By Kon Onn Sein
Now, even children are split by race and religion
As parents who are concerned with playing our responsible role in nation-building and bridging the ethnic divide, we had consciously sent our children to national school despite the horror stories of sub-standard education.
We had intentionally encouraged our daughters to make friends with their Malay and Indian classmates, especially the poor.
My seven-year-old daughter has been enthusiastically following our encouragement.
Today, when I chatted with her about her friends in school, she related that she had wanted to join her Malay classmates in their play during recess.
However, one classmate said this to her: "Kamu bukan Islam, kamu tidak boleh main sini. Kamu Cina".
(You are not a Muslim; you can't play here.You are a Chinese.)
It is so tragic that children at a young age of seven can say things in such a racist manner.
What has become of our education system that it is enabling such polarised thinking and polluting our children's innocence?
One cannot blame this seven-year old girl.
But it does send an alarm bell of how deeply our nation is being torn apart by decades of racial politics.
Unless more is done to turn back polarised thinking that is inflaming our young, we will become a nation that is divided along ethnic and religious lines.
Religion that is meant to teach caring for one another has been used to justify ‘judgementalism' and discrimination.
Instead of upholding the values of respect for each other, not discriminating along racial lines and looking for the common good in others, religion is being used in a narrow self-righteous way of private morality.
People are being judged according to the external: what they wear and eat, and how often they pray. True spirituality is ignored.
Integrity, working responsibly, caring for the poor, treating one another with respect, and speaking out against oppression of the poor have become secondary to external righteous behaviour.
Hypocrisy, favouritism, putting another down along non-rational ethnic and religious lines is not perceived with greater or even equal magnitude of evil as different dress and moral codes.
Something has gone terribly wrong with our society where substance is less important than superficial religiosity.
It's time our political and religious leaders mobilise all of society to reverse this growing tragedy of all Malaysians.
It's time all our religious leaders sit down to define the real ugliness of bigoted religion and pave a way forward.
Self righteousness of putting private morality above real spirituality is destroying this nation and their own spirituality.
Expressions of hatred, dishonesty, greed and pride are encouraged at the expense of upholding external symbols of faith.
Core values of having the right heart and attitude are sacrificed at the altar of hypocritical lip service professions and external dress codes.
We need to return to the true meaning of our faith, to accept each other as God's creations, and to appreciate the different ways God has created each person.