ALSO BY

By Farouq Omaro

Respect the diversity of East M'sia

I find the letter "On the Islamic State" by Azril Mohd Amin a little bit offensive to non-Muslim natives (bumiputeras) in the country. In the third last paragraph Azril stated:

"Yet, although the 35 percent non-Muslim citizenry worries much about "hudud" and even sometimes the Azan being too loud from their local mosques, they prosper. They do not care to return to their ancestral countries".

This gives the false impression that the non-Muslims in Malaysia all originally hail from foreign lands. Please do not forget about the Ibans, Bidayuhs, Kadazandusuns, Muruts and also other mainly Christian natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

By the way Malaysia is not the only multi-racial country in the world. Do not forget French Guiana, Guyana, Mauritius, Surinam and Trinidad and Tobago. None of these countries have decided to impose one religion's philosophies or tenets as the basis of their laws and policies.

Azril also said:

"Our country is really the only one in the world that is trying to achieve this balance in a fair-minded and Islamic way, which still requires fairness to all religious practices within her borders".

I do not know how this is so when there are cases of people being detained for their beliefs like the case of M Revathi just a few years back.

Or when a mother has to split the money her son left her before dying with the religious authorities, just because the son had converted. Or a wife who cannot have any legal recourse because her husband decided to convert to another religion. Or the practice of authorities barging into a place of worship and stopping a funeral ceremony.

And how about religious texts being confiscated and many other transgression of religious sensitivities?

There are too many such cases which show that our country has a very long way to go before "fairness to all religious practices" can really be achieved.

In case Azril does not know, let me remind him that despite all these so-called unfairness, Malaysian non-Muslims in general still tolerate their Muslim fellow citizens though some of these Muslims may have entered the country illegally and obtained citizenship through illegal means like in Sabah.

True, some non-Muslims may from time to time justifiably express their objection to the increasing Islamisation of Malaysia.

But this when compared to what is happening in Syria is nothing. The regime of Bashar al-Assad is doing all he can to stop Sunni Muslims from coming to power for fear of Syria becoming an Islamicised nation.

Most members of Bashar's Alawi community together with Christians and the Druze are all solidly behind Assad as they fear an Islamicised Syria would mean little rights for them.

The Alawi community have not forgotten how they were treated by Sunni rulers in the past. The Alawis were considered ghulat (heretics) without even enjoying rights accorded to Jews and Christians.

The Christian community in Syria too has seen what happened to their co-religionists in Egypt and Iraq after the fall of their respective dictators and do not wish to suffer the same fate.

This explains why the Syrian army has no qualms about shooting down and desecrating mosques in their mission to stop Islamists from coming to power.

Cleverly or foolishly (depending on how we look at it), such acts by the Syrian army are not given any coverage by our national television.

But the act of one deranged self-declared Christian pastor burning a copy of the Quran is widely reported. And so was the stupid Z-grade movie which insulted the Muslim prophet made by a convicted fraudster. I am not sure whether our press and local broadcasting networks are merely following an "Islamic" policy.

At least in Malaysia, those who have objections to Islamisation voice their objections through civilised means.

When Azril said non-Muslims do not care to return to their ancestral homes though they might have objections to hudud, it reminds me of some Muslim immigrants in Sabah who do not care to return to their ancestral homes though they might object to having some of their native neighbours having pigs and dogs in the compounds of their kampung homes.

By the way what does Azril mean by "prosper". There are already cases of non-Muslim bumiputeras losing out to "naturalised" immigrants from the Philippines and Indonesia all because of religion.

Just go and see how many taxi permits are given out to Indonesian Malaysians compared to non-Muslim Kadazandusuns and Muruts in Sabah! And I hope Azril does not even think of saying that there may be fewer applications from these two latter groups.

I know people who can personally testify to how difficult it is for non-Muslim bumiputeras to apply for commercial licence permits, stalls in food courts, scholarships, places in universities compared to non-bumiputera Muslims.

I just hope that Azril would be more sensitive in his letters in future. Sometimes when Malayans speak, they forget that Malaysia is much more diverse than their surrounding kampungs. In fact Sabah and Sarawak together are much bigger than West Malaysia and much more diverse.

In fact I believe that both Sabah and Sarawak contributed greatly to the wealth of West Malaysia. So, the least West Malaysians like Azril can do in return is to at least respect the diversity of these two great states.