Tuesday 20 November 2012

Religion, politics and 'idiocrats'

I have no choice but to respond to Wong Chun Wai's (WCW) column in The Sunday Star as published in Malaysia Today with the title, ‘Keep faith out of politics'. My reason: Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI) was a co-organiser of the Islamic State Dialogue, together with the Islamic Renaissance Front.

WCW's comments make us infamous! Usually, to any Western-trained political conservative, anytime a Christian sits on the same side of a table with a Muslim, it is for them a timebomb ready to go off! Why?

For most such people, first and foremost, words are simply political tools to be deployed for their political purposes or expediency! Let me quote one example:

As I was walking into the now ‘famous' forum, and we were already running about 15 minutes late, I was stopped by a good Christian friend who is also an elder of a church in Malaysia. He whispered to me, "I am not happy with the title of your forum, as the premise already makes a major concession! We Christians cannot accept the premise of an Islamic state". I found a nice, and hopefully not rude way to politely disagree with him and advised him to wait till the end of the dialogue, and then to speak to me.

He, like most ‘idiocratic' others, cannot understand or appreciate the difference between ‘the law' of any subject and ‘the spirit,' and contents that drive that subject. They cannot appreciate true content within a defined context.

The concept of an Islamic state is merely a political ideal that has been historically debated and discoursed, especially in the Muslim world, and much before the modern Christian era.

The particular interpretation of the Islamic state ideal will differ, even within Muslim communities, whether you take a literalist view or a philosophical view about the contents and locate it with the historical dialogue and debate.

I faced the same challenges when I was trying to define my research hypothesis about the notion of 'dignity in the workplace'. I defined ‘dignity' as a spiritual ideal; ascribed to man, premised upon the idea of a real and living spiritual God!

I was also barred from "mixing faith with science". I was told in no uncertain terms, "this is a secular university and there is no place in such academia for your religious beliefs!" Sounds familiar?

Secular and sacred

The root word, ‘secular' has its origins in Christian theology, as the time-frame between Jesus' first coming and second coming. Over the years though, and with the emergence of ‘secularism', mixed with so-called objective science and liberalism, this very theological ideal became the basis to dismiss any spiritual substance within the interim time-frame by the liberals and their "God is dead!" movement within secularism.

Therefore, ‘secular' is a bad word today, related to liberal and Western ideas and ideals about the absence of God. Anything secular is taken as bad and should not be acquiesced. Therefore too the corollary logic of "keeping religion out of politics", or "keeping faith out of a university".

No one really stops to consider the John Newman hypothesis that the very idea of a university was the direct result of single and integrated universe of life, which could flow out of any comprehensive system of faith-beliefs. Please read ‘The Idea of a University' by Newman. In my doctoral work, I have called these differing faith-based beliefs systems of logic as ‘world views'.

Keeping faith out of politics?

Therefore, I find it rather amusing that the editor-in-chief of the biggest circulation English newspaper of this nation could make what I call a categorical error of such a great magnitude. He is also a Christian to boot. Therefore, allow me to define my terms and phrases.

Wikipedia, my favourite Internet-based ‘secular-driven' dictionary, which accurately defines the world view of modernity, gives the following definition about faith:

"Depending on the religion, faith is belief in a god or gods or in the doctrines or teachings of the religion. Informal usage of faith can be quite broad, including trust or belief without proof,[1] and ‘faith' is often used as a substitute for ‘hope', ‘trust' or ‘belief'. Some[who?] critics of faith have argued that faith is opposed to reason. In contrast, some[who?] advocates of faith argue that the proper domain of faith concerns questions which cannot be settled by evidence. This is exemplified by attitudes about the future, which (by definition) has not yet occurred."

So, please help me readers: What then does WCW mean when he says, in The Sunday Star headline of his weekly column, ‘Keep faith out of politics?'

Of course, maybe we can blame his editors for an error! But, I would suspect that on this subject of great import, even his editors may have not changed his ascribed headline. Therefore, I ask again, "what do you really mean, Wong Chun Wai?"

You see, WCW, if you go by the ‘faith' word with its precise meaning, it can only mean a belief in a religion and some ‘god or gods' of some kind. But, then again, there is a broader meaning: of trust, hope or belief without proof. Which do you really mean, WCW?

Religion, politics and the Rukunegara

The politics of race (I would prefer ethnicity) and religion (I would prefer spirituality) is endemic in Malaysia because it was explicitly embedded into our federal constitution two times. First, with the Federation of Malaya constitution, and that is when we created (we simply followed the English model) the institution of the Conference of Rulers as the penultimate authority of the Muslim religion and all related matters!

All these same race and religion aspects were reviewed (as per their 18-point and 20-point arguments) before Sabah and Sarawak agreed to form Malaysia, but with some clear and explicit exceptions for them.

To make matters worse, the definition of ‘Malay' is closely and intricately intertwined with the original and earliest migrant population of Malaya, but also with the conscious and explicit exclusion of the natives, the ‘Orang Asal' of Malaya. However, the natives of Sabah and Sarawak were better recognised for their race and religions.

Nonetheless, after all the "negotiations and political brokering (I presume faith was an equal issue, even if not explicitly stated in the records), we still had to evolve the Rukun Negara, while borrowing the Indonesian version called ‘Panca-sila' or Five Principles!

Embedded within this Rukun Negara is faith or "Belief in God!" We have all grown up believing and restating this at school assemblies and it is still recorded on the last cover page of any official school notebook.

Therefore, may I conclude by stating that our faith is integral to our nation-building and we in fact make it a most important factor of our politics in Malaysia!

Was it not the Rukunegara which was the most epitomic result of the first ever national consensus-seeking consultation event in the history of this nation? Was this not how we overcame the May 13 riots and actually began to move forward? Let us therefore not revisit the subject.

My other question is to Shuhaimi Baba on her latest movie: Is the Rukunegara also your obvious conclusion of how we learned to move forward together? If not, you may want to review the screening until after the general election! May God bless Malaysia!

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