A Message to a 93-year Politician: Time to Grow Up

March 12, 2019

A Message to a 93-year old Politician: Time to Grow Up

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We, speaking up for what we believe to represent the majority of peace loving and responsible Malaysians, condemn the unhealthy trend of irresponsible individuals and political parties in capitalising on the issue of ‘insult to religion’ to gain popularity among voters.

Such callous actions by these individuals and groups, bordering on rabble rousing, will put the country in a heightened state of uneasiness and fear. The government of the day seems unwilling or unable to respond to these acts of opportunism by irresponsible parties for their own selfish ends.

The background relating to the issue of ‘insult to religion’ lies in our colonial and recent past which saw limited education and the mixing of cultures between the different communities. Hence the past need for restrictive laws to preserve public order.

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However, after 60 years as a nation state making its way towards modernity and the matured liberal, scientific and progressive future envisaged in Vision 2020, it is high time to revisit and revise these laws.

On May 9th, citizens of Malaysia voted out a failing government and ushered in what we hoped would be a new era of mature political discourse and freedom of expression. As with any new manifestation of political culture, there will be teething problems. These problems need to be analyzed and objectively dealt with in the way which developed and mature societies would handle them.

In our country, institutions of religions have been set up to administer each religion with Islam acknowledged in a special situation in the constitutional sphere. Article 3(1) states that, “Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.”

What this means is that insulting Islam is unacceptable in respect of the current laws. Similarly, other religions in the country – even if not enjoying the status of Islam – need to be equally respected.

Striking a Balance In Laws Pertaining to Insulting Religion

In the application of laws prohibiting insulting religion, we must strive for a rational and liberal balance with the protection of the freedom of expression while being mindful of the religious sensitivities of our multi-religious communities. Hence open mindedness and moderation should be the norm in the interpretation and application of the existing laws.

The following are some examples which the holders of state power should not automatically or as a reflex action seek prosecution and punishment just because some individuals or groups label them as constituting religious insult or disrespect:

1. The production or reproduction of religion-related literature and art by Malaysians should be permitted and protected under the law so long as the author is not engaged in what is clearly an act of religious hate crime.

2. Opinions on social issues such as child marriages, female circumcision or other similar subjects are perfectly defensible and permissible as they bear no intention of insult. On the contrary, they provide a contemporary understanding of what are traditionally accepted norms and practices sanctioned by religious authority. The sharing of knowledge on such issues with social and religious institutions and authorities should be encouraged rather than be penalized by the law.

3. Professional opinions on technological, planning design and environmental issues concerning religious buildings or religious actions and rituals should be welcomed as they will help create more sustainable forms and structures that would benefit all members of society.

4. Discourses on spirituality, different forms of religious belief and even agnosticism and atheism should be permitted. Such exchanges of theological and non-theological constructs will enable the nation to grow spiritually as well as be part of the growing universality that is replacing narrow religious, cultural and social constructs.

Protection of the above and other similar expression of thoughts, ideas and constructs are absolutely necessary for Malaysia to grow to become that  “psychologically liberated, secure and developed nation” as envisaged in Vision 2020.

Key Role of National Unity Consultative Council

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Together with the above, in view of the recent national and international attention and publicity  given to the ten year sentence levelled on a recent offender accused of insulting Islam on social media, we call for an urgent phasing out of the laws related to ‘insult to religion’ by instituting the following replacement:

Firstly, such cases construed as ‘insult to religion’ should not be the sole judgement of a single judge for fear of ethnic and religious bias. Such decision should be referred to the National Unity Consultative Council under the purview of the Ministry of National Unity. The NUCC should  comprise noted personalities in societies with representatives of officials from the various religious groups.

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Secondly, for the period before the laws of ‘insult to religion’ are to be phased out, punishment should not go beyond a commensurate fine within the financial status of the person being charged.

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Thirdly, once the laws have been phased out, acts pertaining to so-called ‘insult to religion’ should be referred to the NUCC for action. Such action can include collaboration with the respective religious institutions or authorities to ensure that there are no adverse ripple effects from the alleged insult or disrespect; and counselling of the individuals or groups engaging in such action or activities.

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Fourthly, religious leaders in their sermons must regularly advise congregants and members of the faith against insulting others.

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We remind our fellow citizens that the resort to law to criminalise opinions and views on religion is a double-edged sword. Let us put that sword away so we do not end as a cut up and impaired nation.

Tajuddin Rasdi

Tawfik Ismail

Siti Kasim

Lim Teck Ghee

Terence Gomez

31 thoughts on “A Message to a 93-year Politician: Time to Grow Up

  1. 1) Earthly judges, the state in particular, and human beings generally, cannot dependably evaluate the truth-claims of competing religious standpoints; (2) Even if they could, enforcing a single “true religion” would not have the desired effect, because belief cannot be compelled by violence; (3) Coercing religious uniformity would lead to more social disorder than allowing diversity.

    Thomas Locke – Letters Concerning Toleration..

    I will bet less than 1% of Malaysian children ever read these ideas or even heard of Locke much less Francis Bacon, Edmund Burke, Montesque, Toqueville,

  2. Correction:
    1) Earthly judges, the state in particular, and human beings generally, cannot dependably evaluate the truth-claims of competing religious standpoints; (2) Even if they could, enforcing a single “true religion” would not have the desired effect, because belief cannot be compelled by violence; (3) Coercing religious uniformity would lead to more social disorder than allowing diversity.

    John Locke – Letters Concerning Toleration..

    I will bet less than 1% of Malaysian children ever read these ideas or even heard of Locke much less Francis Bacon, Edmund Burke, Montesque, Toqueville,

  3. All religions are the same and should be given equal respect. Just because the Muslims form the majority it does not mean Islam should be accorded a superior status under the guise of being the national religion. This construct is faulty and divisive. Religions should evolve on their own without state interference. No one should demean or insult a religion and the state should come hard on such elements. Otherwise there will be chaos and public disorder. Always bear in mind, man came first, religion came later. Atheists don’t burn places of worship but religionists sometimes do. That says a lot.

    • True. See below:

      How the Christian British caused the deaths of 1.8 billion Indians:


      How Christian Europe killed so many indigenous Americans that it caused climate change:


      A book to tear your heart apart is David E. Stannard’s “American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World” Oxford University Press,
      Paperback, 1993.

      And I haven’t yet touched on the genocides at Africa, Australia, etc.

    • Ahh so.., the eternal blaming of the horrific New World genocide by the European ‘Christians’. As if Religion was the only reason why the World was colonized. Nothing said about the intense human need for exploration-curiosity, empire building, economic greed, geopolitics and other very secular factors. Religion because of it’s faith is easiest to blame ain’t it? While at it, what’s so different about you guys skewering all religions, like what is happening in Malusian Courts?

      The British East India Co. was primarily a commercial venture was it not? The 1770 Bengal Famine (10 million) was due to several factors – delayed monsoon and drought, but the BEAC (poppy monoculture) took the main blame. Otoh, the Bengal-Bihar Famine in 1873-74 was somewhat mitigated by British efforts. The 1943 Famine was due to WWII and scorched earth policy against the Japs in Burma.

  4. The Greatest Sin is to Grieve the Spirit. But how does one grieve the Spirit – is left unanswered.

    Since, many do not know what, who, when, how, which the Spirit actually is, it’s not logical to punish something that is intangible. God and Religion need not be ‘Protected’ if it is truly Unconditional, Omnipotent and Omniscient. Omnipresent is of course dependent on the Religion itself.

    Insulting another’s religion is due to poor upbringing, immaturity, psychological issues, ignorance and pure laziness. Correction is by education, not criminal intimidation or misapplication of Law. A canon to shoot a midge is superfluous.

    I remember some time ago, i was standing among the temple ruins of Bagan (Pagan), Burma at sunrise – a year before the ‘Troubles’ began in Rakhine. On my right, was my guide – a devout Buddhist, and on my left, my driver, a devout Muslim. All 3 of us marveled at the beauty of the morning and at the piety of long ago folk who set aside their treasure and effort to build something of impermanence as a symbol of something Eternal. We prayed in Silence. Why can’t we all try to get along, Octo?

    • No, insulting another’s religion is eminently justifiable if that religion is causing injustice and cruelty, and indeed it should be done more often in that case. After all, so-called ‘gods’ can surely look after themselves; why should they be bothered by mere mortals denigrating them? Intelligent people should question every religious motive – being scientifically literate means not being willing to be subject to the arbitrary decisions of ignorant populists who use their imaginary ‘direct connection with (*insert name of particular ‘god’ here)’ to further their own selfish agendas.

      Religious belief is due to poor upbringing, immaturity, psychological issues, ignorance and pure laziness. Correction is by education, not criminal intimidation or misapplication of law. A canon (sic) to shoot a midge is superfluous.

      The supreme waste of resources exemplified by temples (and all places of worship) shows how humans throughout the ages have misplaced their energies fruitlessly…

  5. Some of the greatest thinkers throughout history are atheists and/or agnostics. When asked about spirits, ghosts, etc., Confucius diplomatically advised people to leave them alone. George Bernard Shaw, tired of listening to tales about the last Judgement, said if God loved him only half as much as his (Shaw’s) mother, He would never sentenced him to eternal damnation. Bertrand Russell’s illuminating essay “Why I’m not a Christian” reveals why a non-Christian like himself was, he believed, more “Christian” than those “professional Christians” (Russell divided Christians into two types: professed Christians and professional Christians).

    I’d posted in many places my feelings about the works of Christ, the one man who remained my inspiration throughout the slings and arrows of my life. It was how Jesus lived his life that impressed me, not stories of his power, or even the promise of eternal life. There are differences between the works of Jesus and the organized Church that acts in his name.

    • @Icrenoir, this is sincerely a question hoping to learn. Is Confucius an atheist/agnostic? I gathered that Confucius came from a religious class from previous dynasty. One of his philosophical bedrock is that there is what ‘ought’ to under a ‘tian’. Just thought I could learn more from you.

      //It was how Jesus lived his life that impressed me..
      Isn’t that sufficient, Icrenoir?

  6. “Is Confucius an atheist/agnostic? ”

    My take:

    Intellectuals tend to regard the word “tian” like Carl Sagan’s explanation of what his view of a hypothetical “God” could be – some kind of universal law of nature. Often it’s used for the randomness of events that couldn’t be explained rationally – a totally unexpected death might be described as a case of “tin yi” (Cantonese) denoting the fate or an “act” of heaven on that person. Though western translations often paired “heaven” with God few Chinese equate it as some kind of entity that created the world, with human features like some Michelangelo paintings. The lower classes tend to regard “tian” as something absolutely powerful, but still can’t really visualise it except in terms of some force. And, as Lin Yutang noted, they might pray for blessings, etc., yet are often rational enough to know that human agency is needed.

    “One of his philosophical bedrock is that there is what ‘ought’ to under a ‘tian’”

    Yes, because like “dao”, “tian” denotes some kind of universal law: follow the laws of nature and things will (or more likely) go well. Unlike Abrahamic religions, it does not involve an anthropomorphic being. Ceremonies conducted to usher in, say, a new emperor, were ways of visualising the universal force, involving ethical, political elements that reinforced the concept of the Mandate of Heaven.

    At times of national disorder, the helplessness felt by many Chinese often led them to be fatalistic. They might say, “what can we do – it’s the will of heaven.” And when the best efforts to do the right thing failed, they’d refer to modern equivalent of “man proposes heaven disposes.” But even when they say that, they never think of an activist heaven. Mo Tzu was very much against this easy way of explaining human events, this putting everything to heaven’s will. To him, quite rightly, it’s a sign of laziness, intellectual or otherwise.

    Confucius’s advice to “stay away from ghosts and spirits” arose from his rejection of the supernatural. That was also the general attitude of most ancient scholars.

    //It was how Jesus lived his life that impressed me..
    Isn’t that sufficient”

    It is.

    • Thanks, @Icrenoir. My mind is a little muddy on this. I believe I didn’t do my homework to differentiate between what the students wrote down about what Confucius says, vs what subsequent scholars say that make up the corpus of Confucianism.
      I suspect mine has been muddied by Zhu Xi. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhu_Xi has a small section on his agnostic religious view.
      Perhaps, Confucius too has similar agnostic view as per this blog entry.

      Thanks, @Icrenoir.

    • “//It was how Jesus lived his life that impressed me..
      Isn’t that sufficient

      It is.”
      @icrenoir, perhaps then … like what @clf asked me if we are looking at the same tree. I suspect we are looking at the same tree.

      Below is just a random blog post on the gift of opportunity to admire someone, .. something.


      Like @CLF, I too would not defend Christians, in terms of making the past wrongs done understandable. Even if we were to put aside all the wrongs and killings committed by Christians, we still should have a lot of misgivings on what Christians have not done today. In face of what we should do, there is just so much we haven’t done. There is no logical reasons to defend all the wrongs done.
      Your misgivings are indeed justified as you know that is not what Jesus, whom you admired.

  7. The God of Confucius was probably more personal than the ‘God’ of Einstein and Spinoza, a distant and uncaring, aloof deity. I would regard Confucius as a ‘Soft’ Deist (possibly Henotheistic), whose concept of God (天 tian) us characterized by:
    1. A god whose revelation is through his creation;
    2. A moral god. Sin is violation of his natural law and procession;
    3. Tian judges and punishes violators – whether in this life or the next is not stated. Karma is not well developed as with the Indic religious traditions;
    4. Everyone was created for a purpose.

    In fact, the God of Confucius was very much like all the concepts of Deity in the Axial (Karl Jaspers -8th-3rd century BCE):

    “Confucius and Lao-Tse were living in China, all the schools of Chinese philosophy came into being, including those of Mo Ti, Chuang Tse, Lieh Tzu and a host of others; India produced the Upanishads and Buddha and, like China, ran the whole gamut of philosophical possibilities down to materialism, scepticism and nihilism; in Iran Zarathustra taught a challenging view of the world as a struggle between good and evil; in Palestine the prophets made their appearance from Elijah by way of Isaiah and Jeremiah to Deutero-Isaiah; Greece witnessed the appearance of Homer, of the philosophers – Parmenides, Heraclitus and Plato, – of the tragedians, of Thucydides and Archimedes. Everything implied by these names developed during these few centuries almost simultaneously in China, India and the West.”

    For the confused, but ethnocentric Welayu enthusiast, i would recommend:
    “A Biblical Approach to Chinese Traditions and Beliefs” by Danial Tong 2003 ISBN 981-4045-92-6, if willing.

    • Thanks, @clf for the Danial Tong’s work. Perhaps, I am still on a “merantau” stage. The rebellious me is more keen on “A Lao Tze or Confucius approach to understand the Biblical tradition”. Danial Tong’s work appeared a bit dated, in the sense that it looks more interesting 2 or 3 centuries ago. It is time for the local faith to be slightly “Nestorian” today.

  8. CLF – the difference is that atheists didn’t commit atrocities in the name of atheism, whereas the religious did it in the name of religion.

    Mao murdered millions in the name communism – it is the dogma that drives the murderous intent, just like religious dogma.

    Hitler was a practicising Catholic. And again it is the ideology of Nazism that is doing the killing; not atheism per se.

    The Japanese army did all those atrocities for the Emperor, who is a god.

    On the other hand, almost all the terrorists are religiously motivated. Almost all the suicide bombers are religious. All the genital mutiliations are religious related. And paedophilic priests.

    • Huh? Murder is murder.
      The effect is the same, whatever the Cause – izzn’t it?
      Atheism destroyed and killed in the name of eradicating “Superstition”, does it not?

      Atheism is a Religion of Unbelief, that’s all – with all it’s plagiarized humanistic rituals, saints, traditions and sorteriology. If you need a anarchic understanding of Atheism – just read again the Reign of Terror after the First French Revolution.

      An Agnostic still manages to keep a semblance of Humility – that there is something out there or in here, that is unknowable. But the Atheist dwell in their Hubris and a Mechanistic Universe of their Narrow Sure-thing Self-Construct. A Castle Built on Sand, as it were. They are as ‘reasoned’ but stupid and ignorant as the ‘religious’ professors they abjure – but with less hope and no faith except in themselves.

      Can a Poor, Starving, Disenfranchised Homeless Beggar anywhere truly claim to be a true Atheist? I haven’t met one, in all my travels-travails. He/she may hate ‘organized’ religion, yet have a deeper faith in God than i.

      The only die hard ‘True’ Atheists are the ones i meet on the internet, who are physically satisfied and economically secure. In such a amoral environment, they often turn to become intellectual bullies and masturbators. Most often it happens after Graduation or a bad experience with a co-religionist.

      I usually can’t be bothered to engage as i have other priorities, but here’s to you and Brexit’s hell:

    • “Atheism is a Religion of Unbelief, that’s all”! Sigh. Atheism is purely a lack of belief. Nothing more, nothing less. Even a posturing pseudo-intellectual such as yourself should be able to grasp this basic fact. However, judging by the rambling, nonsensical quality of your previous comments, perhaps I’ve over-estimated your intellect.

      OTOH Your pompous bloviating does offer a good source of humour, so thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to let us laugh at your quite staggering stupidity.

  9. Katasayang, the idea of creation by any entity is foreign to Chinese philosophy. The absence of a living, judgemental God is one reason why Lao Tzu compared the Dao with straw dogs. Confucius never included reincarnation in his teachings. But like I said, I was giving “my take” as Chinese philosophy is very extensive and had been controversial as early as the Spring and Autumn period (during the so-called Axial period) when “a hundred schools of thought” flourished. It would be excellent if you could contact true Chinese scholars and not depend on the Internet or non-Chinese sources (advice my father- a Chinese scholar – gave me when I was still a teenager, over half a century ago 🙂

    • “… not depend on the Internet or non-Chinese sources (advice my father- a Chinese scholar – gave me when I was still a teenager, over half a century ago”

      Keep in mind the advice referred only to non-Chinese sources, hahaha. There was no internet then, but many Westerners writing on Chinese philosophy.

    • Good advice, @Icrenoir. Most of what I have learnt about Chinese philosophy is during a reading of Feng YouLan’s book one summer decades ago at Columbia.
      What I have missed is most likely because I am a bad reader and slow as @LaMoy has correctly pointed out.
      Reading many of the Chinese source directly, I would really need to go back to basic secondary school to learn how to read classic Chinese. Else, it will almost always be understanding from secondary hand, be it English or Chinese, like how I read the Bible.

  10. Though like other posters I do post websites it’s not something I relish because of information control by nearly all servers. Gatekeeping in this arena is merely the latest attempt in imposing on the world a mostly Western hegemonic narrative. Thus a Russian researcher on an estimated 7 million starvation-related deaths during the US Great Depression was rejected by Wikipedia. Groups of cyberwarriors are always present to shape narratives to the extent that something could be created out of nothing, like the fictitious “Tiananmen Massacre” while the thousands of deaths that occurred during the horrifying Kwangju Massacre in South Korea was minimised first to “about 900” and later to “a few hundred” in some websites.

    In the case of Bush Jr’s illegal war in Iraq the British Lancet had estimated over 600,000 deaths three years after the “shock and awe.” This did not include the half million baby deaths caused by Western sanctions, something which Albright said “was worth the price.” Today, both Left and Right mentioned only “tens and thousands” of Iraqi deaths.

    Historical distortions can be so shameless that, in the US, some official could even claim that Martin Luther King Jr would’ve supported the Afgan war.

    Modern propaganda saw its appearance around WW1, when the Wilson government organized thousands of talks in American cities to win support for breaking its election promise of not entering into that conflict. By the 1920s Bernays wrote the first influential book called, appropriately, “Propaganda.” My favourite was the comprehensive sociological approach by Jaques Ellul.

    The British, however, were the real masters of information control, especially on matters involving genocides against their colonies.

    A site on what they did regarding “Operation Legacy”:

    British experience in creating conditions for massive famines started with, I think, the Potatoe Famine:

    Almost nobody knows about the famine that killed about half the Persian population:

    Even the most recent famine in India was unknown in our textbooks, not to mention the almost continuous famines – about 29 in all – during the late 19th century. And in each and every one it was blamed on bad weather, communications, etc., not the British government or Queen Victoria. Propaganda about 1959-61 China crisis, however, rarely touched on the three years of bad weather. And it was blown up to becoming the greatest famine in history, even though Deng, a strong anti-Maoist, put it at around 16 million, which was already an exaggeration for many reasons. One, KMT, CIA and even Soviet spies were all over China during that period, and no one knew any such famine. The KMT especially were busily inventing disasters and catastrophes all over China during the 50s/60s and just simply missed that one??? Secondly, it was during that period that China embarked on a gigantic scheme to build thousands of reservoirs and other irrigation works. About half the biggest reservoirs remained in China’s top ten till the beginning of this century. Can starving people work so hard? Some say historically there were prisoners who worked hard on starvation rations, but the peasants were not prisoners. The Leap took place at a time when HUNDREDS of millions of peasants and workers were armed with rifles and sometimes even machine guns. They were the famous people’s militia, the final defence against any invasion by the West. A real famine wouldve seen the CCP overthrown.

    Of course the biggest, obvious, refutation: it’s our habit, the overseas Chinese, to write and send money home. Those over 50 or so years could even visit China and many did, like my family and several of my neighbors from just a small part of Guntung village, Ipoh. We knew the hardships, but hardly any starvation. And if any of the millions of overseas Chinese did see people dying like flies, it’s strange nobody talked about it, not even the pro-Kuomintang Chinese from the MCA.

    Anyway, below is another item, a book, on another famines, Britain’s last in India:
    “Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during WW2” by Madhusree Mukerjee

    • I think I’d posted David E. Stannard’s “American Holocaust” and it’s a classic on genocides in the Americas. Another good book to contemplate on the subject could be Dee Brown’s “Bury my Heart at Broken Knee.” Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” includes Native American, Afro-American, as well as oppressed whites under a powerful and often homicidal plutarchy. There’re more but these three could provide foundational knowledge on the subject.

  11. ” the almost continuous famines – about 29 in all – during the late 19th century”

    Should be: ” the almost continuous famines – about 29 in all – especially those during the during the late 19th century”

    A book called “Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the making of the Third World” dwelled on this period. Author Mike Davis,

  12. Katasayang wrote:
    ” a lot of misgivings on what Christians have not done today. In face of what we should do, there is just so much we haven’t done.”

    You’re so right. And remembering Jesus gives us the strength to go ahead and do a little more what needs to be done.

  13. Katasayang wrote: “I would really need to go back to basic secondary school to learn how to read classic Chinese.”

    You have a great advantage over me. My mother insisted that unlike my siblings I must attend an English school (because she was from Convent, Penang, I think). That could be a reason why my dad drilled me in the Four Books, etc., at an age when I couldnt really appreciate the stuff. He gave up the effort before I was ten, and it wasn’t until I became a teacher that I got an urge to understand Chinese culture – a bit late as many other interests cropped up as well. You’re still young: hope you achieve your goal in this and other worthwhile pursuits.

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