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Our right to speak up

Publication Date : 11-05-2014

 

We live in a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural Malaysia, where any law, whether hudud or civil, will affect all of us.

Seriously, I am fed up of being told that I should not comment on the proposed hudud laws by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and the party’s fans because I am not a Muslim.

The argument is that I have no right, and also no understanding of hudud, thus I am automatically disqualified from discussing it.

Another naïve retort is that this issue should be left to learned Islamic scholars.

So we have the likes of people like the Muslim activist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) chief Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman taking this line of argument further. In his inability to articulate his views convincingly and fairly, he has resorted to threats.

In linking the non-Muslims who oppose the introduction of hudud to a particular ethnic group, he has even called the Chinese citizens in this country “immigrants” and “trespassers” and told them to be grateful for what they have enjoyed in Malaysia.

I wonder if the Isma president is aware that although our Constitution defines Malays as those who profess the Muslim faith, it does not mean that all Muslims in Malaysia are ethnically Malay. What about the converts from other races?

I know so many wonderful people who are ethnically Chinese or Indian, but are also good Muslims. How will all these saudara (brothers) baru feel to be told off that they are “immigrants” and “trespassers”?

And all my Muslim friends who have been to Mecca always tell me how surprised they all were to see Muslims from all over the world, of all nationalities and ethnicities. It is estimated that there are 25 million Muslims in China, far more than the number of Muslims in most of the Arab countries.

And then the Isma president tells us that PAS’ hudud laws should be applicable to non-Muslims – which runs contrary to his argument that non-Muslims have no say. If hudud is going to be imposed on us, non-Muslims, then why shouldn’t we have a say?

Like it or not, the reality is that we live in a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural Malaysia, where any law, whether hudud or civil, will affect all of us.

We have a sad situation in Malaysia when one is unable to advocate intellectually or, rather, intelligently. Many of us are unable to take part in a discourse with a rational mind, preferring to shut down or, rather, shout down those who take a different stand.

And the saddest part is that these threats mostly take on a religious and racial slant. That seems to be the way Malaysia is heading.

Until now, non-Muslims are waiting for an answer, or to be convinced, as to how a rape victim would be treated under PAS hudud laws if there is a need to produce four male witnesses.

And just because four witnesses cannot be found, it does not mean a rape did not take place. It also doesn’t mean that the woman has committed adultery.

A non-Muslim wants to know how the law would be applied, since the victim and the rapist can be of different religions in plural Malaysia.

Why should the non-Muslim be regarded as hostile, with no rights whatsoever to even bring up such questions?

For that matter, I am sure Muslims themselves would want to know how this situation would be dealt with as well.

To bring it to another level, if the PAS hudud isn’t about amputation of hands and limbs with regard to petty theft, then non-Muslims surely want to know whether those who steal the country’s money via corruption would also be subjected to such punishment?

And, as one writer rightly argued, “What about civil servants, developers and politicians who allow the rape of our forests in the name of development? What kind of laws would these greedy people be subjected to?”

There are many Malaysians, and I dare say both Muslims and non-Muslims, who are disturbed by what is happening in our country.

Those of us who are in our 50s would remember how, during our school days, it was constantly drummed into us that Malaysia is a plural society or masyarakat majmuk. We live in a country of many races and religions, or berbilang kaum dan agama.

We took all this very seriously, and rightly so too. We memorised the five principles of the Rukunegara – Belief in God (Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan), Loyalty to King and Country (Kesetiaan kepada Raja dan Negara), Supremacy of the Constitution (Keluhuran Perlembagaan), the Rule of Law (Kedaulatan Undang-undang), and Courtesy and Morality (Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan).

Then little disturbing changes began creeping into our text books.

We began to notice that Parameswara had disappeared from our history books and was soon followed by Yap Ah Loy, whose founding of Kuala Lumpur was put in doubt.

Surely Abdullah Zaik is old enough to note the contributions of the Chinese and Indians in opening up the country’s economy, unless he failed his exams in school or is too proud and too blind to accept the contributions of other races who have made Malaysia what it is today.

He surely cannot be blind to the sacrifices of non-Muslims in the security forces who dedicated their lives to fighting the communists in the Emergency, and the many MCA leaders who were killed because they were regarded as traitors by the communists.

Ignorant fools and bigots like him should not be allowed to get away with their remarks. If the authorities choose to look the other way, it is as good as telling many of us that such people are tolerated or, worse, even endorsed by them.

Wrong is wrong, and we are glad that former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has the courage to tell Abdullah Zaik off.

And let us not forget the administrators at Universiti Institut Teknologi Mara, who allowed two foreigners – in this case, Indonesians – to speak at a seminar which was essentially a threat to racial and national unity. If it isn’t, most of us do not know what it is.

Again, we would like to know how two foreigners can preach anti-Christianity sermons in a state-financed university whose students also include many Christians from Sabah and Sarawak.

As a student in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, I had to do Islamic Studies, which was a compulsory subject. But I enjoyed the lectures. I appreciated the opportunity to learn about Islam and until today, I defend the wisdom to teach the subject.

I have continued to deepen my study of Islam and I have conti­nued to collect books on Islam on a monthly basis. My private library has one of the best collections of books on Islam, I dare to say.

And as a Sixth Form student, I signed up for Islamic History and in my first year at UKM (National University of Malaysia), I signed up for the Malay Letters Department. On a personal level, there are Muslims in my family too.

I may not be an expert in religion but, like many of us, we will defend our right to speak up. Do respect our rights as citizens too, and our wish to keep Malaysia moderate, which was what our founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman had set out to do for this beloved country of ours.

 

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