Two European hard-line politicians within a span of a few days took to burning the Holy Quran to make an ugly point that is provocative.
It was a calculated move to cause pain to not only Muslims in two European countries where the incidents occurred but also to billions worldwide, which has, unsurprisingly, caused widespread outrage, protests and condemnation in countries such as Malaysia.
Indeed, the burning of the book is deemed sacrilegious and offensive by Muslims the world over, just as a burning of the Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Torah or Tipitaka, among other holy scriptures, would most likely hurt the feelings of the religious communities concerned.
The heinous acts committed in Sweden and the Netherlands were also meant to deepen Islamophobia among people in these countries, essentially for the political mileage of far-right politicians and politics generally in the West.
We must also be mindful that such acts are a grim reminder that Islamophobia and xenophobia have taken root for decades, particularly triggered by the 1987 Iranian revolution, the horrific 9/11 incident in the US in 2001, and the influx of refugees mainly from West Asia into Europe.
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The extreme hate flaunted by Rasmus Paludan in Sweden should also be seen in the larger context of contemporary Swedish politics in which the ruling coalition depends on the support of a highly xenophobic, anti-Muslim party.
This explains why the Swedish government is handling the case of the hardline politician with kid gloves, resulting in hate-mongering not being regarded as a crime. The vile act also thrives under the cover of freedom of expression that the Nordic government supposedly takes pride in.
There is a cottage industry in the West that largely manufactures hate and fear by peddling stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists and ‘uncivilised’ beings who would destroy Christianity and subvert their dominant culture and lifestyles, so that non-Muslims, particularly Christians, would be overcome by a siege mentality.
It appears that the likes of Paludan would prefer to have Muslims eventually being expelled from Europe.
Some Christians who feel besieged in these European countries would be made to feel comfortable with building a wall instead of a bridge that could promote mutual understanding and respect between diverse communities.
Be that as it may, it is our hope that some Muslims would not be agitated enough to go down to the gutter level of Paludan and Holland’s Edwin Wagensveld in a tit-for-tat move to burn a copy of the Bible, as Islamic teachings do not condone the desecration of things considered sacred by followers of other faiths.
There should be measured restraint among offended Muslims, even when dealing with such dark characters as the serial Quran-burning Paludan, who reportedly committed similar crimes in 2019 and 2022.
Holding peaceful demonstrations and registering protests with the embassies concerned, as Muslim Malaysians did, is a dignified option that disgruntled Muslims could take.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has also seen it fit to print a million copies of the Holy Quran to be distributed worldwide as a way of promoting understanding about the sacred scriptures and Islam among its detractors.
However, some Malaysians have reservations about the holy book distribution strategy attaining its primary objective as they wonder who among the Westerners would take the trouble to read it. This is apart from the financial implications of printing copies of the Quran.
Perhaps it is better to put more emphasis on the Malaysian government’s planned initiative to engage with multi-religious and cultural groups abroad in a concerted effort to promote dialogue and peaceful coexistence in a diverse global community.
Equally important, it could be more persuasive in promoting peaceful coexistence if the people of Malaysia, particularly their leaders, practise what they preach.
In particular, Malaysian authorities should rein in, for instance, politicians who make hate speeches and employ the divisive politics of race and religion for their vested interests, as evident in the last general election.
Furthermore, all communities must acknowledge and respect the rights of other religions and ethnic minorities in our society. As intimated above, the burning of any holy book is bound to hurt the religious community concerned.
Therefore, the people of Malaysia, irrespective of their religious affiliations, should ensure that such incendiary acts do not happen in our country. A threat in the past to burn a Malay-language edition of the Bible should raise a red flag.
Hate should not be capitalised by anyone, especially morally bankrupt politicians, because it is surely not the purpose of human existence. – The Malaysian Insight
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