January 29, 2013
Bridge builders stand down Book Burners
by Terence Netto (01-28-13) @http://www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT It was a weekend fraught with anxiety over what some pyromaniacs had threatened to do. In the event, it turned out to be an occasion when meaningful symbolism triumphed as incendiary intent fizzled out – and the rest of the country breathed a little easier.
The children of light had triumphed over the children of darkness – that was the essential story of the weekend just past. Whom and what did it take for this to happen?
It took imagination by some leaders and constructive thinking by ordinary people for the triumph – albeit, temporary – of the nobler impulses over the baser instincts of man.
Rarely have such disparate symbolic gestures, like the birthday celebration of a durable leader, and the quiet reading and contemplation of scriptural texts by a host of ordinary people, combined to provide an appraising public with the liberating possibilities that a creative imagination affords.
That incendiary call prompted a welter of reaction but none was publicly forthcoming from leaders rhetorically invested in the paths of moderation.
Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Predictably, Ibrahim’s call, seemingly safe from interdiction by the powers-that-be, drew an anonymous respondent to post an invitation to the public to witness a burning of bibles on January 27 at a public venue on mainland Penang.Fortunately, not everyone took the threat in supine fashion.
Nik Aziz meets Karpal
The ecumenical Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the PAS MP for Parit Buntar and his party’s pointman for their outreach programme to non-Muslims, had been working for a long time to counter just the kind of fear mongering at which Ibrahim Ali is a dab hand.
Mujahid, in cahoots with comrades in PKR and DAP in Penang, contrived to have PAS spiritual leader Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat meet up with DAP chairperson Karpal Singh at the latter’s home, which is located in the thick of the Thaipusam festivity yesterday along Waterfall Road in Penang.
Sunday, Jan 27, happened to be the Kelantan Menteri Besar’s 82nd birthday. Karpal, who has recently been the target of criticism by some ulama in PAS over the former’s appeal to them to reconsider their stance on the ‘Allah’ issue, was pleasantly surprised by the visit to his house by Nik Aziz, the birthday man himself.
They reminisced on a past when they first became colleagues in 1978 on the Opposition benches in Parliament, Karpal representing Jelutong in Penang, and Nik Aziz turning out for Pengkalan Chepa in Kelantan.
“His presence sends a strong message that our unity is as strong as ever, despite all that happened,” chimed a happy Karpal.
A cake for the prelate
After that visit to Karpal, Nik Aziz met up with the Catholic bishop of Penang, Sebastian Francis, at a hotel where he presented a cake to the prelate.
The meeting was not originally on Nik Aziz’s schedule but was arranged spontaneously, as a counterpoint no doubt, to the threatened bible-burning event that did not take place.
Bishop Francis told a frail-looking Nik Aziz that the country’s needs his spiritual example, a sentiment that Ibrahim Ali would likely disagree.
Elsewhere in the country, at a park within the vicinity of the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, a small crowd of people, who could not have known about the ecumenical goings-on between DAP and PAS in the north and between Islamic and Christian leaders, flopped down on the grass to read spiritual books they have brought along to the collective read-in.
One of them, a Muslim named Masjaliza Hamzah (right), brought a Bible and read from it. She said, “Other people may be worried for me, but I am not worried about my own faith.”
The thought here echoes with some resonant lines from the poet William Blake: “In every cry of man/In every infant’s cry of fear/In every voice, in every ban/The mind-forged manacles I hear.”
Yesterday, spiritual and lay leaders in Penang and in Kuala Lumpur, acted out gestures whose striking panache helped breach the ‘mind-forged manacles’ that the book-burning crowd want people to be shackled with.