The Malaysian society has long prided itself of the harmonious co-existence of our diverse population as well as religious tolerance and understanding.
Indeed, this is what makes us lift our heads up in the international community.
Unfortunately the divisive acts and incidents done in the name of religion and race in this country in more recent years have cast a cloud of doom over our multicultural society.
The G25 group of eminent Malay leaders has said of such a worrisome trend pursuant to the incident of Muslims-only laundry: Malaysians must embrace our diversity and do everything to stop any form of extremism.
The Muslims-only launderette issue was soon joined by the beer festival controversy to put Malaysia's cultural tolerance to severe test once again.
Although the laundry incident is an isolated case or personal choice of the business owner, while the beer festival controversy was started by PAS, sad to say that our government and major political parties have been slow and weak in responding to such excessive acts.
The Johor state government only issued a substantially toned down statement after the Sultan reprimanded the laundry shop owner, while DBKL, apparently succumbing to the pressure from Muslim conservatives, slapped a ban on the Better Beer Festival organizers.
The government has over and again reiterated that this country is run on the principle of moderation, but sadly it fails to put that principle into effective implementation and defend the cause of moderation as well as the country's diverse image when it comes to issues pertaining to religious and racial sensitivities.
Moderation is the bedrock for our continued success in many fields, and the government's policies must be consistent with such a liberal and moderate stance in a bid to preserve the integrity of our diversity.
As G25 has said, extremism will drive the country towards failure and spell a disaster for this country. While we Malaysians are hailing from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, we identify ourselves first and foremost as Malaysians.
We are all living and working in a culturally diverse society and any willful emphasis on race and religion is poised to impact national integration.
Moderation is all about prioritizing other people's feelings. Federal Territory mufti Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri has put it forthright that religion is not everything, and our interpersonal relations and solidarity stem from the values of our innate humanitarian spirit, our pursuit of peace and righteousness and the appreciation of our togetherness and diversity. Discriminatory behaviors are totally unwise in our plural society.
The Sultan's intervention has won the thumbs-up of Malaysians in that His Majesty has manifested his moderate leadership.
Be it the Muslims-only laundry or beer festival, our federal and state governments appear to have submitted themselves to conservative religious forces.
In the face of increasing threats from religious extremism, moderate Muslims must boldly take a stand, as G25 has proposed, to speak up against it, while all Malaysians regardless of race and religion must adopt a moderate attitude in defending our constitutional rights and at the same time respect one another's differences.
Under such a spirit to staunchly defend the principle of moderation, all Malaysians must stand up and proclaim to our government, political leaders and extremist organizations that moderation is the ultimate vision of this country.
Sin Chew Daily