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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Riding the Mainstream

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Walski's been on the road for the last couple of days. The worst part of being on the road is the inability to get connected at a decent bandwidth - dial-up simply just does not cut it. And all these reasons are just the bonuses... it's good to be home. That having been said, on to the real post.

mainstream - n. ordinary, conventional, familiar and represents the generally accepted ideas, practices, etc., by society at large (source: Wikipedia)

When it comes to religion, mainstream acceptance usually means the religious beliefs, philosophies and practices that are generally accepted by the majority of a religion's followers. And when it comes to religion, alternative viewpoints, regardless of whether they are based on valid reasoning or not, are usually dismissed as being heretical.

Safety in numbers, and having the comfort level that a majority cannot go wrong, are usually used as justification that the mainstream is the place to be.

One problem Walski has with mainstream thought and behavior, specifically when it comes to religion, is the dogmatic stance usually taken by its proponents. A particular religious mainstream point of view, or belief, over time becomes dogma that cannot be challenged, to the point that any viewpoints to the contrary are treated with contempt. No thinking or reasoning required. It's different, therefore wrong.

Then, you have conservatives, whom in general, view their beliefs and values to be absolute. Their viewpoint is the only correct one, and no one else can have a differing views. Period. Even worse, everyone else must accept their viewpoint as well, without question. Or else.

And when mainstream religious belief roots itself in the conservative realm, things get a whole lot hairier. Given a conservative mainstream religious viewpoint, that viewpoint becomes the only acceptable viewpoint, and everything else is heresy.

Walski believes that this is the phenomenon we are seeing today in Malaysia. Liberal Islamic thought is labelled by the conservatives as heresy, despite most of these thoughts having valid rational arguments associated with them. The mere fact that they challange traditional, millenium-old, almost dogmatic way of thinking and belief, makes the liberal school of thought wrong.

Discussions and fora become attempts at agitation and stirring up the proverbial hornets' nest, freedom of religion becomes an attack on their religious beliefs (despite the fact no one is putting a gun to their heads and forcing them to change). Meanwhile, memorandums fly in an attempt to make laws more stringent so that not only their viewpoints are upheld, anyone elses' must be supressed and eliminated.

And this time it is a call to make Article 11(1) more stringent and prohibit freedom of religion, in the true sense. Instead, it is freedom of religion from the conservative, so-called mainstream (it is their belief that they are mainstream) point of view only. Already the conservative mainstream, in their memo, are calling for the suppression of any other view contrary to theirs.

When you attempt to legislate religion (any religion) and make it the basis of law, the concept of parliamentary democracy, as what we have in Malaysia today, will slowly erode. Laws, once passed, become set in stone - for how can you amend a law that is based on religious precepts? To the mainstream that accept the given religious precept, any attempt to do so will be labelled as heresy. Justice, if based on the mainstream practice and beliefs of a particular religion, will only be justice to those who accept the mainstream practice and beliefs of that religion.

And if amendments to Article 11 are made as the conservative mainstream demands, just for the sake of political expediency, what next? What other fundemental rights, currently guaranteed for all Malaysians will become null and void?

All citizens are created equal, but some shall be more equal than others. One nation divided, under God, with equality and justice, for none.

And is being mainstream always right? Only in retrospect can we really tell for sure.

About 80 years ago, the importance of racial purity as the path towards building a strong nation became the basis of government that was accepted by the mainstream, and became the mainstream.

That nation was Germany, and the basis of gorvernment Nazism - mainstream at the time.