Perbincangan Panel Siri #2: Risiko Kebencian Antara Agama dan Kaum di Era Covid-19
Tarikh: 11 September 2020 / Jumaat
Masa: 8.30 – 9.45 pm (Malaysia)
Pautan Rakaman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tw9WpKTIVlE
Perbincangan Panel Siri #2 kali ini akan mengambil kira latar belakang pandemik Covid-19 yang berlaku pada hari ini. Di mana wujudnya peningkatan pada ucapan kebencian di media sosial dengan penyebaran maklumat yang menyasarkan kepada kumpulan kaum dan agama tertentu. Selain itu, kebencian ini berisiko untuk menular dalam ruang fizikal seharian yang boleh diterjemah dalam bentuk sikap dan perbuatan mendiskriminasi dan keganasan.
Antara persoalan yang ingin dirungkai termasuk; Bagaimanakah penggunaan media sosial secara tidak beretika telah menyumbang kepada permasalahan ini dan apakah etika penggunaan media sosial? Apakah cara-cara untuk mengurangkan risiko ucapan kebencian yang berpotensi menarik pendapat umum yang bersifat regresif dalam isu kaum dan agama? Apakah peranan masyarakat, kerajaan dan lain-lain?
Seperti biasa, kami menampilkan para panelis yang pakar dalam bidang masing-masing untuk membincangkan isu yang semakin meruncing di era Covid-19. Daftar sekarang!
Nalini Elumalai adalah seorang aktivis hak asasi manusia yang berpengalaman selama 15 tahun. Beliau kini adalah Penyelaras Program Malaysia di ARTICLE 19, sebuah NGO antarabangsa yang memperjuangkan kebebasan bersuara. Nalini juga pernah berkhidmat di Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) selama 8 tahun sebagai Penyelaras Kempen Mansuhkan ISA dan juga bekas Pengarah Ekesukitf di SUARAM.
Dr. Ananthi Al-Ramiah
Dr. Ananthi Al-Ramiah adalah ahli psikologi sosial dan pengarah Dataluminiscence Research di Kuala Lumpur yang merupakan sebuah pusat penyelidikan yang berperanan untuk memberikan penjelasan dan nuansa mengenai cabaran sosial yang kompleks berteraskan data. Penyelidikan beliau merangkumi bidang hubungan antara kaum dan agama, dasar pendidikan tentang kaum dan perpaduan nasional, multikulturalisme dan ekstremisme agama. Antara penulisan akademik beliau telah diterbitkan di jurnal seperti American Psychologist dan Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. Beliau juga merupakan penyunting akhbar di Malaysia dan penerima biasiswa Maxis dan Rhodes. Beliau telah menerima PhD dari Jabatan Psikologi Eksperimen, University of Oxford.
Harris Zainul adalah seorang penganalisa di Institut Kajian Strategik dan Antarabangsa (ISIS) Malaysia. Antara bidang kajian beliau di ISIS Malaysia adalah tentang gejala berita palsu dan akibatnya ke atas masyarakat dan sistem demokrasi. Terdahulu, beliau adalah seorang Ahli Lantikan Menteri di Majlis Perundingan Belia Negara, ahli Parlimen Belia Malaysia mewakili negeri Selangor, dan Felo Perdana kepada YAB Timbalan Perdana Menteri. Beliau memegang ijazah sarjana muda dalam bidang undang-undang dari University of Liverpool dan ijazah sarjana dalam hubungan antarabangsa dari School of Oriental and African Studies di London.
Aizat Shamsuddin (Moderator)
Aizat Shamsuddin merupakan penyelaras projek Komuniti Muslim Universal. Penyelidikan dan pengalaman beliau tertumpu pada bidang pencegahan ekstremisme, terrorisme dan hak asasi manusia. Pada tahun 2018, beliau dianugerahkan biasiswa Australia Awards oleh Jabatan Hal Ehwal Luar Negeri dan Perdagangan Australia dan ASEAN untuk program sarjana di University of Melbourne dalam pengkhususan counterterrorism, konflik dan politik Islam. Beliau juga mempunyai pendidikan dalam undang-undang dan Syariah dari Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia.
To provide better context for the discussion, Nalini started to discuss the concept of ‘hate’ and ‘hate speech’. Hate is defined as a ‘state of mind’, meanwhile hate speech is construed as any expression manifested in the form of actions promoting prejudice and discrimination towards any groups or individuals under the protected characteristics that include colors, religions, nationalities or social origins, etc. The overall discussion has notably given an emphasis on the importance of freedom of expression in a democratic multi-racial and religious society. It enables freedom to exchange ideas, opinions and information. Thus, allowing the members of society to form, progress and develop their own opinions in respect of racial and religious issues.
Freedom of expression is not absolute
In extension to Nalini’s outlined context the panelists agreed that freedom of speech should not be absolute by restricting hate speech. However, there must be a clear distinction between hate speech and offensive speech. It is a duty of the government to ensure that the exercise of freedom of expression is not being tampered by the former. Article 19 (3) of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provides a guideline that if a government intends to restrict freedom of expression, it has to fulfill three conditions, first, the restriction must be provided by the law, second, for a legitimate reason in the interest of national security and public safety and third, it must be proportionate. However, freedom of speech and expression is restricted especially by religious and racial sensitivities of certain groups. This should not be the case because most of these speeches are protected under the Federal Constitution. In spite of that, hate speech should be restricted when there is measurable and tangible risk following the speech. As an example, hateful and prejudicial remarks on social media against migrant workers that could evolve into public opinion and resulted in regressive government action against them. It is also imperative that the restriction must attain the highest threshold to safeguard freedom of speech and expression.
Freedom of expression should be empowered
On the other hand, Dr. Ananthi agreed that the prevalent problem of freedom of speech in Malaysia is too restrictive. She further justified that for an individual to be in a public arena in a country that recognizes freedom of speech and expression, diversity of opinions and perspectives must be sought when engaging in a dialogue or forum. This is helpful for clear and informed understanding on issues related to races and religions. Thus, this underscores the important role of freedom of expression in facilitating the society towards information-seeking and two-way engagement. Although the reality on the ground shows that people would rather stick to their own opinion and perspective, therefore they could not see any harm in that. It is a risk when a person has no problem expressing his or her opinions and beliefs to others, but reluctant and unwilling to listen, as well as refuse to think critically about others’ opinions and beliefs from different backgrounds. The risk increases when a person is exposed to dogmatic thinking that constrains them in a bubble of rigidity.Harris added that this situation impairs their growth of critical thinking and exposes them to misinformation and hateful rhetoric instrumentalised by those who have power and interests. In short, the exercise of freedom of speech and expression must come with critical, mature and non-dogmatic thinking. Harris and Nalini concurred with how the government’s policy in regard to limiting freedom of expression has been made at the cost of stabilising the ‘national unity’. Two things to be highlighted, tolerance and unity. Harris made a contribution that on one hand, tolerance is the attitude of accepting interracial and interreligious practices and on the other, the ability to give dissenting views on racial and religious issues. Meanwhile, unity is when cultural differences of certain racial and religious groups are not only being accepted but also celebrated to the fullest. Here, Harris had eloquently offered a perspective of nation-building modeled on tolerance and unity. As for the spirit of unity, even though it is hard to be instilled in society, it is needed more in the long run. For the last 50 years, the government has used the Sedition Act 1948 to curb the feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races in the aftermath of May 13th incident. The Act was meant to promote better national unity, not to divide the interracial and interreligious relations. Harris then argued and also echoed by Nalini that the restrictive law has inculcated fear in people from expressing their thoughts and engaging in meaningful dialogues on sensitive issues in public spaces. In the absence of freedom of expression, these topics and issues have never found a breakthrough and collective solutions.
Education to counter racism and religious hatred
The society is so engulfed in the mindset of fear of contamination. Dr. Ananthi viewed this as ‘leading towards social distancing and othering’. On a societal level, people are afraid to be contaminated by the food, traditions and lifestyle of others who are different from us. People keep clear distances and boundaries from one another, therefore this is counter productive to efforts promoting national unity. Further, religious leaders or individuals who use religion as a tool to spread the narrative of otherness, contamination and distrust evidently brings more harm than good. This has created divisiveness in the society in addition to the fact that many religious leaders do not actively counter such narrative.
Dr. Ananthi further explained that in schools, we are taught not to talk about sensitive topics and never how to talk about sensitive things. Therefore, it made sense when people do not know how to talk about it. One of the solutions to overcome this systemic problem is through education. First, it is crucial to embed the attitude of open-mindedness and exposure to different ideas, opinions and cultures. Second, the attitude of humility. It comes with the acceptance and realisation that our mind and thinking as humans are fallible that we are capable of making mistakes. Humility is foreign to public dialogues, rarely shown by religious experts, scholars, politicians or even our teachers. There is a challenge to reform our education system but when exercising freedom of speech and expression, it is best tackled in a controlled environment. It means that the forum or dialogue is moderated and facilitated in a peaceful and meaningful way.For a start, teachers must begin to listen with an open mind and heart.