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Cancer of the heart and soul

Certain groups are doing a fantastic job dividing the country - Photograph: Malaysian InsiderFile pic

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Over the years, Malaysia has been moving backwards in terms of humanism, says Amir Zainorin.

Groups such as Perkasa and Isma are doing a fantastic job dividing the country - Photograph: Malaysian InsiderFile pic
Groups such as Perkasa and Isma are doing a fantastic job dividing the country – Photograph: Malaysian InsiderFile pic

Every morning, upon waking up, I switch on my computer and go to my Facebook page to keep up with the news from friends and family back home. It helps cure my longing for them, which is part of the homesick feeling that is inevitable if you live in a faraway country for an extended period.

I’m one of only a handful of Malaysians who live in Denmark, the country that made the world headlines some years ago when one of its citizens drew a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad. It provoked protests from Muslims all over the world and led to the burning of Danish flags and embassy buildings.

The Danes are proud of their freedom of speech, press and belief. In Denmark, you are free to practise what you believe as long as you don’t hurt anyone. You can be a Muslim and practise your religion freely; nobody is going to stop you. If you decide to be an atheist the next day, nobody cares. You don’t have to worry about the Islamic police charging at your door and forcing you to repent according to their understanding of what Islam is.

In Malaysia, the ongoing case with 80-year-old Kassim Ahmad provides a good example of how religion is being forced on you. This is opposed to one of the basic teachings of Islam, which says that faith or religion should not be forced on a person. The only way you can find peace and freedom through Islam is when you freely submit to it.

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Over the years, Malaysia has been moving backwards in terms of humanism. The actions being taken against Kassim are unjust. Arresting him for his opinions was patently unIslamic.

Doesn’t Islam encourage followers to discuss the Qur’an and Hadith so that we can improve our understanding of their teachings? And didn’t the Prophet teach us to settle our differences in a peaceful manner?

In Malaysia, sadly, there is actually no such thing as freedom of religion, especially for Muslims. We are not allowed to voice out our opinions about Islam. We have no right to be ourselves and the only way to settle our differences is through authoritarian use of force by the moral police, who blindly follow orders from their masters, whose faith is driven by egotism.

Being a Muslim doesn’t automatically make one superior to others. Islam teaches us to be good to others and to treat everyone equally, regardless of skin colour or belief. The minute we start to believe that we are the chosen ones, that is when we find ourselves no better than those Jews who believe in the same manner.

In my conversations with people from back home, I was surprised to find out that even some highly educated young Malays have this kind of mentality. It’s the kind of mentality that confounds Islamicity with Malayness. Jihad is often spoken of in the same breath as Malay rights.

The initial policies to protect the so-called Malay rights probably had the good intention of helping poor Malays improve their lot, but the reality is that they have neglected the vast majority of Malays. It is time to unveil the truth and get rid of the hypocrisy behind these policies. Moreover, besides the poor Malays, there are also poor Indians, Chinese and others.

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The Malay mindset needs to be changed. Groups such as Perkasa and Isma are doing a fantastic job dividing the country, embarrassing and damaging Islam and the Malay race in the eyes of the world.

It is saddening to hear of Malays saying to others, “If you don’t like this country, then go back to where you belong.” These people are sick. They think they can solve problems with hatred and threats, going against the basic teachings of Islam even as they profess to protect its sanctity.

What is a good Muslim anyway? Are Sunni Muslims better than Shia Muslims? Can one be a better Muslim without being a better human being?

Malcolm X said: “The true practice of Islam can remove the cancer of racism in the heart and the soul.”

If we can do that, Malaysia may be able to join the ranks of Denmark, which has frequently been ranked as the happiest country in the world in cross-national studies.

Amir Zainorin is a visual artist from Malaysia based in Copenhagen.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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