May 5, 2006
Agree to Disagree
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.
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