Imagine being an elderly foreign Mat Salleh couple, awakened by a pounding on the front door in the wee hours. Imagine being accused of khalwat despite being in your 60s and married for 42 years. Imagine being a grandmother of four and having to stand in front of men, dressed only in a sarong covering your body. This is exactly what United States citizens Randall Barnhart, 62, and his wife Carole, 61, experienced on Oct 14, 2006 at their condominium unit in Langkawi.
Barnhart and his wife were asleep at 2am when there was pounding on the door and male voices shouted in Bahasa Malaysia. One of the voices, speaking in English, identified the group of men as Islamic Affairs Department officers and ordered him to open the door immediately. "Then I opened the door to find six men in my face," said Barnhart.
Barnhart said one of the men yelled at him and said: "You are Muslim, we are coming in.“
"I told them we were Christians. They then demanded to inspect the apartment. "They were threatening and aggressive. He said the men then demanded to see his "woman". The Islamic officers, then demanded to see their marriage licence.
"I told them I did not have it on me. Next, they demanded to see our passports, so I showed them. The men then left.
The Islamic officers demanded to see marriage certificate? Are they crazy? Who in the world travels for holidays bring along their marriage certificate? Just because they are Islamic enforcement officers, they can do what they like? Is this Islam as elucidated in the Quran?
Egypt President Hosni Mubarak said that the Islamic world was facing incorrect accusations but added Muslims themselves must take some responsibilities for others erroneous impressions.
“Shouldn’t we Muslims shoulder part of the responsibility of these wrong ideas about Islam? Have we fulfilled our duty in correcting the Image of Islam and Muslims? What did we do to face a terroism that wears Islam’s cloak and targets the lives of the people,” Mubarak said.
Mubarak said Islam for 14 centuries had established Principles of forgiveness, righteousness and reform and preventing wrong doings and did not allow racism or discrimination, Fascism or Nazism to rise from Islam land. He said the golden age of Islamic civilisation had retreated when creativity in Islam disappeared and Muslims strayed away from the essence of the doctrine.
Read this Abstract from Zaid Ibrahim's Column: Take heed of lessons of Prague
It is undeniable that we no longer have the tolerance and the harmony that we desperately need to keep the peace. Tyrants and murderers seem invincible, but they always fall. It is tempting to resort to military might and political power without due care and concern for others when one wields such strength with no "real" opposition. But it takes "real" courage to exercise power with humility and compassion.
The story of the release of Nik Adli Nik Abdul Aziz, son of the Kelantan Menteri Besar, from detention under the ISA is indeed gratifying. Perhaps one day, we will no longer require the Internal Security Act. The moral leadership of our Prime Minister should be extended far and wide to release our society from the shackles of oppressive laws, intolerance and repression of any kind.
This is the sort of lesson we can surely preach with success: To listen, engage and understand with compassion rather than to react with irrationality, paying no heed to the consequences in the long run.
In spite of such hopeful progress, there have been many recent challenging events that in my opinion are opportunities for our administration to achieve genuine resolution through the employment of open discourse as opposed to imposing directives and warnings.
A controversial and sensitive subject is our New Economic Policy. The way we deal with this subject will determine our capacity to engage in a meaningful manner when we are confronted with major issues that cross racial and religious boundaries.
Today, the NEP discourse will be seen as a Malay/non-Malay issue, and thus deemed sensitive and is to be discouraged. This is tragic when the matter should be viewed in a perspective that is not racial in nature. The rationale of the policy has always been how best to provide and extend genuine opportunities to Bumiputeras, and at the same time alleviate poverty for others, through affirmative programmes and policies. To prevent ethnic and religious divides from further widening is to engage in open rational discussion with all interested parties.
Only knowledge and understanding of the issues can help us overcome prejudice and fear. Quick fixes by those wielding the power to find solutions to deep-seated problems will not succeed. Expedient policies serve only as temporary relief as we clearly know that such problems will resurface again when the fog clears. What is crucial here is to address the issues openly, to engage in rational discussion in trying to understand the crux of the matter so that effective resolution may be implemented. Responses fuelled by emotions and false ideologies serve only to obscure the real issues .