How far should religion influence political decisions?

DEFINITION of political decisions: Laws passed by the government STAND: There should be religious tolerance but no religion should be favoured or discriminated against. Recently, the series of attacks on churches in Malaysia, due to the overturning of a law that banned the use of ‘Allah’ to refer to the Christian God, has drawn much international attention. The issue sparked off a discussion on religion influencing political decisions. Religion, a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of people and sects, should be considered when making political decisions for it concerns the majority of people. However, an extreme bias towards a certain religion should not be encouraged, for it can cause social unrest due to the unequal treatment of people, possibly leading to serious implications such as economic instability.

When religion influences political decisions, many problems may arise due to the religious inequality, an issue that should not be taken lightly. In Northern Ireland for instance, rivalry is present between two main religious groups, the Catholics and Protestants. As the current government is largely Protestant, numerous laws which put Catholics at a disadvantage were passed, including limiting Catholics’ rights to education and preventing them from becoming Members of Parliament. These prejudiced laws have led to years of armed conflicts, and numerous deaths in the process. It is inevitable that people will revolt when forced to abide to such biased laws, hence political decisions should not, under religious influences, discriminate against other religions in order to avoid serious consequences like social unrest.

When only one religion is considered in political decisions, the laws passed may contradict certain religions or schools of thought, but will still be unfairly enforced. (Take the example of the marriage law in Malaysia) Islam has many different sects but Malaysia, which is an Islamic State, is based on Syafi’e rulings, where a single Muslim lady must have the permission of her father before she can get married. However in Hanafi ruling, a single Muslim lady can choose to marry whoever she pleases. Since Syafi’e rulings are enforced upon all Muslims, if a Hanafi Muslim lady’s father disapproves, her marriage will not be recognized. Hence to prevent such unfair situations from

Singapore. political decisions should not be too openly influenced by a particular religion because tension may arise from laws that are not fair to everyone in the country. Social stability is crucial in ensuring the economic growth of a country. religious influences should not play such a major part in political decisions. At the other end of the spectrum. believers of that religion may be led to think that no other religion has the right to be considered. being a multi-religious society. the women feel that such a law would disrespect their religion and violate their rights to preserve their modesty. when religion does not influence political decisions. and thereby does not encourage prominent displays of one’s religion. Therefore. Singapore is a good model of a country that has achieved social cohesion. with the right balance of religious tolerance and secularism. which is causing increasing tensions amongst citizens. has succeeded in maintaining harmony.occurring. In this case. religion or community. religious inequality has created the mindset of Islam superiority. Not taking any side ensures equality and satisfaction for all. and thus social stability. if the government does not pass religiously unfair laws. inequality and discrimination can still occur. For example in Malaysia. with no social unrest for the past 40 years. The Presidential Council of Minority Rights (PCMR) was set up to ensure that new laws passed by Singapore’s parliament do not discriminate against any particular race. The government has intentions to ban Muslim women from wearing the niqab (face veil) as it feels that it is too openly reflective of Islam and also demeaning to Muslim women in this modern society. when one religion openly influences political decisions above all others in extreme cases. Also. three churches have been burnt down by Muslims who were against a court ruling that allowed a Catholic newspaper to use Allah in its Malay-language editions. Therefore the complete abolishment of religion in political decision is also not ideal as certain concessions to religious rights should be made in order to maintain harmony. France is a secular nation.more foreign investors would be willing to invest in a . Such conflicts can actually be avoided. However.

governments should carefully try to strike a balance between the two extremes in the interests of all citizens. or even race and language. Only when laws are fair to all religions. will unity and stability in the country be attained. there will be losses sustained from riots and uprisings. At the end of the day. one nation’ in mind. Therefore. . political decisions should be made with the objective of achieving ‘One people. as in times of unrest. As can be seen from the above cases of Malaysia and without religious conflicts. too much or too little religious influence in political decisions may lead to undesirable consequences like discrimination and unrest. which means equal rights for every citizen in the country.

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