Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Move towards religious acceptance, not tolerance

The recent controversy surrounding the cow head protest of Section 23, Shah Alam has sparked a furore of public dissatisfaction. The Selangor state government has done all it can to satisfy both the protesters and Hindu residents but to no avail. But just when the dust begins to settle, is it possible that 'Muslim sensitivity' has been hijacked as an excuse for downright racism?

On August 28, a protest was held in front of the Selangor state secretariat against the relocation of the Sri Maha Mariaman Temple into their residential area of Section 23, Shah Alam. The protest became a subject of criticism when the group displayed a bloodied cow head to mock the state government without knowing or rather being ignorant to the fact that cows are considered sacred in the Hindu religion. [Read more on the incident]

The Selangor state government recently held a dialogue between the residents of Section 23 to cohesively draft a solution to the ongoing problem. The forum, of course, turned rowdy when residents began to physically confront each other. Some residents even threw racial insults towards government leaders who were present at the meet and rejected alternative proposals brought forward by the Shah Alam City Hall.

The residents argued that the relocation of the temple directly affects Muslim sensitivities. But when asked what these "sensitivities" were, the objectors failed to provide any clear answers. Some cited "traffic congestion" as one of the reason why the relocation of the Sri Maha Mariaman Temple was rejected. "Traffic congestion" has nothing to do with religious sensitivity of any kind.

Interviews made by The Malaysian Insider recently revealed that several residents of Section felt their religion had been 'sidetracked' and 'betrayed' by their Muslim leaders. How so? Because the new site for the Hindu temple is just 150 meters from a surau and in a Muslim-majority housing area. The Sri Maha Mariaman Temple had to be relocated from its original site because it was also too close to another surau.

A resident was even quoted saying she was against the relocation of the temple because it was too near to a playground and children will not go there to play if the temple is built. Why? Are Hindus pedophiles?

On September 4, Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (YDIM), an Islamic missionary organization did no one any favour to help calm the issue when they argued that the high number of Hindu temples in country was the cause of the problem. According to its president Datuk Mohd. Nakhaie Ahmad, there are too many Hindu temples in the country and that has made the Malay community uneasy.

Nakhaie also said that despite 60% of the population in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur being Muslim, there are only 13 mosques in the area as to 72 Hindu temples.
Former Selangor Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo suggested recently that his idea of having a religious enclave - where Hindu temples would be segregated into one area - would solve the problem and foster greater religious tolerance. I would ask Khir Toyo, would he do the same to the mosques in a non-Muslim majority area? History has shown us what segregation can do to nationhood; be it religious or ethnic.

In my opinion, why should the Hindus relocate their temple in the first place? They have done nothing wrong but to be in close proximity to another house of worship. Why should the Hindus of Section 23 compromise on their rights to freedom of worship just to satisfy and fulfill the demands of another group of people. The protesters may not realize that when they preach of religious tolerance, they are effectively looking at themselves in the mirror.

It is clear that Muslim sensitivities have been exploited to justify a ludicrous cause and an excuse for blatant racism against other Malaysians of a different faith. The objectors of the temple relocation are clueless as to how the relocated temple would infringe Islam and Muslims.

We, non-Muslim Malaysians kindly asks these people to consider the fact that there are also instances where mosques and suraus are built in a non-Muslim majority area and yet, the residents have no qualms about it. We ask our fellow brethren to understand this side of the coin. In a multi-religious country like ours, it is all about give-and-takes and not demand-and-whine when things don't go our way.

Perhaps, it is time that Malaysians move towards religious acceptance rather than religious tolerance. What is so obnoxious about another religion other than our own that we need to put up with?

We have to accept other religions as they are and not belittling others to suit our own interpretation of what faith and religion should be. Accepting another religion which is not our own does not mean we betray our beliefs nor are we new converts to the former.

Be it waking up to the daily Azan call or enduring the traffic jams during the annual Thaipussam walks in Batu Caves, we should all embrace our differences and celebrate our diversity. Saying one building is too close to another or segregating temples into a enclaves are not the solution to the problem. Are we not hypocrites when we teach our children that Malaysia is founded in the spirit of brotherhood and mutual respect?


  1. vasantarao appalasamy said...

    Children never go to playground to play just because of the temple built nearby? logic or not?

    actually the temple relocation nothing to do with 'sensitivity', but UMNO politicize this matter in order to 'win over' Selangor.. what a cheap tactic! but poor it did not work...

  2. Anonymous said...

    The real problem, i think is acceptance yes, but a lot more to do with each race's upbringing and generally mentality that other races and culture are just to be seen and knowned, and ultimately be apathetic to them.

    'Walau, morning call everyday, no need alarm'

    'Apunene places are scary oh' (I think that's why kids are scared, I actually understand :P )

    'Aiyo, no parking on sunday again, forgot got church here'

    I don't really know what most ppl say about buddhist temples, 'cause my community's made up of 'em, but yeah, I think this applies to all other ppl. There is no acceptance, there are only petty observations of other religions as an INCONVENIENCE, which breeds a generation of ignorance. So take that, 'ONEm'sia'.

    -Comrade Citizen Kane's Wrath

  3. z said...

    "Some cited "traffic congestion" as one of the reason why the relocation of the Sri Maha Mariaman Temple was rejected."

    Please, ever tried driving pass a mosque on friday at 1pm?? It puts a whole new meaning to the word congestion. It is also the only time one can see triple parking XD

    Besides, traffic congestion are a part of our Malaysian lives. Everyone complains and nothing is ever done about it, why start now??

  4. Anonymous said...

    "A resident was even quoted saying she was against the relocation of the temple because it was too near to a playground and children will not go there to play if the temple is built. Why? Are Hindus pedophiles?"