Muhammad Fawwaz Mohamad Jan recently stepped into Sunway Carnival Mall in Penang to do what he thought was his job as an MP.
As the new Permatang Pauh MP might have expected, his action caught public attention. But more than that: he triggered anxiety, fear and anger, particularly among the ethnic Chinese, who make up 19.4% of his constituents.
The head of the Penang Pas youth wing was at the mall recently to express a “strong objection” to what was considered to be a large-scale promotion and sale of alcoholic beverages in the complex’s main lobby area.
Fawwaz said he had received complaints from the public about the promotion, adding that “Muslim sensitivities” needed to be safeguarded.
His controversial action rightly earned the ire of the Penang state assembly member for Pengkalan Kota, Daniel Gooi, who insisted that moral policing is not part of the former’s job.
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The MP, who displaced PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar in Permatang Pauh in the last general election, should not behave in a manner reminiscent of a vigilante group in Kedah called the Badar Squad that conducted moral policing a few years ago.
As an MP, he is expected to deal with federal laws, amendments to existing federal laws and policymaking in Parliament, as well as to take part in approving government expenditure and new taxes. This important role cannot be lost on the first-time MP.
Additionally, we would assume he would look into the issues faced by the people in his constituency, such as children’s education, local economy and infrastructure.
It is not his job to deny or denigrate the right of non-Muslims to consume things that are largely considered haram by Muslims. It is obviously not nice to shove your values down the throats of others.
It should be impressed on this MP that living in a diverse society such as ours requires action that can instead foster mutual understanding and respect between various communities. Promoting hostility or disrespect is the last thing you should think of doing.
We can only hope that the inter-ethnic goodwill that has existed over the years in this constituency would not have been eroded as a result of his insensitive move.
Besides, it is conceivable that the mall did not flout any local council rules and regulations when it decided to do the alcohol promotion in anticipation of the Lunar New Year.
This was purely a sales pitch targeted at a particular clientele, as any other commercial establishments would execute prior to cultural festivities. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand and appreciate this business strategy.
Which is why some social media users felt that the mall management should not have entertained Fawwaz’s intervention.
It is noteworthy that such moral policing occurred on the heels of the Pas-led Kedah state government’s total ban on gambling in its endeavour to display its commitment to Islamic teachings. It is possible that Fawwaz got into action buoyed up by this development.
Another downside to his action is that it might raise the question of whether the faith of Muslims is so fragile that they can go weak at the knees at the mere sight of whisky or beer bottles. Surely this is not complimentary to a faith community that is supposed to have a strong resolve.
What the novice MP should be deeply concerned about are politicians who are easily intoxicated by power and status, which has serious social and political implications. – The Malaysian Insight