased opinion, and making us wonder whether we can achieve the real racial harmony that we have always dreamed of. Then, there are also voices of the moderates that hit back those extremists. But it is difficult to really determine which is the minority and majority as there are many people who are very opined but remain quiet to themselves.
Nevertheless, there is always hope for a racial harmony as long as the moderates still exist. All we have to do is to keep on educating and spreading the right thoughts of moderation to the people. The transformation will not happen in a few days, few months or few years. It takes a long period and I do believe one day, the Malaysian dream will come true.
“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.” – Robert F. Kennedy