By LIM MUN FAH
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
It is always easier to talk about democracy than to practice it.
Tolerance, respect and critical spirit are impotent components of democracy. It means that a person should have the freedom to criticise others, and at the same time, tolerate different opinions, respect different views and accept criticism from others.
Democratisation is a constant process. It has never been a straight line in a single mode. Instead, it is a multi-lined process in various modes that mutually encourage and rationally interact. The process is tortuous. Sometimes, it advances rapidly, sometimes, it becomes stagnant and sometimes, it goes backward.
Once democracy is presumed to be only a single line in a single mode, democracy will then turn rigid and be dogmatised.
Some people stand on the moral high ground of democracy and rashly categorise those who are not in the same group with them as traitors and lackeys. They do not know that democracy is not about labeling others and criticism is not about calling names. On the contrary, democracy stresses on facts and reasoning, and criticism emphasises on tolerance and respect.
Many politicians can recite very well the famous quote of French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it". However, once they are criticised or being questioned, they do not defend to the death others' right to say it, but just want to shut others' mouths. Perhaps, they have forgotten, or selectively forgotten, that the main point of democracy is not conceitedness, but checks and balances.
For example, the implementation of the hudud law is an ideology of PAS and thus, it should allow the media to raise the issue, so that people can get to know about it, face it, check and balance it through rational debates. If it is feasible, it would then be accepted. However, if it is not feasible, the people would then express their worries and discontent through various ways, forcing it to be abandoned or at least, amended, to conform to our multiracial, multi-religious and multicultural national condition.
It is a fact that non-Muslims do not understand the hudud law. It is not a problem as understanding can be promoted through rational view exchanges, dialogues and discussions. Terrible problems, however, take place when some people refuse to understand it, or even try to block all channels of communication for the sake of votes.
Democracy is not only about votes. Its greatest value is to lead the public to discuss policies and ideologies of different parties through an electoral process, so that the people can express their views and force political parties to continuously adjust and improve their policies and ideologies, thereby activating the concept of democracy.
The 2008 general election has inspired many ambitious young people and intellectuals to join politics and it is indeed a good phenomenon conducive to the development of democracy. However, if they sanctify their political parties and think that their parties are perfect, or even too sacred to be criticised, it would then very easy for them to lose the motive power of self-reflection, they might even flow in fanaticism and act without consideration.