Today, as we evaluate the way our politicians, elected representatives and ‘jaguh kampongs’ (village champions) have been ‘using’ Islam, there is much reason to worry.
In recent years, we have seen how certain politicians have used Islam to leverage their political ambitions and careers.
Their actions have even been addressed by the royalty who have, on several occasions, cautioned these politicians not to politicise Islam. Unfortunately, all the royalty’s advice seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
Instead, we are witnessing more calls to ‘protect’ Islam from some real or imaginary threats.
Unsurprisingly, today, more and more Muslims have a more extreme interpretation of Islam than before. There are also concerns that some of them have become more prejudiced against the ethnic minorities and, as a result, have become more fearful of them.
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These changes have been happening right before our eyes. Fresh concerns and debates have arisen over ‘halal’ issues, over Sharia-related rubrics and over religious indoctrination in schools.
There is also concern that form is taking precedence over substance in the way Islam is increasingly being practised and observed.
Malaysia, as a multi-racial, multi-religious nation, has unique advantages that could take Islam to greater heights. It has an exemplary track record of goodwill among its people. It can also draw upon its non-Muslim ethnic minorities, as well as other theocratic nations, to enhance the beauty of Islam.
The country also has a long history of intervention from our sultans whenever the political situation was shaky or unclear. They have played an instrumental role in protecting Islam in moderation, in showing compassion and in displaying an ability to embrace changes for the benefit of Muslims in the country.
Unfortunately, some of our politicians, through their own positions of power and through their diabolic intent, have increasingly succeeded in dividing Muslims from the rest of the population, instead of uniting them.
Today, we seeing extremism and a worrying brand of political Islam rapidly taking root in the country. We are also witnessing the increasing marginalisation of a moderate, more compassionate approach to the religion.
The widespread fear of an imminent “green wave” suggests that the religion is being ‘weaponised’ as a tool to win power and control.
All this must stop now or we will suffer further isolation from the progressive world. We must pull the brakes now or else witness an erosion of the noble institutions of more inclusive democratic governance that have helped make Islam a beacon in this part of the region.
We must not let this exclusivist brand of political Islam tarnish and weaken the beauty of the faith in this land.
Unfortunately, there are too many incidents that suggest we suggest we may be losing our shine as a nation that practises moderate Islam. That would be a pity as this more open, inclusive version of Islam has tremendous potential to bring people together, instead of dividing them.