Wednesday, 2 December 2009
I'm not one for censorship, except for some very special cases. For instance, children should not be viewing pornographic images because their cognitive ability has not developed to the point where they can process sexual ideas and images properly.
Or ideas that incites racial hatred. Even then, one could argue that by letting racists sound off, we'll be exposing how absurd racist ideas are. By suppressing them, we are almost giving a legitimacy or handing them the 'persecution' card. We are giving them the opportunity for the racists to say "well, they're scared of the truth, that's why they try to oppress us, but we will not be oppressed." And people usually sympathise with persecuted people.
There's also religious freedom. I'm all up for it. I am. I may not be a fan of religion, but I believe that people are free to believe whatever it is they want to, just as long as they don't try to make their religious beliefs as part of the law. In fact, I'm all up for people to advertise their beliefs, if other people are allowed to dissect and criticise said beliefs rationally and methodically.
Which brings me to this.
See the USA's report on religious freedom in Brunei:
This report caused a minor stir in Brunei. Even Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Goh King Chin defended Brunei's religious policy:
What I can't understand is, why is the criticism harsh? Pretty much most of the report is accurate. The 'freedoms' the Pehin mentioned is not criticised in the report. So it's not providing an unfair review by stating untruths. The Pehin did not, however, address the issues mentioned in the report, mainly:
(1) Non-muslim religious education is not allowed/heavily restricted in schools
(2) Muslims trying to convert to another religion face huge official and societal pressure not to.
(3) Proselytism of other religions (or even other sects of Islam other than Mazhab Shafi'e) is heavily restricted
(4) Interfaith dialogue is realistically non-existent due to regulation
When the Pehin (hereafter named as GKC) mentioned mutual respect, I think personally, that the 'respect' that the government gives to other religions is pretty low. There are still a lot of hurdles to be passed through before we could say there is any sense of actual religious freedom in Brunei. It's defined pretty loosely in Brunei as simply being free to believe in what you believe in. That's what religious freedom is. While on the surface it might seem pretty good and dandy, it's really just an incomplete, minimal understanding of what the term actually means.
Religious freedom means that there should be no restrictions that state Islam should be the only religion taught in schools. Even in Christian schools Christianity is no longer taught anymore (anecdotal. If I'm wrong, correct me). Religious freedom means that other Mazhabs should be free to be practiced and preached in public without fear of being arrested. Religious freedom means that religious conversion should not be such that converting away from Islam should not be a million times harder than to Islam.
GKC says that "there is no problem unless 'you create one'." Well, this is really just saying don't mess with the status quo. The laws are unfair on other religions. There are many problems, but as GKC says (unintentionally), people dismiss it in fear of 'creating one.' That's how the Bruneian mentality works. Don't mess with the status quo. It's worked till now, didn't it?
It has worked because we have blinded ourselves to the regulatory, bureaucratic religious persecution that other religions face because we assure ourselves that a country that has Islam as its official religion should only have to provide minimal freedom to other religions. But oh the hypocrisy. When countries such as Sweden ban the building of new minarets, we cry loudly and say 'where is the religious freedom? They are persecuting Muslims!.'
Imagine this. Imagine if Brunei was a Christian country. Only Christianity is taught in schools, and every Christian child is required to attend six-years of 'Sekolah Ugama Kristian.' Melayu Kristian Beraja. Churches instead of mosques. Christians pressured with regulations and social obligations not to convert to Islam. Everyone must respect the saying of grace in meals, even non-Christians. The sound of church bells every Sunday in every part of the country (not even five times a day!).
I bet most of you are fuming. I bet you're thinking, 'they're persecuting the Muslims!'. But hey, there's only a problem if you 'create one.' Note the sarcasm.
I think religion is a bit rubbish anyway.