The forum that never happenedPosted: August 10, 2008
Yesterday morning, the Bar Council attempted to hold a forum that was highly protested against. In the end, the forum had to be prematurely ended due to security reasons. 300 (some say 500) people, Muslims, gathered in front of the Bar Council HQ in protest, claiming that the forym was an act of provocation, and clearly trying to undermine Islam and its status in Malaysia.
To make my stand clear, I stand on the Bar Council’s side. I think a forum like the one that didn’t happen yesterday is an important step for the Malaysian community in general to voice their concerns and move towards solving the problems of grey areas when it comes to the law and religion.
I also disagree with the parties who said that the forum should have been a closed-door forum, instead of a public one. It is BECAUSE there are so many different views on this matter that it is important for the forum to be a public one. It is so that anyone who is interested can attend and hear of what transpires. If it were to be behind closed doors, there would be more cause for worry as there would be no way to know what exactly transpires during the forum. And most importantly, the public would not stand to gain as much.
But that being said, it’s not like the forum held yesterday saw much success. Contrary to what Ambiga said (that it was a success), I think the overall purpose of the forum was not even met, let alone it being a success. To me, the forum didn’t happen. The opposite of what the forum was supposed to have set out to achieve was instead what had happened. We did not see a more peaceful, civilised inter-religious discussion. We saw religious-polarisation.
To call the people who attended the forum names and to spout hateful sentiments towards the Bar Council for attempting to hold the forum is simply wrong. On the other hand, to call the demonstrators islamic-extremists who shame the beautiful religion of Islam is also plainly wrong.
To call each other barbaric and insulting names is the easy way out. But to truly create a multi-religious, multi-racial Malaysia where everyone respects everyone else, nothing is easy.
What do the demonstrators expect by calling the forum an “Islam-bashing exercise”? What do they gain by saying “Musnah Bar Council”?
What do we expect to gain if we call the demonstrators Islamic-extremists who don’t use their brains and are cavemen who don’t want to see development?
The answer is just one word: Nothing.
Forums as such will have to happen. It is for a better Malaysia if we can one day finally sit and talk about our concerns and differences without going at each other’s throats.
I don’t have any real suggestions or answers as to how such a forum can be held in the future. But I recognise its importance. I also recognise that there are some sensitivities that need to be addressed at the same time if we are to see forums like this become a successful event in the future. Nothing will happen if we thrust their concerns out the window, and deem them irrelevant. But nothing will happen if we sweep such “sensitive” issues under the carpet as well.
The protest that stopped the forum was unfortunate, not because there was a protest, but because it was one laced with vulgar words and attempted violence.
But no matter how I think they went overboard, the ISA should not be used against any one of them, assuming that it was, or will be. Two wrongs don’t make a right.