Faith in discord


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The desire to promote an image of being “more Islamic” than others has resulted in a certain strand of Islam being aggressively promoted, observes Mustafa K Anuar.

Unscrupulous politicians and certain ethnic and religious supremacists have used religion, in particular Islam, to sow the seeds of discord among the followers of various religious traditions over the years. The ultimate objective is to reap political and economic gains from such unsavoury tactics.

The price to be paid is obviously immense in a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious country like Malaysia: ethno-religious tension, hatred, suspicion and ethnic disharmony.

These purveyors of extremist Islam not only smudge the good name of the religion but also unnecessarily bring about a certain degree of Islamophobia.

Hence, the recent controversy surrounding a Universiti Teknologi Malaysia academic’s teaching slides that denigrated Hindus and Sikhs has unsurprisingly sparked anger from the maligned followers of those faiths. Apparently, the academic had failed to conduct comprehensive research into those religions and had arrogantly exhibited his/her religious bigotry.

But, as many Malaysians will recall, such narrow-mindedness displayed by the lecturers concerned is not the first or an isolated case in the country. Not too long ago, UiTM organised a seminar that essentially belittled Christianity, causing anguish and fury within the religious fraternity.

Like many things in life, such religious arrogance has its roots in larger society. Certain actions by Muslim nationalists and certain overzealous religious institutions in the country have emboldened certain quarters in the Muslim community to do things that violate religious freedom and human rights principles.

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Apart from the religious authorities moral policing, which may even affect the rights of adherents of other faiths, punitive means are often used to quell dissenting views held by certain Muslims.

The desire to promote the image of being ‘more Islamic’ than others – particularly between Umno Baru and Pas – has resulted in a certain strand of Islam being aggressively promoted at almost all levels of society. This at times impinges upon the rights of believers of other faiths.

Pas’ zeal to establish a so-called Islamic state, which is calculated to appeal to a large segment of the Muslim-Malay constituency, is the party’s driving force.

The haste with which Pas president Hadi’s private member’s bill was successfully introduced in the last parliamentary session (but later, for reasons best known to Hadi, postponed) should be seen from this perspective.

This hasty move, apparently facilitated by Umno Baru, caused much anxiety and worry especially among non-Muslims and certain Muslims as well.

While the public attention generally gravitated towards Hadi’s hasty attempt to introduce his bill and subsequently hudud, political harassment continued relentlessly.

The latest victims were activist Fahmi Reza and three others – Lew Pik-Svonn, Pang Khee Teik and Arif Rafhan Othman who were arrested on 4 June 2016 under the draconian Sedition Act. Fahmi is famously associated with his “clownish’ posters.

While such religious discord is being spawned and has consumed the energies of many concerned Malaysians, the 1MDB controversy is still unravelling worldwide, much to the embarrassment and chagrin of right-thinking Malaysians.

And let’s not forget, the National Security Council Bill was quietly gazetted recently without even taking into account the Conference of Rulers’ various recommendations.

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In solidarity,
Mustafa K Anuar
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
21 June 2016

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