MARCH 30 — When I was young, my parents used the bogeyman to keep me in check.
Of course, it was not to traumatise me, but just to get me to sleep early (or the bogeyman will come and say goodnight to you), not to eat in the bedroom (or the bogeyman will come and eat with you), to wash my feet before sleeping (or the bogeyman may just come and lick your feet).
The last point still gives me goosebumps.
As I grew taller (and smarter), I was able to see behind sofas, where the shadows were lurking and realised there was no bogeyman. Their nest was not there either.
It was just shadows, darkness and my own insecurities as a kid in the absence of “light.”
By “light” I mean brightness, and of course my intelligence, or lack of it then.
It is easy to make a bogeyman out of something to scare people to follow you. Because whether you realise it or not, we tend to give away our rights and freedom when we are scared, or threatened.
Whether the bogeyman is real, or perceived to be real is another matter altogether.
That was how the US rallied their citizens to give up certain rights after 9/11 — remember the Patriot Act?
Across Europe, the right to dress differently according to one’s beliefs was hotly debated all in the name of national security. And the citizens of these countries gave their rights up because of their own fear.
It is no different in Malaysia I suppose.
Religious conversion has always played the role of the bogeyman here. From solar-powered talking bibles to the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims to the threat of liberalism and other religions towards Islam, Malaysians have seen them all.
But let us be frank, are the Muslims and Islam, a religion that has survived more than 1,400 years with billions of followers, really under threat in Malaysia? A religion that spread so fast and so far in the presence of other, older religions before it?
Are the Muslims that weak in faith, enabling others to influence them at their own whim and fancy?
The very same Muslims whose forefathers were discoverers, explorers and amazing scientists who revolutionised technology and civilisations, who were once well-regarded in the past?
Where is the threat? Who is the threat? Do you have the numbers, facts, to show the perceived or real threat?
Otherwise why is there the need to talk about the threat of Christianisation among Muslims to school teachers? What if the Christians reciprocate, will we allow them to do the same in a country whose prime minister expounds religious tolerance and moderation to the world?
Because as far as I can see, and if we are indeed under threat, it is from none other than the Muslims themselves. The high unemployment rate, crime rate, teenage pregnancies, abortions, baby dumping among Muslims are all a threat to the religion, no?
Can we not talk about that instead?
We cannot go on blaming others for the plight faced by Muslims in this country. And instead of instigating Malaysians against each other in the name of religion, we should act on those real threats and perhaps contribute and save our country in the process.
It is irresponsible to sow suspicion and hatred among Malaysians of different races and religions. In other words, someone irresponsible has let the bogeyman out to allay fears, in return for passive submission by those who are still scared of the dark, for their own narrow, superficial agenda at the expense of national unity.
And when I say “dark”, I mean it literally and emotionally.
Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus cannot be held at gunpoint every time there is a perceived threat to Muslims.
Malaysians should stand firm and shine a light on these bogeymen. Cowering to them, and reacting emotionally, will only cause us to lose our sanity bit by bit, and with that our individual rights to live freely in this country.
Religion should be between man and God, and not associated with skin colour or race.
Anything else is just politics.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.