Standing up to religious violence around the world — Jason Loh

NOVEMBER 24 — All over the world, we are witnessing rising levels of violent hate crime inspired by religious ideology for which there seemed to be no lasting and sustainable solutions.

For example, India under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now one of the top five countries in the world known for violence and physical hostility against religious minorities, as confirmed by Pew Research.

Speaking and standing up against religious violence should perhaps be on top of our agenda for the 21 st century, among other policy challenges.

For a start, the call should be to increase awareness of the phenomena as well as cultivate a sense of empathy towards victims of religious violence and persecuted minorities who are not our co-religionists or compatriots.

Specific examples of religious violence around the world include:

 ethno-religious cleansing of the Rohingyas by the Buddhist Burmese majority;

 lynching of Muslims by Hindutva supremacists in India;

 vigilante persecution of non-Muslims minorities in Pakistan;

 communal and terrorist attacks on the Copts in Egypt;

 sporadic inter-ethnic and inter-religious violence in parts of Indonesia such as Sulawesi and West Papua/Irian Jaya;

 militant Buddhists in Sri Lanka targeting religious minorities, especially Muslims;

 acts of terrorism by Boko Haram against Nigerian Christians; and

 continuing oppression of Palestinian Muslims and Christians by Zionists (of which even the Jewishness or DNA credentials could well be dubious and) justified (wrongly so) by appeal to a fantasy notion of biblical legacy

It’s submitted that the roots of religious violence lay deeper — than just religious fanaticism.

Religious identity only provides that ideological cloak for the competing and contestation of rival political, social or economic interests.

Hindutva supremacy as espoused by the BJP in India certainly goes beyond religion. What is being unrelentingly pursued is indirect forced acculturalisation or imposition of a way of life based on a fascist (and this cannot be strongly emphasised enough) notion of nationhood.

Just look at the BJP’s paramilitary ally, namely the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or “National Volunteer Organisation” whose founding ideals were actually inspired by the Nazi Party and its Aryan racial purity ideology.

Needless to say, genocide and ethnic cleansing of Jews and other minorities were the outcome.

And so, we are back to discussing and tackling the phenomenon of violence in the name of a religion on the basis of appeal to our common humanity and universal values.

Firstly, we have to be sensitive and empathetic to the plight of our fellow human beings in other parts of the world suffering from genocide and violent persecution irrespective of ethnicity and religion.

Secondly, we should be moved to take some form of concrete action, however small, in terms of that which is outside our society (i.e., regional, international) which directly relate to these situations.

The kind of practical action we can take might be:

 spreading the word to others such as neighbours, colleagues, co-religionists;

 involvement with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as members or volunteers/supporters in organising roadshows, public talks, seminars and so on to create awareness and explore concrete measures to address religious violence, etc;

 collective prayers at mosques, churches, temples; and

 petitioning to the relevant authorities such as Wisma Putra, and international bodies such as the United Nations (UN), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Arab League, etc to pressure and assist host governments to combat the scourge of religion-based terrorism.

We at Emir Research pride ourselves in taking the central or middle ground of moderation and rejecting extremes on both sides of the spectrum or polar opposites.

It, therefore, behoves us to speak up about such issues with the view of promoting solidarity, sympathy and support with the affected communities (just as in the case of the Palestinians) in the name of humanity and universal values.

Whether these communities suffer from internal displacement due to ethno-religious conflict and cleansing or intense and institutional persecution by both State and society, all of us have a role to play in standing up to violence done in the name of our religion (whichever it is).

Not to mention too that so-called religion-inspired violence too often leave behind a trail of destruction (infrastructural, environmental) that sets back the sustainability and liveability of these zones of conflagration.

Thus, violence in the name religion also inter-locks with environmental and sustainable development issues as embodied by the UN’s 17 SDGs.

In conclusion, in our effort to build a better, and more just, equitable, progressive and peaceful world, we certainly cannot avoid highlighting about these issues, sensitive though it may be to a few.

May we and our government have that resolve to articulate forcefully on this subject — beyond just the Palestine issue — on behalf of oppressed Muslims and non-Muslims alike as part of the common challenges we face as the human race.

* Jason Loh Seong Wei is head of social, law and human rights at think-tank Emir Research.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer(s) or organisation(s) and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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