Religious Sensitivity Taken To Its Extreme!

Last Sunday, August 11, 2013, the History Channel of Astro showed a biography of Pope Francis entitled "Pope from the end of the world".

Whilst Astro must be commended for airing the program, however 4 times before and during the airing of the program, Astro apparently showed on the screen these words, "This Programme Portrays Depictions Of Religious Figures And Represents Views Other Than Muslims. Viewer Discretion Is Advised."

Many have expressed outrage by the appearance of these words. The Film Censorship Board has been reported to have disclaimed any directive for the issuance of such words prior to the airing of the program. It would therefore appear that Astro acted on its own volition when introducing these words before and during the airing of the Program. Some are aghast at the level of professionalism a corporate company like ASTRO displays - apparently to please those who hold a fundamentalist view, even if not expressly sought for.

It is common to have statements such as "VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED" for movies that depict extreme violence, sex and vulgarity. One can appreciate the need and presence of such statements. But is there really a necessity for the words as set out above on a biography documentary of the Holy Father?

It is a pity that the program that gave a brief introduction of the new Pope has now been marred by these words. Clearly, these words were poor taste. To emphasize that the program is not the views of Muslims and viewers’ discretion is advised appears to undermine the intellect of our Muslim brethren. These appear to be meant for the Muslims and one cannot help but feel sorry for the Malaysian Muslims who appear to be treated as if they are unable to discern what it is they are watching. The caption also appeared to be meant for Muslims who are incapable of understanding that the views of the program are not Muslim views. They are advised to use their discretion lest they convert to Christianity after watching the program.

The question is what do we do about it? We have seen a surge of religious intolerance recently. This is yet another example of the lack of acceptance of the other religions in this country. It is not just a matter for the minority religious community to stand up for their rights. Rather it is about respect and tolerance.

At the rate things are moving, it appears that we are becoming a nation that is intolerant and insensitive to other religions. Malaysia is always portrayed to the rest of the world as a modern Muslim democracy, a success story, a melting pot of different culture and religions. Remember the often quoted tagline “Malaysia truly Asia”? Sadly if this continues, the very basis on which this nation was built will disappear, leaving behind bitterness and resentment. Let us not allow this to happen!

We commend Astro for the many religious shows it has aired. But implore it to continue doing so sans the “disclaimers”!

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