KUALA LUMPUR- The country's political leadership must take a firm stand against those espousing extreme views, said Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (pic).
The former prime minister also urged Malaysians to vote out some of the strident and more vocal extremists at the next general election so that the voice of moderation could be more clearly heard.
Abdullah said he was saddened by the trend in the country in recent years.
"The rabble rousers, sabre-rattlers and bigots seem to be having a louder voice in politics and in the media. I do not think we are becoming less moderate. Perhaps the extremists in our society are becoming louder and therein lies the danger," Abdullah said.
He asked Malaysians to consider whether there would be continued peace in the country if extremists and bigots were allowed to drown out the voice of moderation.
"The political leadership has to take a firm stand against those espousing extreme views. We cannot be wishy-washy about it."
Abdullah noted that in the last general election in 2013, some of the strident and more vocal extremist politicians lost.
"Perhaps that is one way the moderates can make their voice heard," he said.
Abdullah expressed support for initiatives to bolster moderation such as The Star's Voices of Moderation campaign.
On the call by the G25 group of eminent Malays for the Government to start a rational dialogue on application of Islamic laws in Malaysia, Abdullah said that debate was good.
"But like Gandhi said, there has to be honest disagreement. We cannot have people trying to shut out others or lord their view over others, and by this, I mean those who have extreme views."
Abdullah said politicians, non-governmental organisations, and ordinary Malaysians must all return to the vision of the country's founding fathers who emphasised moderation, acceptance and tolerance.
"We may be having hiccups now but I believe we are still a model of how a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural country should be. We should not and cannot allow the more extreme elements to hijack this country from us."