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Out with ‘tolerance’; let’s celebrate our diversity

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Our diversity must be regarded as a distinct, national strength, writes JD Lovernciear.

As we head into 2020 and beyond, time is fast running out for Malaysians who are still stubbornly rooted in race-based traps and live their lives with rigid, religious exclusivity.

Former minister Nazri Aziz’s recent political barbs in Semenyih is a clear example of how seriously wrong some politicians and their fans continue to be.

For some time now in recent times, we have been told about the need for tolerance. The truth is tolerance is a fragile alliance that cannot guarantee national unity in the long haul.

Tolerance is not necessarily a strength. Rather, it is a weakness especially when we are trying to grow out of the racial and religious political slants on which the politics of Malaysia has been built over the past decades.

Responding to Nazri’s political barbs, Anwar Ibrahim maintained that race and religion matter not. Instead, it is capabilities and integrity that matter and which alone can lead the nation forward.

The time is now right for Malaysians – leaders, politicians, rulers, religious leaders, professionals and ordinary citizens – to awaken to the realities of the future. For us to become more Malaysian and to build a united nation, we need to drop our coloured, often tainted lens of the soul and mind through which we view the world.

We need to focus on acceptance as the credo for fostering unity in the nation. Acceptance of all races, all religions and all social strata is not a weakness. It is not even a liability let alone a threat.

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Acceptance of one another despite our distinct differences demands knowledge, goodwill and the supreme human will to transcend to a higher plane of existence.

The government must introduce the teaching of multicultural, multi-traditional and multi-religious studies in schools without fear of a backlash, without trying to court the evil forces that thrive on divisiveness.

The fears that exposure to other religions or traditions will erode an individual’s original faith and social roots is a fallacy. Such fears have been manipulated to serve the interest of unscrupulous individuals intent on grabbing power.

Acceptance can only come about with through a deeper understanding of our respective faiths and roots.

We need government policies that encourage and reward those who foster acceptance.

We need our leaders, rulers, faith leaders to walk the talk and quickly usher in the spirit of acceptance. All media have a critical role here in featuring the philosophy of acceptance in their reporting of the news.

The faster we abandon racism, religious blinkers and social segmentation and the harder we work to move from tolerance to a spirit of acceptance, the greater will be the pace of progress for the nation.

Our diversity should be celebrated and cherished as a distinct, national strength. Progress, anchored on acceptance, will help us withstand the economic and financial challenges ahead of us.

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