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God does not need defenders

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The deceptive ideological flaw of defending religion in Malaysia should be exposed, says Ronald Benjamin.

The political scene of late has seen rallying cries by self-appointed guardians of religion.

Terms like Islamic sovereignty are used and it has been integrated with the royal institution, which is supposed to safeguard Islam.

The question that comes to mind is, does religion need protection in an adversarial form? Does exclusivity protect religion? If God is regarded as all powerful, why is there a need for religious warriors? It is sad that philosophical questions of this sort are seldom put forward in mainstream debates in a country obsessed with race and religion.

Religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism survived for centuries not because of zealots who protected them.

They survived due to their in-depth wisdom about human life, action and rationality that does not separate faith and reason. In Malaysia, ethno-religious politics has replaced faith and reason with fear and insecurity, magnified by emotions of hate and division with the overriding purpose of seeking political power.

It is not about defending religion so much as it is about politicians trying to make a quick comeback via the gullible masses who dare not question the superficiality of these leaders as they seem to be defending religion.

This brings into question the role of religion in a society which has become a tool for political power and influence.

It is puzzling that in Malaysia, making use of religion for political power is not construed as an insult to religion – neither is using corrupt means to enrich oneself regarded as an insult to religion. It is sad that such logic is given a chance to thrive in this country while Muslim politicians from both sides of the political divide are afraid to confront it.

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Till today, I have yet to see Muslim intellectuals in Malaysia, who speak a lot about Western hegemony or injustice towards Islam, having the courage to categorically criticise the mixing of religion and politics – which basically insults religion and puts it in an unfavourable light and a source of confrontation with the West.

Centuries ago, during the Reformation period in Europe and the European Renaissance that followed later, the abuse of power by the Christian hierarchy and its norms which were used for politics was challenged by reformist Christian leaders and secular ones.

Subsequently, Christian leaders over a period of time began to take a hard look at how religion was being propagated and practised. Such a challenge by religious and secular elites did not demean Christianity, but rather faith was seen and discovered from a new light of reason by going back to its core.

In spite of much upheaval that challenged Christianity as a way of life, it has survived to this day because its leaders realise that religion has to separate itself from the politics of power for the sake of its credibility and the integrity of the faith.

Faith and reason were the basis for renewal while partisan politics and using religion as a tool – which sparked wars over centuries – were rejected.

Therefore, it is time that religion is liberated from self-serving politicians.

It is time that the slogan of defending religion – which is a flawed means of coming to power and does injustice to the integrity of religion – is done away with for the common good of the country.

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Malaysia has great diversity, and it will fail as a nation if an overriding exclusive Islamic ethno-religious ideology takes control of the destiny of the nation.

God does not need humans as protectors. The deceptive ideological flaw of defending religion in Malaysia should be exposed.

Source: FMT News

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