Home TA Online In matters of faith, think twice before imposing harsh punishments

In matters of faith, think twice before imposing harsh punishments

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Our time and energy would be better spent emphasising the value of human compassion towards others and tackling the root causes of worldly sins, writes Dominic Damian.

Each human soul I believe is sent to the world coated with layers of conscience either through nature or nurture or a combination of both.

We acquire wisdom in the adventure and dance of life through varied multifaceted experiences and the challenges of victories, defeats and failures, in giving and sharing, through illness, suffering and death. We are not immune to the grief that permeates any part of the world. We are all tied and woven in an inescapable garment of destiny.

When our safety is threatened by dark ideals, we may fight gut-wrenching and heart-breaking wars to secure and protect life, as seen in World War Two.

There is an inspirational true story of two young sibling who were founder and members of a group known as Weisse Rose (White Rose). These young medical students spoke out against Adolf Hitler and the impregnable fortress of the Nazi regime. They lost their lives in the most brutal and cruel of circumstances, yet their courage is a reminder that overwhelming odds must never prevent us from putting up a dignified defence.

We cannot on the premise of faith say that, if someone is not of a specific faith, that person forfeits the right to discuss a law that will affect everyone. The inspirational greatness of a faith lies in the principle that equal protection is accorded to every individual.

If a faith is offered as nothing more than a poisoned chalice of fear in the quest for salvation, its adherents would be sadly dictated by laws that compel them to behave or be punished. The imposition of a faith on others who are non-believers is also a degradation and misrepresentation of the noble intention of what is deemed as a good faith.

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The motive to liberate every soul and awaken the conscience provides a moral compass that allows us to search our souls on what is the best that we ought to offer.

When considering whether to apply laws and punishments even divine ones, the premise of our objections must be based on the following:

  • when challenge or concerns to such punishments are made, any silence or threats in response are an ominous sign, a dark manifestation not of the laws per se but of those individuals who want to implement such laws. It is compelling evidence that only what they think matters.
  • any cleric, politician or party from whichever side of the divide who will not engage citizens about such punishments or laws in a respectful manner cannot and should not be trusted – period!

Laws that would surely affect the most disadvantaged, marginalised and innocent should not even be offered as a viable alternative. Circumspection and extreme caution should be the order of the day, taking into account that a disproportionate or small number of clerics and politicians always constitute a strong vocal minority.

Indeed, certain groups or individuals tend to project causes without credible data or established facts and impose them on citizens across the board. Often, the deception comes when we are led to believe that a majority want and desire such laws.

If the mainstream media highlight laws that may essentially be supported by a fringe minority, they give them a platform to advance their cause. And then it is shameful sensationalism that wins the day.

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What about citizens who are differently educated from the ones who may only speak and understand their ethnic language? What about those who are easily swayed because they were never exposed to a formal education that liberates the mind to options and alternatives?

One grievous and growing concern is the nature of the top layers of political leadership on both sides of the divide. We may have perfect laws constructed in good faith but at the other end of the spectrum, we may have a conveyor belt of unscrupulous and unprincipled individuals who grade human rights according to ethnicity or religion. They come coated with diverse agendas from a rarefied stratosphere, devoid of thought.

Some have the audacity to insult and incite intolerance and insensitivity. They may display arrogance, knowing they have ‘immunity’ by way of the fear and ‘respect’ they command. They eventually contaminate other individuals who receive a clear signal that they can do just about anything and get off with an ineffective slap on the wrist.

Some religious parties and NGOs rely on fanaticism, fanning fears while fantasising of unseen, unknown small enemies who are apparently far superior and can confuse, convince and convert on a simple word.

Such divisiveness and polarisation need not exist. Why is it that such problems keep recurring?

Sometimes, it appears we have placed spineless individuals with appalling ignorance and insensitivity in strategic positions. Perhaps it is impoverishment of understanding, sheer stupidity, and lack of education, vested interests or a combination of all this that does not allow these individuals to resolve issues.

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There is also a brand of religious parties or NGOs that may support actions and laws which reflect primordial instincts that may lead to violence and a vicious cycle of never-ending brutality. They pontificate sanctimoniously on the virtues of faith. Yet with conceit and indecent haste, they are willing to use fallacious arguments to enslave us to laws that are seen by many as detrimental.

In our desperation, when we find one individual from the whole lot who has some semblance of average common sense, we think we have found a treasure. That is how bad it is.

Can punishment create a sinless society? Can caning creating sinless-ness? I don’t know, I do not have enough wisdom on such matters. I have a dictionary of weaknesses catalogued from A to Z

I believe the eradication of a sinful society is impossible. I fear if we apply harsh punishments like corporal punishment on others, each of us who is silent or imposes such laws on others may not be affected ourselves, but we may not enjoy the heat in hell. On the other hand, the discarded ‘sinners’ of the earth may yet find their way to Paradise.

While we are in this world, there is a crying need to eradicate homelessness, curb the abandonment of babies and stamp out human trafficking. But the resources, energy and ire of society are targeted in the wrong direction.

Perhaps our time and energy would be better spent emphasising the value of human compassion towards others and searching for the root causes of worldly sins such as prostitution, drug addiction, alcoholism. We need to tackle those causes, not the symptoms.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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