Ivanpal Grewal

 

Ivanpal Grewal

Lawyer & political activist.

 

 

LIKE most Malaysians, I find it troubling and disconcerting that 39 Malaysians (according to Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuaku Jaafar) have found their way to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) battle against the Syrian and Iraqi governments.

I have also heard stories of Malaysians who have taken personal loans to fund their misguided voyage. As I recalled in my introductory remarks at ASLI’s 17th Malaysia Strategic Outlook Conference last week, I said the single largest threat to Malaysia is rising extremism.

I agree with Wan Junaidi that many of the fighters will eventually return to Malaysia and they will seek to propagate their extremist views and this will be a direct threat to our racial and religious harmony.

ISIS is synonymous with everything that is wrong from brutal executions, rape of their captives and killing practically everyone they feel like with zero conscience and with complete disregard of the conventions of war and conflict.

I welcome the National Fatwa Council’s decision to blacklist ISIS and I do hope this will dissuade Malaysians from making the treacherous decision of joining ISIS and helping them wreck terror and havoc.

Hence, with the growing threats of extremism and instances of instability from the Middle East, Ukraine, South Asia and other volatile regions coupled with tepid economic growth, Malaysia is not insulated from extremists’ threats because the Internet has made connectivity seamless. Information, however repugnant it may be, can be accessed by anyone anywhere.

In this regard, it is important for me to evoke my favorite theme i.e. Moderation. I believe the only way to neutralise the threat of extremism is for all of us to be moderate in our thoughts and actions.

Military action and the legal system are limited in their efficacy because while we can always lock up those who harbour extremist views we cannot change their minds or those who agree with them without active intervention and the unabashed promotion and inculcation of moderate and conciliatory views.

Moderation is innate in all of us because we are endowed with a sense of what is right and what is wrong. Moderation like justice comes naturally because when we see something wrong quite naturally our inner voice tells us that is not correct and we must stand up and reject such acts.

For example, when we see someone hitting another our inner voice tells us that it is wrong. The same way if we come across an individual insulting another religion, we know it is wrong.

However, we tend to lose this innate ability to tell right from wrong or just from unjust when we are exposed to a constant stream of negativity. Like the cheerleaders of ISIS who have used scripture and history to distort the worldview of those who fight for them, suddenly beheading or raping someone seems like the just thing to do.

That is why it is my fervent and abiding belief that education is important and educators must never forget that they play a unique and almost unparalleled role in the growth of any society because the intellectual nourishment and worldview formation of the future is completely at their mercy.

Also, in the Malaysian context, all political forces must assume the responsibility to entrench moderation. I agree with the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department that racist and extremist organisations do not have any place in society.

ISMA, Perkasa and others must ensure that their views and their advocacy conform to the Federal Constitution, the basic structure of our Federation and the social milieu that has ensured we remain a vibrant and thriving society. If they continue to preach divineness and racial supremacy, then those they claim to represent will eventually reject them because I believe almost all Malaysians believe in a moderate and peaceful way of life.

As we reject extremism, Malaysians must also reject any attempt to enact criminal laws on the basis of religion because I believe that will be first step towards the balkanisation of Malaysia. The proposal by PAS to implement Islamic criminal laws in Kelantan is not only disturbing but it is reprehensible because it contravenes the very fabric of our constitutional bargain the values this nation was founded upon which is fairness and justice.

I am proud my party and many other like-minded organisations have constantly stood against extremism and that is why it is crucial for us to militantly moderate. And as I said in my last piece and allow me to repeat it once again, we must be the change we want to see in the world. Hence, rejecting extremism must be a way of life in Malaysia.

Originally published on The Star on Tuesday February 3, 2015 MYT 4:21:00 PM

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