Having a multi-cultural society does not mean that every Malaysian must subscribe to an ideology referred to as multiculturalism. With reference to Malaysia, having a multicultural society is a fact, but to subscribe to multiculturalism is to interpret that fact in a certain way.
Multiculturalism is an alien ideology which came into being out of a particular historical, religious, and cultural setting.
In order to understand multiculturalism one has to keep in mind the long history of religious intolerance in Europe, followed by the Reformation movement, the rise of liberalism, and secularization. It is a history that is full of horrible tales of persecution and intolerance in the name of religion (read Christianity). Religious pluralism is the outcome of an attempt to provide a basis in Christian theology for tolerance of non-Christian religions; as such, it is an element in a kind of religious modernism or liberalism.
Liberalism in religion and in politics are historically and theoretically related to one another. Liberalism as a political ideology which emerged in the same period and locale alongside liberal protestantism initiated by Freidrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834). Both took place in the aftermath of the Reformation.
Among the political and religious liberals the attitudes toward moral, social, and political issues are often the same. They emphasize the importance of tolerance, individual rights and freedoms to safeguard a pluralism of life styles. At the very foundation of political liberalism is tolerance of different opinions about religion. Later on came religious pluralism which seeks to provide a theological basis for this tolerance.
Being an outgrowth of liberal Protestantism, religious pluralism rejects orthodox interpretations of Christian scripture and dogma to make salvation attainable via routes other than Christianity. It is skeptical toward rational arguments in favour of the superiority of Christian beliefs. It appeals to the modern moral principles of tolerance and rejection of prejudice.
Because of its emphasis on the elements common to personal religious faith, particularly the inward turning toward the Ultimate, the outward expressions of faith in religious law, ritual and theological doctrine are considered to be of secondary importance or a personal matter altogether.
The liberal separation of religion from social order is founded on the assumption that this separation is consistent with the tenets of all religions and sects, whereas it is in direct conflict with the very nature of the worldview of Islam. In the first place, the Religion of Islam has never been structured upon some kind of church-state relation like that of Medieval Christianity. Secondly, Islam is not a culture that evolves and develops in the way Christianity does.
Multiculturalism, as understood and propagated by its proponents in this country is not based on diversity, but rather it strives to debunk Islam as a socio-political order. The ideological components of Malaysian multiculturalism can be summarized as a cultural relativism which finds the prominence of Islam in this country intolerable. It rests on the attitude that religion should not be allowed to “interfere” in our social and political life. Hence, it is important that every Malaysian, especially the Muslims, be made to accept “the fact” that Malaysia is a “secular country”.
The Malaysian multiculturalism’s hostility towards Islam and its repudiation of an identifiable Malaysian culture (based upon Islam) is augmented by a radically new definition of community, one that deviates from the traditional/religious emphasis on family, neighbourhood, house of worship and school, towards an emphasis on race, gender, occupation, and sexual preference.
Can multiculturalism be a viable principle for our national unity?
Ideological multiculturalists are radical-left inhabitants of a political dreamland. These ideological divisions within our society threaten to render the nation into hostile factions. The multiculturalists assert that Malaysia is an idea rather than a nation possessing a distinctive but encompassing identity. Hence, after almost fifty years of independence we still hear people talking about the search for a ‘Malaysian identity’. It means Malaysia, as far as they are concerned, has no identity, and if we are to have one, Islam should not be part of that identity.
Current manifestations of multiculturalism extend far beyond the kind of pluralism that seeks a richer common culture to multicultural particularism which denies that a common culture is possible or desirable.
In an attempt to validate the multiculturalists’ emphasis on particularism and its concomitant subversion of cultural commonality, knowledge and facts in their discourse are consistently subordinated to the so-called “critical thinking approach.” The dismal truth is, that more often than not, critical thinking in practice means little more than subjective questioning and unsubstantiated, unreasoned, personal opinion.
Contrary to the assertions of proponents of multiculturalism that limitless pluralism enriches our understanding, the de-emphasizing of specific factual knowledge in their discourse resulted in what it inevitably must have–a plague of ignorance. Multiculturalism’s subordination of facts and knowledge to unguided “critical thinking” demonstrates its intellectual bankruptcy, since any critical opinion worthy of consideraton must evolve out of knowledge and be grounded in objective facts.
Malaysia is not a no man’s land, and everybody knows that, and the fact that Islam is the religion of the Federation is also common knowledge. Further contemplation would be enough for one to realize another fact namely, that Islamic ethical and socio-political order is ultimately the expression of certain ideas about life and existence as a whole, to wit, the one projected by the worldview of Islam. To the Muslims, those ideas are ultimately the integrating principles which place all systems of meaning and standards of life and values in coherent order.
Naturally, to those who live on the assumption that Malaysia is a secular country, it is the secular worldview that is supposed to be the prism through which we understand who we are and how to go about living our lives as Malaysians. Of course they can believe in whatever they want to believe. But we would like to ask a very simple question: who says, and since when is the secular worldview our common worldview?
That is surely not acceptable to the Muslims, who are aware of the fact that secularism is antithetical not only to Islam but to all religious worldviews. Leaving the ignorant and confused Muslims aside, there is no way to make conscious Muslims accept a secular interpretation of life and existence as espoused by the Western culture and civilization. The followers of other religions should recognize the fact that their religions have many things in common with Islam, particularly when it comes to ethics and morality. As such, it is through Malaysia, as an Islamic State, that other religions would survive and thrive. It is through Malaysia, as an Islamic State, that we have a better chance of fostering a national unity based on a common religious worldview.
A secular Malaysia would be an enemy not only to Islam but a common enemy to all religions. We must realize the fact that secularization can be considered a natural phenomenon only in the case of the West, considering what they have experienced in their history. To apply their solution to our problem is to admit that we are now experiencing the same problem they used to have; which is historically baseless and logically absurd.