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When Zawawi takes the high road

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His refusal to apologise for his callous “preaching” smacks of misplaced arrogance that is inimical to Islam, Mustafa K Anuar writes.

What started out as a straightforward parliamentary debate on the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2020 took a ghastly turn following Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh’s insensitive remarks.

When the bill to impose heavier penalties for drink driving was tabled, the Pas lawmaker rightly stood up in support of Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong’s campaign against the menace.

That drink driving was behind several deaths and gruesome accidents recently, and police made 1,236 arrests related to the offence from 1 January to 15 June are causes for concern not only for MPs, but also the general public.

It would have been an unproblematic parliamentary session had Zawawi not decided to preach, on behalf of followers of faiths other than his, that all religions forbid alcohol consumption.

Based on his comparative religion studies, he argued that Jesus Christ forbade alcohol before the Bible was “manipulated”, sparking an outcry from church leaders and others nationwide.

His claim is contentious, as different religions have dissimilar views on intoxicants like alcoholic drinks. It was the wrong road to take for the Pas parliamentarian, as such theological “interference” only fosters anxiety, pain, anger and suspicion in a diverse society such as ours. It is a recipe for disunity.

Insensitive comments suggest an inability, if not refusal, to appreciate our multicultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic society, which requires its members to respect differences and diversity. God forbid what would happen if a non-Muslim started to “correct” certain aspects of Islamic teachings.

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Zawawi’s refusal to apologise for his callous “preaching” smacks of misplaced arrogance that is inimical to Islam, which calls for mutual respect and understanding. Additionally, humility makes a world of difference to us mere mortals.

Instead of prying into others’ religious domains, Zawawi should train his sights on common concerns around which Malaysians of diverse backgrounds can unite for the good of the nation.

For instance, the intoxication of certain politicians by power and wealth, which gives rise to abuse and corruption, should be of primary concern and a rallying cry for all citizens. Indeed, politicians drunk on power can bring about hardship of various kinds to Malaysians, especially the vulnerable, while democracy gets scarred in the process.

The coronavirus pandemic and its dire economic implications are already a bane for most of us. Courting another problem is an indulgence we can do without.

Source: themalaysianinsight.com

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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Robert Goh
Robert Goh
22 Sep 2020 8.36pm

I salute the writer for his concise essay on what ALL Malaysians should be fighting together on; like corruption. And criticising Zawawi.

However, I suspect nothing will happen to Zawawi. So far, I think no Malay/Muslim politician especially from PN has taken Zawawi to task for his incendiary statement.

I shudder to think what the repercussions will be if a non-Muslim were to say something “not nice” about Islam or the Quran or the prophet.

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