Politics and Religion in Southeast Asia

Partyforumseasia: Groups and organizations as well as political entities like nation states need similar mechanisms to keep their members together and loyal. They have to be different from others and hostile others are especially useful to strengthen the cohesion. Religious groups cannot avoid these mechanisms either. If they don’t need enemies they have to feel at least better than others, more pious or closer to God. One of the charming internal Vatican jokes goes like this: ChurchSaint Peters shows around a newcomer and explains the different groups on the clouds sailing by. These are the Hindus, these are the Buddhists, etc. When a big cloud comes closer, the newcomer asks in a sort of excited tone: Saint Peter, so many, who are these? Peters answer with a finger over his lips: Ssh, not so loud, these are the Catholics. Don’t disturb them, they think they are the only ones in heaven…

See the full article at: http://www.rsis.edu.sg/publications/commentaries.html

If religious harmony is traditionally a delicate issue in multi-ethnic and multi-religious Southeast Asia (but becoming more and more delicate in Europe as well by massive immigration) the responsibility of the political leadership in handling latent or violent tensions is growing considerably. In this light, the Allah-privilege debate in Malaysia looks like being underestimated by its proponents. Middle Eastern Muslims don’t have too much to laugh about Malaysia, but denying Christians as people of the book the use of God’s name in Arabic makes even the Muslim Brotherhood frown in surprise.

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