Jason Loh Seong Wei
All over the world, we are witnessing rising levels of violent hate crime inspired by religious ideology for which there seems to be no lasting and sustainable solutions.
For example, India is now one of the top five countries in the world known for physical hostility against religious minorities, according to Pew Research.
For a start, the call should be to increase awareness of the phenomenon, as well as cultivate a sense of empathy with victims of religious violence and persecuted minorities who are not our co-religionists or compatriots.
Specific examples of religious violence around the world include ethno-religious cleansing of the Rohingya by the Buddhist Burmese majority; lynching of Muslims by Hindutva supremacists in India; vigilante persecution of non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan; communal and terrorist attacks on the Copts in Egypt; sporadic inter-ethnic and inter-religious violence in parts of Indonesia such as Sulawesi and West Papua/Irian Jaya; militant Buddhists in Sri Lanka targeting religious minorities, especially Muslims; acts of terrorism by Boko Haram against Nigerian Christians; and continuing oppression of Palestinian Muslims and Christians by Zionists (whose Jewishness or DNA credentials could well be dubious and), justified (wrongly so) by an appeal to a fantasy notion of biblical legacy.
It's submitted that the roots of religious violence lie deeper than just religious fanaticism. Religious identity only provides that ideological cloak for the competing and contestation of rival political, social or economic interests.
FIRSTLY, we have to be sensitive and empathetic to the plight of our fellow human beings in other parts of the world suffering from genocide and violent persecution irrespective of ethnicity and religion.
SECONDLY, we should be moved to take some form of concrete action, however small, in terms of that which is outside our society (that is, regional, international) which directly relates to these situations.
The kind of practical action we can take might be:
SPREADING the word to others such as neighbours, colleagues, co-religionists;
INVOLVEMENT with non-governmental organisations as members or volunteers/supporters in organising roadshows, public talks, seminars and so on to create awareness and explore concrete measures to address religious violence, etc;
COLLECTIVE prayers at mosques, churches, temples; and,
PETITIONING the relevant authorities such as Wisma Putra, and international bodies such as the United Nations, Asean, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Arab League, etc.s to pressure and assist host governments to combat the scourge of religion-based terrorism.
We at EMIR Research pride ourselves in taking the central or middle ground of moderation and rejecting extremes on both sides of the spectrum or polar opposites. It, therefore, behoves us to speak up about such issues with the view of promoting solidarity, sympathy and support for the affected communities (just as in the case of the Palestinians) in the name of humanity and universal values.
Whether these communities suffer from internal displacement due to ethno-religious conflict and cleansing or intense and institutional persecution by both state and society, all of us have a role to play in standing up to violence done in the name of our religion (whichever it is).
Not to mention, too, that so-called religion-inspired violence too often leaves behind a trail of destruction (infrastructural, environmental) that sets back the sustainability and liveability of these zones of conflagration. Thus, violence in the name religion also interlocks with environmental and sustainable development issues as embodied by theUN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
In conclusion, in our effort to build a better, and more just, equitable, progressive and peaceful world, we certainly cannot avoid highlighting these issues, sensitive though it may be to a few. Speaking and standing up against religious violence should perhaps be on top of our agenda for the 21st century, among other policy challenges.
May we and our government have that resolve to articulate forcefully on this subject — beyond just the Palestine issue — on behalf of oppressed Muslims and non-Muslims alike as part of the common challenges we face as the human race.
The writer is head of Social, Law & Human Rights at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research
Published in: New Straits Times, Thursday 26 November 2020