Academic journal article International Journal of Islamic Thought

Dialogue of Life and Its Significance in Inter-Religious Relation in Malaysia

Academic journal article International Journal of Islamic Thought

Dialogue of Life and Its Significance in Inter-Religious Relation in Malaysia

Article excerpt

Malaysia is one of the Southeast Asian countries that is known for its diversity in religion and culture. The diversity reflects not only at its various languages and multi-racial society but also in multi-religious adherents of the people. Osman (2009) argues that the diversity of religion in Malaysia is the main social challenge needed to be handled effectively. This is more emphasized by Chandra (2010) who said that creating an atmosphere that is conducive to inter-religious understanding and harmony is a challengei to Malaysian society. Creating harmony is the main agenda for inter-religious dialogue and this can be applied in a roundtable discussion among the religious elites. In the modern pluralistic society of practical living together, a dialogue aims to learn something different from the others (Swidler 2003) as well as to get to know the others (Shehu 2008; Berghout 2008; Smith, 2007; Osman 2006; Azizan 2005; Khadijah 2004) as one whole human family.

Getting to know the others is a dialogical relation to promote amicable relationship with people of different religions. It begins when one encounters, lives and interacts with the others and participates in daily life activities together. The social interaction marks the involvement of non-elite participants in the inter-religious dialogue at the grass roots level. The non-elite participation in inter-religious dialogue is necessary to accommodate the challenge of pluralistic society. The process of social interaction in everyday activity is known as a dialogue of life. Those activities can be seen in the life experience of living together with mix-faith family, celebrating festivals and wedding ceremony as well as doing (running) business with other religious communities. Thus, the aim of this paper is to elucidate the concept of dialogue of life and how this dialogue has a significant impact on encouraging positive interaction between people of different religions in Malaysia.

Inter-Religious Relation in Malaysia

The formation of multi-religious society of Malaysia began when Chinese and India descent were given citizenship in the early sixties (Chandra 2010). It was described by Chandra as, "one of the greatest concessions that some indigenous people have made to non-indigenous communities in the entire history of humankind." It also shows the accommodation and acceptanceii of Malay-Muslims towards the non-Malay, non-Muslim communities as part of the Malaysian population. Therefore, the readiness of living together with people of different religions has begun as early as the formation of Malaysia which leads to the creation of multi-ethnic and multi-religious society comprising three big races and religions - Malay-Muslims, Chinese-Buddhist and Indian-Hindus. There are also other dominant indigenous community of East Malaysia in Sabah and Sarawak which consist of

It is a challenge to Malaysia to maintain harmony and peaceful coexistence in a multi-religious society. It becomes more complex when dealing with inter-religious issues because the inter-religious issues are no longer dealing with theological problems; rather it is related more to the problem of living together and social interaction. Mohd Farid Mohd Shahran (2008) highlights the inter-religious issues pertaining to the problem of living together have dealt with the issue of sitting the area of building religious worship, incongruence between the system of civil and syariah courts as well as the religious conversion either to enter or leave any particular religion. The other issues concern on the matters of halal certificate by non-Muslim businessmen, the usage of Arabic and Quranic terminologies, funeral process, Islamic propagation and so on.

Walters (2007) states that among the issues affecting Christian-Muslim relation in Malaysia is the state government carefully control the distribution of land to build non-Muslim places of worship and the allocation of land for non-Muslim cemeteries. …

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