Thursday, April 03, 2008

Of religions' sensitivity and commercialism

There is a saying that "When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called religion." So, in the name of religion, what stupidity are men incapable of ?

I read with interest a news article by SJECHO on a local supermarket (MYDIN) taking the religiously righteous move to condemn a Dutch made movie called FITNA. "In a very emotional outburst, Ameer Ali ( Managing Director of MYDIN ) condemned the movie and subsequently announced that all Mydin malls and emporiums would boycott all Dutch products with immediate effect. Notices have been put up around the mall urging shoppers to stay away from these products. Additionally, red labels have been placed on shelves displaying Dutch products, informing consumers of the origin of the product. " Click HERE for the news article. SJECHO is a local community free newspaper in Subang Jaya.

If I understand the news report correctly, MYDIN announced their decision to “boycott” all Dutch made products, but at the same time, still displaying the Dutch made products on the shelves with red labels. Mydin's action should be more consistent with their words. MYDIN should have just removed all the Dutch made products from the shelves. Somehow, I seemed to have the perception that, on one hand Mydin wanted to portray their religious righteousness, but on the other hand, they also do not want to risk losing out revenues in case consumers still insist on buying the Dutch made products. It is indeed amusing to find a business organization standing on the middle of the road playing with consumers' religious sensitivities.

Perhaps, in addition to removing all Dutch made products from their shelves, MYDIN should take the additional step to initiate legal proceedings against the maker(s) of Fitna by outlining which contents of the movie infringed their sensitivities.

I had not personally viewed Fitna. Therefore, I do not know how “INSENSITIVE” is the movie towards Islam. Assuming that Fitna is indeed very insensitive to the Islam, my personal opinion is, as a civilized and educated man, we should realized by now, that the movie is not made by all the Dutch men and women, but one man with distorted views of the Islamic religion. It is perfectly legitimate to boycott the movie, but let us not be blinded by emotional preferences to boycott all things Dutch. Why are we behaving like an uncultured men trying to condemn all the Dutch ? Let us not allowing one misguided movie maker to influence us into cultivating hatreds against a peaceful country and her people. We are all educated and civilized man and women, not emotional pariahs.

Personally, I love Dutch made diary products. I will not ridicule myself to boycott everything that is Dutch simply because there is a misguided Dutch man out there showing disrespect to other religions. I will continue to buy Dutch made products from other supermarkets. As far as I am concern, religion and consumerism are two separate matters. I would like to keep it at that.

Sincerely, if the movie show disrespect to the Islamic religion and infringed the sensitivities of Muslims, I do hope the dutch government can initiate actions to impress upon the makers of the movie that it is not a good business practice and as well as unethical to show disrespect to other people religions.

Increasingly, we are now faced with unreasonable intrusions of religions into politics and government's administrations all over the world. It is legitimate to use religion to create niche acceptance in commercial activities. But, we are also beginning to see a worrying trend of religions being mis-used to gain commercial coverage. What next ? Acceptance of religions being used to impose narrow minded intolerances on other people's lifestyle ?

Of late, we had been tuned to the idea that, freedom of expressions comes with responsibility. Responsibility is a subjective matter. Different cultures have different tolerances of morality and values. It is also irresponsible to use religion to curtail human rights and to restrict freedom of expressions simply because those rights may not be compatible with our perceptions. Are we now immorally acceptable to religions being used as a basis to suppress the fundamental human rights and freedom of expressions of others ? My philosophy is simple, if you don't like what you see, hear, or smell, walk away. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, and, do no evil. You mind your own business and let the rest mind their own.

Religion should and always be a matter of the heart and personal preferences. Afterall, all religions are created by men in the name of God. We should be allowed and be respected to believe in whatever we want to believe. Increasingly, this world is also slowly and surely being polluted by misguided people calling other people infidels or unbelievers simply because they are of different religions.

Freedom of expressions is a sacred rights of modern civilization. We should defend the rights to express our opinions without any fears or inhibitions. If in the event our expressed opinions are deemed to be wrong, then the receivers should point out with factual arguments in a healthy forum, not uncultured emotional threats, instigations, or retaliations. Buddha once said “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.”

Without doubt, I would also like to think of myself as a very religious person. But I walked the middle path. I do not imposed my religious values on others, and I do not condemn other people religions. Likewise, I expect other people to have the basic decency to mind their own business, keep their righteous religious values to themselves, and park their grievances within themselves. I am sicked and tired of people trying their level best to use religions as launch pads to seek popularity and gain selfish interests. As far as I am concerned, if there is a God, then this God of you and me is an almighty institution that does not need sinners like us to defend his honours against other sinners.

"Of course, there are different truths on different levels. Things are true relative to other things; "long" and "short" relate to each other, "high" and "low," and so on. But is there any absolute truth? Something self-sufficient, independently true in itself? I don't think so." - A Buddhist quote.

Of reason and faith, everybody knows the way, but few actually walk the path. Let those who commit no sin casts the first stone. Beyond that, let us live for today, and make friends, not enemies. If my comments hurt your sensitivity, please read my lips, my sincere apology. It is unintentional. I am merely exercising my rights to free speech.

Namo Amithaba Buddha.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for you, Mydin. You are indeed playing with consumers' religious sensitivities with your arrogance.

I have decided to stop patronising such an inconsiderate business organisation. Boycott Mydin-la..