Ensuring Sustainable Peace for Malaysia
Malaysia recently celebrated its 65th Independence Day and on the 16th of September marks another historic day for the nation as it celebrates Malaysia Day. For a country that is shaped by ethnic, religion and cultural diversity, this unique character and identity of the country is something that we as Malaysians are always proud of. General Malaysians have no qualms about living together in harmony and peaceful coexisting. However, we should also be wary of things that can actually divide us.
When talking about unity and social cohesion, we often highlight the differences in our culture, ethnicities and religions as causes to the difficulty in achieving the goals of those noble objectives. We tend to stress that those differences are the ones that make it difficult for us to achieve unity, harmony and peaceful coexisting. Calls and slogans for unity centre mostly on the need to overcome stereotyping and prejudice from being culturally, ethnically and religiously different. To achieve sustainable and long-lasting peace and harmony, it is important to understand the matter comprehensively and view it from multidimensional perspectives.
Sometimes, conflict and chaos are not caused by the cultural, ethnic or religious differences. In actual, after 65 years of independence and more than many decades of living together in a country we call home, these differences are in general well understood and accepted. Most Malaysians are generally proud of this unique diversity as this has become part of our identity as a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious community. We have the Federal Constitution and our Rukun Negara as our guidance on how to respect and live together amidst these differences. In addition, despite these differences, we are able to celebrate our cultural uniqueness, accept the fact that religiously we are different and respect one another regardless. We stand tall together as a nation through our times of highs and lows, wins and losses, prosperity and difficulties, happiness and sorrows.
Nonetheless, there are other factors that can actually threaten our harmony and peace. One of it being differences in political ideologies and partisanship. It is well-known that Malaysians are rather apprehensive and at the same time keen on what happens in the country politically. Political party rivalries, sentiments and conflicting political ideals can actually cause harm to the efforts aimed at creating sustainable peaceful coexistence and good relations among people and groups in the country if not addressed constructively. Politicians often look elsewhere for reasons of divides and disunity in the country, without realising that sometimes, they are the cause to the problems.
Political sentiments among the public and especially among political supporters are driven by remarks, actions and speeches of political leaders which become signals to their followers on how to react. As the country gears up for the upcoming General Election, it is important for leaders to ensure that competitions and rivalries among political parties for seats in the Parliament or even the State Legislative Assemblies do not become factors of disharmony, disunity and conflict. When campaigning, political leaders must be responsible for their words and actions. Uncontrolled, such race for political power can actually cause deep sense of hatred and irreconcilable divides among groups in the society.
Responsible leaders will seek to minimise chaos and elements that can cause harm to the stability of the society and prevent themselves from sowing the seeds of discontent among the people. Instead, leaders should assert their influence to nurture better relationships and promote ties of kinship among groups and peoples in the country. In Islam, leadership must be based upon faith in God the Almighty and total submission to God’s Will. A true leader will also use his position of leadership to further enhance his moral character and strengthen his faith in the religion. A good and exemplary leadership character is about binging goodness to the society as a whole. Allah SWT says in the Holy Quran: “We also made them leaders, guiding by Our command, and inspired them to do good deeds, establish prayer, and pay alms. And they were devoted to Our worship.” (Al-Anbiya’, 21: 73)
Thus, sincere and responsible leaders will shoulder their duties with integrity, dignity and passion. They need to be made aware that they are the prime agents of peace and harmony if they are truly sincere to their cause of shaping great future for the country and its people. This trait of leadership is every so often forgotten by those who only see their power and positions as stepping-stones to only further their personal interests.
Preserving harmonious relations and peaceful coexistence among the people are the responsibility of every Malaysian. Any attempt to disrupt the relations among Malaysians which can bring about feelings of hatred towards one another on whatever grounds or whatever reasons should be condemned by all. As Malaysians, we must stand together to reject divisive elements in the country, no matter in what forms they come.