“It must be, I thought, one of the race's most persistent and comforting hallucinations to trust that "it can't happen here" - that one's own time and place is beyond cataclysm.”
- John Wyndham, ‘The Day of the Triffids’
In this first of a two-part article, I discuss how non-Muslims deal with Islamists in this country who attempt to subvert secularism with the agenda of maintaining racial and religious superiority.
The second part (to be published tomorrow) deals with Hindraf’s P Waythamoorthy's attempts to contextualise Indian preacher Zakir Naik’s venomous interpretation of Islam as a threat to national security. It is merely coincidence that two very different ‘Hindu’ personalities have different approaches to co-existing with Islamists in this country.
Whenever I write about Islam, some folks claim that I am “interfering” with Islam, “mocking” Islam, disrespectful to Muslims, and generally attempting to cause trouble in our multi-religious polity. Apparently by writing about an issue, which I believe - others may not share this - is a clear and present danger to this country, I am the enemy to whatever fragile “peace” there is.
Let me just say this. If Islam never intruded in non-Malay/Muslim lives, if Islam did not shape how we interacted with our fellow citizens, if Islam did not determine national and social policy, if Muslims powerbrokers practiced that odious separate but equal policy that they claim to observe and Islam never touched the lives of non-Muslims in this country, there would never be a need to comment on Islam.
If that were the case and I remained silent, it would perhaps make me a terrible human being because I did not care about how the state treated my fellow citizens merely because by chance of birth, they were subjected to different laws by the state.
Under those circumstances, I may be an odious human being but a law-abiding citizen of that perfect separate but equal Muslim paradise. I am just glad I am not writing in that hypothetical Islamic paradise.
PAS Supporters’ wing information chief Dr Balachandran G Krishnan claims not to be “confused” like other non-Muslims about Act 355 because he was “taught” by the PAS leadership, who are different. Oh, they are different all right; different in the sense that they hold every secular idea as anathema to their interpretation of Islam.
Not only does Balachandran claim that non-Muslims who do not support the bill are ignorant, he also went on to say that Muslims who do not support party president Abdul Hadi Awang’s bill are “munafik” - hypocritical. In other words, here is a non-Muslim who not only passes judgment on non-Muslim Malaysians, but also has the temerity to chastise those Muslims who do not support his political party’s Islamic agenda.
So, it would seem it is perfectly acceptable for non-Muslims to interfere in the religious beliefs of other Muslims if it in the service of advancing the religious agenda of PAS and Umno. While I do concede that there are many non-Muslims who are ignorant of exactly what this bill entails, I do not think that this ignorance does not have any relevance to the very real danger this bill poses to eroding the already decaying secular foundations of this country.
Furthermore, non-Muslims politicians have expressed outlier - when it comes to the online non-Muslim rhetoric - views on this subject. Indeed, PSM’s Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj wrote an excellent piece discussing the political motives of Umno and the opposition, but also the role of engagement between Muslim and non-Muslims communities.
Indeed, in an article discussing his views, I wrote - "When we object to certain practices of the state which we deem immoral or corrupt, we do so as citizens of the country. The same principle applies to certain religious practices. We speak for those who cannot, we support those who have been unfairly targeted and who have no choice as to whether they accept or reject religious dogma as defined by the state" - to his question on whether non-Muslims have a right to object to the way how Muslims practice their religion.
Now of course this is Malaysia and to Malaysians like Balachandran, a non-Muslim who speaks out against what he or she perceives to be destabilising to the country is ignorant and those Muslims who do the same are hypocritical. But does this mean that there can be no common ground between Muslims and non-Muslims...