Ethno-Religious Provocation By Politicians And The Media

Even though the government has about one more year before the deadline of holding the next General Election comes around, netizens like me could already feel the electoral heat online. Predictions on elections are announced, promises in return of victories are made, issues are reprised and political malarkey are sung in beautiful notes.

In a globalized era where the burst of transparent information permeates in the minds of a developing society, Malaysia is laden with internal and external challenges. These challenges are comprised of a constellation of wants, needs and frustrations. Citizens with common causes come together to fight for their rights and politicians (or powerful political key players) mobilize these citizens for their objectives of attaining power. Some want to gain power for themselves and some want it to change the country.

The new media has become the main tool to unite people under the same banner. It is easy to arrange political gatherings by instant updates via Facebook or Twitter. The telecommunication evolution facilitates speedier access to information with internet on mobiles. It is also easier to pit communities against each other with irrational and irresponsible posts that are racial, ideological or creed based provoking statements; the Chinese vs Malays vs Indians, Christians vs Hindus vs Muslims, Liberals vs Conservatives and so forth.

Before responding to distasteful statements, keep in mind that we are responsible for our words. How we respond would reflect the group that we represent. Although we mean to direct our answers to the perpetrator, by explaining things using the wrong words may offend others.

No thanks to politicians and political-leaning new media, pandering on sensitive issues for political propaganda is not making Malaysia a better place for peaceful Malaysians. Politicians who flare up social crises by playing with ethnic or religious sentiments do not deserve support. In fact, these politicians are the very agents of social destruction.

It is said that these politicians are sincere defenders of their society. Still, we are living in a multicultural society. Malaysia does not belong to one particular race. One race is not better than the other. A race that posesses the most economic power does not entitle them as the sole owner of this country either. The watersheds of history has destined that everyone must live together.

Politicians who lead or defend an ultra-racial or an ultra-religious community have the responsibility to educate them on the values of diplomacy, peace and harmony. To support them by crying out loud of their own interests that would threaten the needs of others would only instigate dissatisfaction from other parties. Everybody has a right and freedom to defend their interests. Nevertheless, there are limits to interests because we all are sharing the same space. Like a child who shares a home with his siblings and parents, he is bound to the limits to his space. He cannot do whatever he likes in the house or he might get into trouble with his siblings. He could not ask his parents to kick his siblings out of the house because that would not solve the problem. The same thing goes to us Malaysians.

If we observe Malaysians walking in the city centre, people are able to rub shoulders without identifying creed or color. In organizations, we work together. It shows our true Malaysian spirit and to cultivate this kind of spirit did not take a year or two but for decades. So why should we allow certain people sow the seeds of ethno-religious hostility when we have become a more progressive and civilized society?

When it comes to ethnic and religious matters, politicians should approach it by downplaying these issues to avoid conflict and confusion. Individuals or parties involved in a crisis should be called for a diplomatic discussion. There have been many incidents where minor misunderstandings were blown out of proportion. Politicians make radical statements then the political-leaning media would frame the issue in a detrimental picture.

The ethno-religious provocation by politicians, extreme individuals in the traditional and new media is causing Malaysia to suffer from a trust deficit in its social relations. Trust is the most pertinent element in maintaining law and order. Without trust, people would be suspicious other who are of different religion and races. Without trust, governments will lose their legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens. Without trust, husband and wives will not have a peaceful marriage. Thus, politicians must avoid issues that will do harm to the bodies of trust. If they were to win the election on the basis of ethno-religious bias, they will face problems when they are in office because other social groups will want their heads.

As Malaysians, we must be matured enough to identify these exaggerations. We must know that an article in the media (be it the mainstream or the alternative media) is written from one point of view. This point of view does not represent the whole true picture. However, it is influenced by the writer, the editor and the owners of the media.

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