Thursday, September 09, 2010

Learning about other faiths

Being open to learn about one another

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s recent advice that Malaysians should understand the sensitivities of all religions practiced in the country is timely. The number of unpleasant race-related incidences of late indicates that new generation of Malaysians have little or no knowledge of the practices of communities different from their own. This ignorance leads them to pass unsavory remarks on others which creates tension between the races from time to time. This is a sad state of affairs that must be corrected with some urgency if we want to see the success of the 1Malaysia policy being advocated by the Prime Minister.

Education is the single most important factor that contributes to the molding of a sound and stable mind. It is important to impart the right knowledge at a young age so the individual grows up into a right thinking person capable of differencing the right from wrong. It is important that children from a very young age are taught the right in all religions.

It is unfortunate that our newer generation is not being taught about the cultures and practices of all communities like it used to in the fifties and sixties. At that time regardless of our ethnicity we were taught of all the great religions and their founders which led us to regard these great people with respect and admiration that we hold on in our hearts till this day.

Today the situation is very much different where our children are segregated by race and religion to be taught about the own religion only. This has led to a situation where members of each community grow up to regard that their culture and religion are superior to others. The demands by certain groups for their legitimate rights are not tolerated by others as it is seen as challenging their own which is unfounded. How can racial unity and harmony ensue in such an environment of suspicion and animosity?

There are those who consider learning about another religion will be a threat to one’s own. This notion is baseless and must be discarded. In fact by learning about the different religions we tend to strengthen our own faith as we would realize that all faiths teach the same values that lead to God.

Racism and religious intolerance that are beginning to rear their ugly heads are largely due to ignorance of each other’s cultures and traditions. This must be checked at all costs as otherwise may lead to dire consequences. There is no way we can develop love and respect for others when we do not know them and there is no way we can know if we do not take the trouble to do so.

The biggest obstacle to appreciating the good in other religions is the mindset that is prevalent in many of us, “Mine is the best”. It is time to change that to the mindset, “we are all equal”. Until and unless we can make the switch of our mindset, true respect and tolerance for our differences will remain remote.

The Prime Minister has made his call loud and clear – zero tolerance for racism and as Malaysians who value of the well being of the nation, we must rally behind him to make that a reality. It is time for us to stand up to say no to racism of any sort. The first step for us will be to adopt an open mind to study other religions to appreciate the good in their teachings. Having gained that knowledge, the next step will be to cultivate in our own lives the respect for the practices and believes of one another and by our example instill that respect in the young who will invariably emulate us over time.

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