Speak Out Against Religious Intolerance In Malaysia
There is no doubt that Islamisation has moved beyond the mere absorption of Islamic values to demands that are beginning to distress not only those outside the faith but also those of the faith.***** By allowing the politically motivated Islamisation of a secular country, the government has created so much anxiety, unhappiness and insecurity. Both the Muslims and the non-Muslims are dissatisfied.
When it began in the 1980s, the values that Malaysians were encouraged to absorb and practise in their daily lives were universal ones like honesty, hard work, respect, kindness and generosity. Unfortunately the policy played into the hands of bigots who wanted to see a more formal Islam practised throughout the country and who also wanted to see it become more visible than just the domes and the minarets.
Thus more of Islam has entered educational institutions and work places. Almost unnoticed, Islamic elements have also entered many state constitutions. Gradually, Islamisation takes on a form that begins to alarm many people. It has moved from mere exhortation and persuasion to a crude enforcement of laws that prohibit Muslims from, among other things, drinking or serving alcohol, gambling, singing and dancing, and punishing them for not praying and fasting.
In their overzealousness, the Islamic religious authorities send out enforcement teams to raid entertainment outlets – the latest being the pub in a hotel in Glenmarie, Selangor on Friday – to discourage Muslims from patronising these places. But in the process they annoy and inconvenience foreign visitors and other Malaysians who are not of the faith.
Malaysia used to take pride in its multireligious character and the easy co-existence that prevailed among people of the various faiths. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s visit to a church on Christmas eve almost five years ago was cheered by almost everyone, including those in other countries as a strong mark of Malaysian religious tolerance. But then came the raids, the end of efforts to set up an interfaith commission, and the end of discussion over Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution which gave the Syariah Court jurisdiction over matters concerning conversion to Islam and because of it, the tussle over the dead.
All these have emboldened the religious authorities and it looks like they have now assumed control of the government Islamisation agenda. In the interest of national unity, harmony and peace, these authorities must be reminded and told that they cannot go overboard. Above all, those who want the halcyon days of religious tolerance to return must be forever vigilant and brave.
Some Muslims are grumbling that Malaysia is not 'Islamic' enough while other Muslims are apprehensive of unimpeded government intrusion into religious issues which should strictly be a personal matter between the individual and God.
The non-Muslims are overwhelmingly against Umno's devious attempts to pander to the Malay vote by creating unease among the different religious groups, by refusing to negotiate a win-win solution and by using government-sponsored surrogates to continue making strident calls for the establishment of an Islamic state.
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