Shame on us


All Sarawakians should be ashamed of the fracas which took place at the Federal Court this morning following the dismissal of leave of four applicants seeking to have their apostasy cases heard in the civil courts.

The situation this morning which saw the Catholic Archbishop of Kuching Father Simon Poh being pursued by a group of shouting men is an embarrassment to those of us who so proudly flaunt our Sarawakian way of life such as sharing a dining table with Muslims and non-Muslims alike in the faces of our West Malaysian counterparts.

The police did a commendable job to calm the situation, shielding Poh and moving him away from the scene, while keeping the vocal crowd at bay. In a statement following the incident, Poh also acknowledged the ‘many good Muslims’ who helped to escort him safely out of the courthouse and to his vehicle, including Sarawak Islamic Information Centre chief executive officer Zabariah Matali, who is also Poh’s personal friend.

The situation could have easily spiralled out of control, but it didn’t, and for that, we must be grateful that cooler heads prevailed and where common sense and empathy was shy, the strong arm of the law was there to firmly clamp down on heated sentiments.

However, this incident will in no small way cause distress and disappointment among many Sarawakians, simply because this is not the Sarawakian way.

How quickly some of us seem to forget who our neighbours and, as especially applicable in Sarawak where inter-racial marriage is quite common, who our relatives are.

We must be ashamed of and we cannot tolerate this kind of behaviour, no matter what grievances we have. Once the door is opened to allow religion to be the justification for intimidation and violence, we will have crossed that threshold that we have decried as the antithesis to our Sarawakian way of life. These demons once released from their Pandora’s Box will be difficult to contain as they sow distrust and blood lust in their wake.

There is little doubt that the local religious leaders, Muslim and non-Muslim, will be quick to close ranks and call on the adherents of their respective faiths to be peaceful and not react to provocations. Poh was seen embracing and exchanging greetings with Muslims as he left the court room after the decision was given and it suggests that the outcome of the hearing did not lessen goodwill present, at least initially.

As of writing, it is still unclear what led to the situation where the group of shouting men seemed to take it upon themselves to pursue Poh out of the courthouse into the carpark. Perhaps it was because he was wearing his religious garb which made him stand out and thus, an easy, visible target. However, it still would be equally as unacceptable if a group of shouting non-Muslims decided to pursue an imam or ustaz.

This is why Sarawakians have to be always vigilant and resolute in protecting our way of life and acceptance of our fellow Sarawakians. The moment we stop recognising who our neighbours are and categorising those unlike us as ‘others’ less deserving, we will be hypocrites of the highest order and will have lost the moral high ground.

Worse yet, we will no longer be an example of how it is possible to care for, love and live in harmony with our fellow man, and no longer the inspiration for hope that Sarawak will always have a place and be home for all its people of different creeds and ethnicities.

In this day and age where people seem less concerned about dialogue and understanding, and more occupied with self-righteous anger, Sarawak cannot afford to let its guard down.

It bears repeating that we should love our neighbours as ourselves, as an eye for an eye will cause the whole world to go blind. — DayakDaily