Religious Tolerance and Respect Among the Communities Vital

Speech by Mohamed Azmin Ali, MP for Gombak, on the opening of the new extension of the Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple of Ampang on 31 March 2013

First and foremost, let me say thank you to the Gurdwara committee for inviting me to today’s event. As your elected Member of Parliament, I am proud and honoured indeed to be associated with it.

Tanva yahe vaad ji; syukriya.

I am told there are a total of 112 gurdwaras throughout Malaysia. About one third of them are situated in Perak. And as for the Ampang area, there are only two. So, the opening of this new extension of your gurdwara sahib here in Ampang is a most auspicious occasion and carries profound significance beyond just this locality.

On this special occasion, I think it is important to look again at the concept and practice of Seva. The idea of ‘selfless service’ is no doubt an integral part of the Sikh religion, and I believe cannot be separated from the institution of the gurdwara itself.

The fact that anyone, regardless of religious, cultural or social background, is welcome to partake of the food and drinks speaks volumes about what the religion preaches and what the gurdwara stands for.

Being one of the central tenets of Sikhism, I believe Seva is no longer just a concept but a very active practice and a defining feature of the gurdwara itself. Today’s event is therefore not just about opening the new extension of a physical building but, more importantly, a symbolic extension of selfless service to the community.

Once again, I am therefore proud and honoured to be part of it.

As I said, this practice of Seva must be seen in a broader light and that is the religion teaches moderation, tolerance and respect for all faiths and communities.

These matters are of particular importance because we live in a country with such a diversity of religions and cultures. All citizens, what more elected Members of Parliament, must exercise the greatest consideration for the feelings and sensitivities of the different communities in respect of what they say or do.

There is therefore the need not just to tolerate but to respect the differences among the communities.

I want to take this occasion to condemn the remarks made recently by a particular Member of Parliament on the Hindu religion and the religious practices of Hindus in general. Under no circumstances can such disrespectful, shameful and seditious remarks be allowed to go unpunished. The authorities must take the necessary action.

In this regard, I believe that Sikhism teaches that all of humanity was created by the same Creator and that it enjoins its followers to respect all other religions.

Now, this is a principle which is also enjoined by Islam just as all religions carry the message of harmony, not the message of hatred and strife.

If we look at the Federal Constitution, there is an implied duty to defend the rights of not just one’s faith but that of others as well. To my mind, respect for all religions is part of democracy. To defend this is to defend the democratic process.

We are aware that lately this country is witnessing a rise in racist and hate mongering activities and speeches. There has also been a rise in organisations which are very ethnocentric being exclusively committed to the advancement of one particular community only.

Some of these have made very irresponsible statements and uttered words which cannot see the light of day. Some have also threatened violence on others supposedly in the name of race and religion.

It is also very sad that the authorities are letting these people go around the country with no action taken against them. They continue to spread lies and deception and to provoke ill-will and animosity among the people.

But to borrow a quote from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

“They are stuck in falsehood, and false are the rewards they receive.”

So, looking on the bright side, I am proud to say that the majority of Malaysians are not impressed by these racists and extremists. Similarly, we are no longer impressed by the propaganda forced on us day in day out because we believe that Malaysians are matured and are ready for the country to be taken to the next level.

In conclusion, may I once again congratulate the Sikh community on this auspicious occasion and express the wish that this gurdwara will continue to serve the community for years to come.

Thank you.