By: Najib Razak

Najib Razak

In contrast to the impressions left by some international reporting, in the hours and days after the recent vandalism of churches and other places of worship in Malaysia, the true spirit of our nation has shone through. Across religions and races, Malaysians have spoken with a unified voice in condemning the despicable acts of a few. Citizens have joined as one to assert that vandalism is never an acceptable way to express diverse views or resolve differences.

Many measures have been taken to counter this violence. Muslim groups volunteered to safeguard churches in their towns. Muslim social activists have written petitions to oppose these senseless acts of vandalism. Muslim civic groups are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Christians, Hindus and Buddhists to ensure that all people can freely worship as they wish. Christian and civic leaders have urged calm and interfaith dialogue; they are fully aware that those who perpetrated these acts do not represent the Muslim majority in Malaysia. I saw this first hand when I visited the Metro Tabernacle Church to meet with the pastor and to commit support for rebuilding.

Let us be honest in recognizing that religious beliefs are deeply held, and in the legal case currently pending related to non-Muslims’ use of the word “Allah” in Malay-language publications, there are passionate views on many sides. As a nation, we will work together to resolve this issue.

Malaysia is certainly not the first country where a few individuals commit criminal acts under the false pretence of supporting a particular religion. But I am determined that the vandalism of places of worship and arson at the Tabernacle in recent days—and the powerful response from everyday Malaysians—can be transformed into a moment from which we can learn.

We will bring the perpetrators to justice. But this will also be a time when we stand united as one people to unequivocally denounce violence and reaffirm that we remain committed to the national drive we call “1Malaysia.”

We must resolve to maintain a fair and open society where there is opportunity for all Malaysians to flourish. My administration is liberalizing ownership requirements in key sectors of our economy; encouraging foreign direct investment in an era of globalization; creating 1Malaysia clinics to provide access to health care; and extending educational opportunities to all Malaysians.

These reforms have sometimes been politically difficult. But they are important because the long-term health of Malaysia’s society and the economy can only be built on what unites us rather than what divides us. We will not waver from the pursuit of 1Malaysia. While there may be some who debate this approach, there is room for open discussion and consideration about how we realize this vision of a strong, fair nation.

Many Malaysians have been appalled by the irresponsible and dangerous finger-pointing of a few politicians who put personal political interests before Malaysia’s national interest. They try to score political points by hammering on sensitive issues. My government chooses a different path. We will reach out to all parts of Malaysian society in the coming days to foster open dialogue and work to resolve sensitive issues together.

While one church was damaged and others were vandalized, along with a Sikh temple and Muslim prayer rooms, the values we hold dear—religious freedom, tolerance, peace and fairness—remain the bedrock of our nation. The diversity of our population is the true strength of our country. Across races and across religions, this is the foundation upon which we will advance 1Malaysia. It represents a great challenge but, together, it can be our greatest achievement. — wsj