May 5, 2006

Agree to Disagree

Posted in Malaysia, Reflections, Religion at 1:33 am by egalitaria

Marina Mahathir got it right in her recent Star column, in which she opines that if there was any movie even close to profaning the religion of Islam to the level that Da Vinci Code (book/movie) does to Christianity, you would have great acts of holy terror cast upon those responsible. I am sure that reasonable Muslims can rationally discuss such matters. And I am also sure that there will be quarters of Christians who would love to react in a more explosive and defensive manner.

However, the right way forward for this, and any other topic that can raise hairs due to its sensitivity, is to encourage open dialogue, a culture of discussion and discourse. Debate if you wish, but in a civilised manner, and with the mentality of agreeing to disagree.

Agreeing to disagree also means more than the formality and niceties of “tolerating” one another. The term “I tolerate you” in this country has taken to mean that “I am barely taking your presence; You are lucky I don’t push you out of this place just because I can. You exist only because I tolerate you so you’d better thank your lucky stars that I am so tremendously gracious.” Moving beyond a polite tolerance level, but to engage in attitude and behaviour that show utmost respect to the other. Looking at an individual without necessarily placing a label and tag (of religion, race or anything else) but considering the person as a fellow human.

What I’d like to see is a possibly heated interfaith dialogue (heated because each is passionate about his own subject, not for the purpose of inciting anger), and thereafter the two representatives of the faiths heading out to a Mamak session together, to continue discussing in congenial terms the differences between the two religions. And after a good handshake, a quick nod, each returns home without grudges because they have agreed to disagree.



  1. cyber-red said,

    Maybe you’d like to know that there had been a discussion on Gubra being a cultural threat and one of the panelist even lamented this IS a Tanah Melayu and I’m too blah to continue on. You should google and read about it. Aghast is the word to describe people who believe Malaysia just belongs to ONE race.

  2. Din said,

    sad to think that Malaysia belongs only to the Bumiputras. Chinese and Indians who are bred and born here Loves malaysia as much as the Bumiputras. We bleed, sweat for Malaysia as much or even more than the ‘Bumis’. Sometimes, I think to myself, “I love Malaysia, but does Malaysia loves me?” We are treated unequally, we are at the disavantage at so many areas, be it business loans, government projects, purchasing property etc. We are always treated as second class citizen. We have to fight for ourselves, to ensure a brighter future. My dad always say, “if the Malaysia had given you scholarship to study overseas, you MUST come back and repay your bon and serve your country, because She has treated you so well. But if u have got great results and yet being turned down for the opportunity to follow on studies, and your parents have to “sell blood” to fund your education, by all means, advance your career in whatever way u see fit. That stupid health minister has no right to say that Malaysians who finished medicine overseas must come back and serve in their country as doctors and not just focusing on working in foreign country.Moreover he dared to say he felt sad about the attitude of these newly qualified doctors. What right does he has, to give such comments. We are indeed greatful, for OUR PARENTS who have send us overseas through their hard earned money. Therefore, it is only right that we try our best to earn some extra money to repay them and let them know that their investment has GOOD RETURNS.

  3. Charlotte said,

    Just a few days ago, my ang moh classmate (with regards to the Prophet Muhhamad cartoon incident and a cartoon we were watching ridiculing Fundamentalist Christians) said to me “I think Christians are able to laugh at themselves more.”
    I said,”That’s true… but also an indication that maybe more Christians are becoming blaise about their religion”.
    And with a half laugh-half sigh we returned to watching MTV’s crude jokes about bigoted, bible hugging republicans.

    Its a double edged sword isn’t it? I want to protect my religious freedom in Malaysia and debate it in an open respectable environment, and yet I allow things like the Da Vinci code and MTV to continue ridiculing it.

    I don’t think I even make sense. Oh well…

  4. egalitaria said,

    cyber-red: see my latest entry on Gubra. 🙂

    din: the non-bumi community makes up 30% of the population, and sometimes we act as though we are only 3%. there are certain things we would not disagree with. affirmative action for the TRULY needy is a positive thing. what happens is when affirmative action is used wrongly that people get frustrated. regarding coming back to serve the country, i actually do believe in helping Malaysia where i can. (in my minimal patriotism) The 30% of us who loves malaysia should be the very 30% who believes strongly in something and fights for a worthy cause. the problem is majority of the 30% prefer to remain silent.

    charlotte: hi there. on debating religion, i really don’t see it as a bad thing for us to allow things like the Da Vinci Code to be shown.. in fact, it allows people an open avenue to discuss things, topics that could never before be broached too easily. We have to be two things: 1) clear about our stands, 2) open to dialogue. And as a final reminder of what Voltaire says, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it.” People have to be matured to accept verbal blows and not get agitated. Easier said than done!

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