Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Give Peace A Chance"

The January 7 arson attacks on four churches in the Klang Valley have unleashed the best and the worst in Malaysians.

While the mainstream media has been exercising restraint in their reporting of the incidents, not all bloggers have demonstrated the same level of mindfulness. Some of the bloggers I have previously followed expressed such prejudice, hatred and suspicion in their opinions that I have decided that they are not people I wish to retain as my friends. Others made unfounded and preposterous allegations of the arson attacks being political manoeuvres by either party, depending on which side you are on. The more erudite bloggers have been holding forth endlessly on how the random acts of violence are the results of years of corruption, reverse discrimination, marginalisation of certain groups and the undermining of the independence of the judiciary and the doctrine of separation of powers.

I am not convinced that the attacks are the outcome of political machinations. I am not convinced that the situation is under control, as our nation's leaders would have us believe. I am not convinced that the incidents were isolated and unrelated incidents.

What I do know, however, is that is it now truly a battle between "us" and "them".

"Us" constitutes those of us who are not merely paying lip service to the ideas of peace and tolerance, but who actively reach out to others in a spirit of friendship, compassion and conciliation. "Us" is those of us who believe that a fundamental way of battling corruption is by living our lives with integrity -- by not offering or accepting bribes; by not "pulling strings" and relying on "connections" to secure jobs, contracts, titles and places in favoured institutions; by not transgressing housing and public order regulations and then expecting the authorities to "close one eye"; by not purchasing illegal and pirated goods or patronising illegal outlets; by not creating opportunities for dishonesty and corruption. "Us" is those of us who believe that the way to lasting and peaceful change is through democratic means and through public education efforts, and that the only way to counter bad ideas is through better ideas, and not through censorship, the suppression of civil liberties or exploiting the ignorance of certain groups.

"Them" is made up of those who respond with hatred, suspicion and malice. "Them" are the ones who utter incendiary words and expect the worst of people. "Them" are those who spread fear and hatred and disseminate unfounded rumours and implicate individuals and groups. "Them" are those who hold the "I am better than you" and "Serves you right" mentalities. "Them" are the ones who are arrogant, unthinking and fearful of those who are different.

I urge all of you, gentle readers, not to respond in fear and suspicion, but to pause to reflect instead, on how the arson attacks have also brought out the best in Malaysians.

Consider the goodwill gesture of a group of Malaysians of different faiths and backgrounds who responded to an appeal on Facebook and came together at Bukit Bintang to hand out flowers to passersby in a gesture of goodwill and friendship. I may not be entirely convinced that "everything's going to be alright", but I do know that with individuals such as Chi Too and his friends who courageously turned up at Bukit Bintang, there is immense hope that our country will rise above its failings and shortcomings to be united, strong, progressive and resilient.

Youths giving away flowers as a sign of friendship and unity at a busy intersection at Jalan Bukit Bintang yesterday in the wake of arson attacks on four churches on Friday. — M. AZHAR ARIF / The Star

Photo and caption reproduced from The Star, without permission but in accordance with the principles of fair use.

And today, 130 Muslim NGOs volunteered to help protect churches by patrolling and checking on churches in their neighbourhoods and reporting on suspicious activities in a gesture of goodwill.

These sincere gestures touch our hearts precisely because they are so rare that they have become newsworthy.

Our duty today and henceforth is to make an earnest effort to ensure that goodwill gestures such as these will no longer be exceptional or isolated.

I foresee the attacks are not going to stop immediately. But if we were to react with fear and hatred, we would be letting "Them" win. Our duty therefore is to respond with courage and goodwill, as the groups above have.

The only way we can make our nation strong is by extending a hand in friendship, compassion and trust to others. Don't just sit there complaining that the investors have lost confidence in Malaysia -- play your part by living your life with integrity and reducing opportunities for corruption and illegal activities! Don't whinge about how Malaysian society is no longer what it used to be -- say hello and introduce yourself to a neighbour, a new colleague, the postman or waste collectors, the stranger who happens to share your dinner table at an event! (P/S: Thank you, Mum and Dad!) Be diligent at work, but also take the time to volunteer your time and skills and contribute your resources to worthy causes, because sharing is a privilege and a pleasure.

The groups above have taken a step towards creating a better and more peaceful Malaysia for all. Let us make it our New Year resolution to follow their lead and make peace, stability and unity our responsibility. For we are One, and we are strong, and we are better than those who try to stoke the fires of hatred. And we shall overcome, but only if we all play our part.


mamasita said...

Hai E.Lynn..
I am glad you dare blog about this fiery issue.
Other than Saya, myself and Paula, most lady-bloggers will not post any entry nor dwell on this 'unhappy' issue.

I don't know how long we'll remain friends but for now, the situation is still very tolerable and may our friendship lasts forever.

But if we innocent Muslims were to be labeled as fanatics and terrorists even in our own homeland..then I fear the friendship may fade..I pray the non-Muslims will be very careful with their vocab.

And please find the real culprits before accusing Muslims of torching churches.

We don't want Malaysia to turn into a Gaza-like place..endless war and not a single day of peace.

Definitely..the damage to us Muslims has been done.
We have been branded!
Muslim extremists and terrorists! How sad.

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Dear Datin,

That's exactly what I DON'T want;
"Muslims did it!"
"No we didn't!"

INDIVIDUALS did it. They had an agenda to push. In case the individuals happen to be Muslims doesn't mean all Muslims share their views. In case the individuals are from a particular political party doesn't mean all members of that party share that view. In case the individuals are non-Muslims doesn't mean non-Muslims share their views.

You see, we must get out of that "they said we did this" and "it must be you people who did this" mentality. Individuals do not represent their entire races, religions or countries. Just because one man is convicted of rape, does it mean all men are rapists? We cannot treat people as a unit instead of individuals with their own motivations, ideas, opinions and ideals.

Just let good prevail over evil, and wisdom over ignorance. We must be stronger than they are.

Let the perpetrators be brought to justice quickly, and let us understand that that's what they are -- vandals and troublemakers. Not the representatives and spokespersons for their race, religion or political party.

aravind said...

There will be some people who will make comments which they'll later regret.

But if you ask the non-Muslims to be careful with their vocabulary, perhaps you should also ask yourself why you refuse to dwell on this 'unhappy' issue.

It's healthier to talk about our diferences, rather than pretend they aren't there.

I also hope the real culprits will be found, but I fear they won't be.

katztales said...

I'm happy to see so many ordinary people finally speak out and protest against all this religious fighting but I'm also worried about the equally huge mass of people who thrive on this sort of stuff. Sad times for Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

good post..................................................

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Dear Ellen,

We have pretty much established that half the country isn't sane. Are we just going to sit down and let them rant and stir up hatred and fear and anger, or just wait it out for the storm to die out, or are we going to be proactive like the groups above have, and do something constructive?

We can't fight fire with fire. Last night, while I was driving around Bangsar, a motorcyclist merged into my lane and clipped my car. For some reason, he was angry and thumped my car with his fist, even though he was clearly in the wrong. Had I honked, or flashed my headlights, or yelled at him, it would have made him madder, angrier and more self-righteous. And 10 other motorcyclists would have stopped their bikes and gotten ready to beat me into pulp. After all, racial sentiments are pretty strong right now, and things are going to come to a head sooner or later in this country. Instead, I swallowed my pride, wound down my window just a little, said "Minta Maaf" and waved him through. He looked surprised, and no longer angry.

And that is similar to what Chi Too and his friends did with the flowers.

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Dear Aravind,

How good to see you here! You have a blog too?

Bro, I didn't say we have to keep quiet and watch what words we use and all be friendly with each other and sing "Kumbaya". What I intend to do from this post is to draw strength from those who are doing something good and constructive for society in the midst of so much fear and anger and resentment.

How much longer do we want to stew in resentment? How much longer do we want to regard each other with contempt and suspicion? I could sit at home and blog about Al-Qaeda International and how Malaysia now imports terrorists and how this is all the result of years of reverse discrimination, but I guess a hundred other bloggers have beat me to it already.

I don't want to live in fear. I don't want to be afraid to attend a church wedding or go to the temple or attend an event where crowds gather. And MY way of removing that fear is by drawing strength from the good that is in us and by dousing the fires of hatred with goodwill.

And as in the incident narrated to Ellen above, I think extending a hand in friendship works because "the others" are human too. Deep down inside, they are also fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.

louis said...


I commend your extremely mature, objective and insightful treatment of this sensitive issue.

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Dear Louis,

Thank you for coming by. These are sad times for Malaysia, and we must do something about it, not just sit there shaking our heads ruefully. I knew this post would receive negative responses. Some would accuse me of being a sell-out or a coward. Others would keep insisting, "but you don't understand! It can't be muslims!" and the debate would go on forever. I just want to put down my opinion in writing, for myself, if not for anyone else.

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Disclaimer & Addendum:

I was accused of not being brave enough to broach the issue of whether or not certain words could be used by people of other faiths. I believe it is not my place to comment on that particular point of contention because I am neither Christian nor Muslim, and I do not have the requisite knowledge in theology and philology to entitle me to make an informed comment.

I did not comment on the issue of WHO committed the attacks because I am not omniscient and the perpetrators have not been caught and charged in court! To say that Muslims must have committed it because a group of them protested with placards is like saying that you must have stolen a fish since you eat fish. To say that Christians must have torched their own church since they were planning to move to a new location is plain dimwitted and reflects on one's own spitefulness. To say that Muslims can't be capable of evil or Christians can't be capable of evil is even more ridiculous. Of course anyone of any faith can be capable of evil! All of us are capable of evil, just like all of us are capable of good!

And that was the entire point of my post.

That the choice is in our hands. We can choose to use our thoughts, words and deeds to HURT or to HEAL. Your call. You can always choose to hurt. We have moral free will. Hurting will give you a temporary sense of power. But I have never known causing hurt and destruction to give one lasting pleasure.

This post ISN'T one on which groups of people are allowed to use what words. It ISN'T a speculation about who did 'it'.

It is about drawing strength from the courage and sincerity of others and resolving to be better and stronger than those who hate.

louis said...


I think you might be interested in this article by the syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer, who puts this issue into its historical linguistic context:

Anonymous said...

Just stopping by ... great post.. very brave
Peace needs a chance.. Wouldn't the world be a better place without the religious

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Dear Louis,

What a well-written, even if somewhat lopsided, article! Thank you for the link. Always good to read different opinions, whether or not one wishes to agree with it. I have read Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" and much else besides, so I am not entirely ignorant as to the etymology of "Allah". I just chose not to discuss the topic in my blog. But I appreciate your visits, support, and intelligent and balanced comments, as always.

Off to Google more of Gwynne Dyer's articles now!

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Dear Anonymous @ 11.25 a.m.,

Thank you for your visit and comment! Yes, I do often think that the world would be a better place without religion!