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Moorthy and beyond

Public discourse on the Moorthy's case should go beyond the Federal Constitution and laws. They should contextualise M Moorthy's case and many other similar cases in the larger and problematic context of racial and religious polarisation in the country as result of the rise of the Malay/Muslim racial and religious ideology.

More importantly we should focus on how Umno's management of the Malay/Muslim state has denied fundamental ethnic, religious and cultural rights to Malaysians who are not Malays and Muslims.

In this respect, Moorthy's case is a tip of the ice-berg. It goes to reveal how non-Malays /non- Muslim do not have ethnic or religious rights in the country that seeks to market itself to the outside world as shining example of multi-racial and multi-religious nation. However, underneath and unfamiliar to the naked eye, the inexorable truth is that politicians in Umno are determined to turn the country into an Islamic state. The regime of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohammed is largely responsible for this state of affairs.

However, needless to say, the spineless creatures within the Barisan Nasional have gone along with the dictates of Malay politicians within Umno to save their own necks with the promise of some material enrichment.

The recent call for amending or rescinding Article 121 (1A) of the Constitution might dilute ethnic and religious temperatures for a while. However, such a legal pursuit might not make any measurable dent on the nature of Malay/Muslim politics. Sooner or later, non-Malays will be confronted with other diabolical issues emanating from the Malay/Muslim hegemony or Ketuanan Melayu.

The pernicious nature of Malay/Muslim domination has been there for some time, starting with the launch of the NEP in the early 1970s. Today, this domination supported by the state has become much more emboldened and dangerous to the rights of non-Malays and non-Muslims. The social and cultural oppression of non-Malays/Muslims cannot be viewed from purely a religious angle. It is the politics of ethnicity or Malay supremacy that has narrowed the function
and scope of Islam in the country. Today, Islam in the hands of Malay supremacists - especially those in Umno - has become a perfect political and cultural tool to deny non-Malays their cultural and political rights.

The alleged conversion of Moorthy and the subsequent snatching of his body from his family and the unprofessional conduct of the Syariah Court and later the High Court illustrate very vividly how state agencies in the hands of Malay/Muslims have become tools of suppression of non-Malay or non-Muslim rights. Beyond this, the growing perception among Malays that Malaysia is an Islamic state has served to fuel intolerance towards non-Malays and their religious and cultural practices. Over the last two decades or so, hundreds of non-Muslim places of workshop have been removed or demolished in the name of development while permission to construct non-Muslim places of worship have been denied by overzealous Muslims in the relevant bureaucracies. While mosques and suraus are allowed to flourish, the same is not true for
non-Muslim places of worship.

The Malaysian state is racist state. It is the state that is largely responsible for the present state of affairs in the country. Not only are non-Muslims denied space and discriminated in the cultural and religious realms, they are also victimised by the state. Today, non-Malays are discriminated in employment and promotions in the public sector, their children are denied important academic disciplines in the universities while the NEP requirements has made it difficult for non-Malays to obtain contracts and licenses from the state.

Moorthy's case is not an isolated one. It provides an important barometer to gauge the nature and character of Malaysian society. Moorthy's corpse would have been returned to his wife had there been religious and racial equality for the non-Malays. But alas, despite all the propaganda, Malaysia practices neither democracy nor human rights. A kind of apartheid thinking has developed amongst those who control and manage the society.

Moorthy's case might not be the last. If this is so, one wonders whether those in power have the vision to anticipate the problems ahead. If not, then Malaysia might not be on the list of countries that practice successful consociational politics.