Drawing a line in the sand between state and religion

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.”

― Harper Lee, ‘Go Set a Watchman’

In a recent speech, MCA president Liow Tiong Lai called on the Chinese community to vote MCA as a counterbalance to the theocratic impulses of PAS. He reminded the Chinese community of the secular nature of our system and warned that nobody should impose their religious teachings on others.

This, of course, is complete horse manure because as “Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki reminds us, BN - not Umno but BN - is committed to make Malaysia an Islamic state...”.

What politicians who actually believe in a secular state, as opposed to politicians who believe that Malaysia is a secular state, should advocate is that religion should not be imposed on anyone.

Consider also the mendacity of PAS which claims that it will not work with Pakatan Harapan because of the chauvinistic nature of the DAP, but they will work with Umno even though we have the leader of the MCA claiming that it is against the theocratic state of PAS and that Malaysia is a secular country.

The two recent religious and social flash points - the Better Beer festival and the Muslim-only launderette - were not resolved but merely swept under the carpet. The former with the use of a national security threat and the other by royal decree. Neither of which satisfies even the most basic tenets of a “secular” state or even a democratic one.

Meanwhile, the opposition makes the same claim. They believe they should get the non-Malay vote to ensure that there is a line in the sand between mosque and state. This, of course, is complete horse manure too.

Whenever there is a major issue when it comes to the state religion, it becomes a contest as to who represents the interests of the majority better. Non-Muslim allies are complicit in these sectarian conflicts because they do not want to rock the boat they believe would lead them to the shores of Putrajaya.

We are often told that in Harapan, the component parties are equal partners. But can anyone ever be an equal partner with any political party that defends ‘bangsa’ (race) and ‘agama’ (religion)? In other words, can anyone ever be an equal partner with proponents of a state religion, especially if the parties involved come from different religions?

When it comes to the issue of Oktoberfest for instance, the Penang chief minister claims that Penang is not a Taliban state because unlike Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, the festival was not banned. Does this make Selangor a Taliban state because the extremists got their way? Moreover, if so, what does it say of equal partnership in Harapan when it is the opposition that controls Selangor?

As long as the ethnic numbers hold, balkanisation could be a possibility, I suppose. “Depending on your point of view, the balkanisation of Malaysia is something that is a very real possibility because of this agenda of turning Malaysia into an ‘Islamic’ state. This is not something that any rational person would want and I am including the Malays in this equation, because if they really wanted to live in an Islamic paradise, they would have voted for PAS a long time ago.”

I mean, some folks already look to Johor as a haven from the racial and religious bigotry that dominates the Federation. In case you were wondering, this is not a good thing but just another data point as to how toxic the political climate is in this country...

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