It is significant that the Star has launched a campaign to encourage the articulation of Brave Views and Bold Ideas but tempered by the voice of moderation.

One hopes that this campaign will help to overcome one of the major shortcomings in the public discourse on ethnic issues in the country. There is a pronounced tendency for opinion-makers who highlight a particular extremist view targeting a certain community to ignore or downplay a similar extremist position directed against another community. For instance, those who are outraged by a cow head procession are somehow not incensed when the carcass of a pig is left outside a mosque. Likewise, groups who protest against insulting remarks about Ramadan choose to maintain a stunning silence when a non-Muslim religion is subjected to derogatory comments. When some communal politician describes a third generation Malaysian of Chinese descent as ” pendatang”, he draws the ire of an entire community but when some other public figure rubbishes the Malay root of this nation so clearly acknowledged in the Malaysian Constitution, hardly anyone from that community attempts to rectify such a blatant distortion

This is the nub of the matter. One of the reasons why the discourse on ethnic and religious issues has taken a turn for the worse in recent years is because many of those who are part of this discourse are themselves partial or biased. They view ethnic injustices from a one-sided perspective. They have very little feeling for a wrongdoing committed against another community. In truth, there is no genuine inter-ethnic empathy, whatever one may profess.

It is this lack of empathy that is our real challenge. It is only when empathy is firmly established — hopefully through bold and brave dialogue — that a sense of equilibrium will emerge in our understanding of the ethnic and religious issues that confront our nation.

It is this equilibrium that is the key to our success as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society


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