Saturday, January 16, 2010

Follow-up on Malaysia Situation

This is follow-up to religionist tensions in Malaysia. I ran into an Associated Press article being run in the New York Times.

Malaysia Minorities Fear Islamization in Allah Row
The dispute has spawned attacks on 10 churches and has hardened a long-standing sense of alienation among the non-Muslim minority, threatening 40 years of ethnic peace and stability that underpins Malaysia's economic success.

Tensions rose further Thursday after lawyers representing Christians in their legal fight for the right to use ''Allah'' discovered their office had been ransacked and a laptop was missing. Also Thursday, a church in the southern state of Johor was found to have been vandalized with red paint…

The nation's current policies on race stem from violent riots in May 1969 in which Malays attacked the generally more prosperous Chinese. The government responded in part with an affirmative action program for Malays in jobs, housing and other areas. There are exclusive schools and colleges for Malays, while minorities fight for limited university places under the program.
I recommend you read the article to gain some insight into that present sitution.

In my opinon, I think the present breakdown in civility between cultural and religious parties in Malaysia has to do with three basic things.

One, is that the economy is bad. Marginal economic parties always lash out at what are perceived to be competing groups for jobs, food, shelter.

Two, the local Islamic culture of Asia is swept in the global awaking of Islam. This awakening is a two edged sword. The ugly edge part is international jihad in the form of a political movement called al-Qaeda. The other side of the sword is one of cultural awareness and bringing new meaning to an ancient belief system.

Third, when Malaysia formed in 1957 as a multi-cultural country, it along the timeline gave native Malays preferential treatment in education and government jobs and other things. The remaining minorities of Chinese and Hindu have had to go overseas for higher education feeling slighted in that area.

The bottom line is that the temporary vision, the pragmatic social contract of the making of a post-colonial modern Malay State is unraveling. Chinese, Hindu and the Indigenous populations wants more equality in Malay Society.

On the Indigenous side and in two provinces on the northern side of the Island of Borneo, five hundred miles from the Malay Peninsula, is where Christianity is taking hold. The RC church and it's request to legally use “Allah” as acceptable usage under Malay law for G-D in a local indigenous regional catholic newspaper is the tip of the iceberg - and what recently sparked ethnic religious hate crimes.

Part of the original social contract of 1957 makes it mandatory that all majority Malay citizens be Muslim without exception. If you become privileged in this social equation you give up freedom of religion which is perhaps an alien western to them concept but not unlike Medieval Europe where the Church was the only official religion in town.

Bridging the gap to a future global society means having to ask how to build that bridge in an acceptable fashion with sacred/secular fused, mixed and secular societies.

The Republic of Singapore had been briefly opted into the Malay state around 1963 and then opted out in 1965. From my own research I know that Singapore which has a majority population of Chinese ancestry people did not feel comfortable as part of the Malay nation equation.

I doubt that the Malay majority population will give up any constitutional privilege very easily. The future on Malaysia I think is that majority population not be introduced to the concept of religious freedom as much as allow freedom of thought and religion to be a factor in binding the nation up into a more civil, tolerant and better glued together society.