Moral fibre in a troubled world

People rush through the heavily fortified Rafah crossing to Egypt, on November 2. The Israeli army's air and ground campaign has killed 12,300 people, according to Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007. – EPA pic, November 20, 2023.

* Commentary by Mustafa K Anuar

RECENT events in West Asia are obviously disturbing because, as some political analysts observed, they could lead the world generally down a slippery slope if left unchecked.

Humanitarian values have been upended, rule of law violated, free speech curbed, justice mocked and might become right, in the conflict between the occupying Israel and the occupied Palestine.

It is incumbent upon us as diverse Malaysians to take stock of ourselves and uphold democratic practices so that we can live in peace, harmony and dignity.

It is also important for us to be alert to the practices of rule-benders so as not to lose sight of our moral compass and democratic principles to which many countries, particularly those in the West, supposedly subscribe. In short, we should not emulate bad examples. 

Our indigenous folk, namely the Orang Asli and the Orang Asal in Borneo, are a good starting point to reaffirm the universal values of compassion, freedom, empathy and justice.

While we may not have cases of extermination of some of our indigenous peoples, as what has happened in other parts of the world where settler colonialism has taken root, there have been incidents of outsiders with vested interests encroaching on the customary lands of the indigenous in Malaysia.

It is disturbing that some intrusions have caused destruction of their land, cultures, belief systems and livelihoods, apart from stomping on their collective dignity.

As citizens of this country, the indigenous people should be treated as equals and not perceived to be less human or uncivilised who consequently are accorded unsavoury treatment.

The education system plays a vital role in instilling humanitarian values in young people.

Similarly, there should also be more emphasis on celebrating diversity as an asset to our society.

Inclusivity would help to welcome differences in ideas and belief systems as well as skin colour that would go a long way towards preventing these differences from being made a convenient excuse to spark conflict or exercise discrimination.  

Indeed, discriminatory practices are an anathema to a sense of belonging among legitimate stakeholders. The authorities must strive to overcome this social and institutional challenge.

Conflicts that surface should be resolved at the negotiating table, not at a gunpoint as violence only begets violence, and it usually does not solve anything. Not that Malaysians generally are inclined to be violent.

In a sense, Malaysians are fortunate in that they are spared the ignominy associated with a country that is bent on dropping bombs on another country just because of “otherness” or their precious natural resources.

It is heinous if the bombing that kills and maims thousands of civilians are committed in the name of fighting terrorism.

There is also a need to actively advocate moderation in our political ideologies, religious practices and human interactions as a way of preventing extremism. Any form of extremism must be nipped in the bud. 

It is obvious that freedom of expression is pivotal to democracy. Ours clearly needs a boost.

Laws that restrict free expression, such as the Sedition Act 1948, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and Official Secrets Act 1972, must be reviewed or repealed.

This is to ensure that, for instance, ordinary citizens have a voice and can acquire justice, especially in the case of the minorities

By the same token, the media in a democracy also require freedom to provide news and views without fear or favour from the state or big businesses.

Freedom of expression is especially vital in an institution that deals with ideas. Academics and students must have the freedom to express diverse views without them being threatened with, say, expulsion from universities. 

To allow such curbs would go against the very notion of academic freedom and democracy.

These are some of the valuable things in a democracy. A breach of democratic principles and humanitarian values for a particular devious agenda is despicable. – November 20, 2023.

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