Landmines in Racial and Religious Hatred Act

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

― James Madison, one of America's founding fathers

COMMENT | Considering what I have written about what I know to be the existential threat to this country, this piece may come off as self-serving but it has to be said.

The Racial and Religious Hatred Act is really a mendacious piece of legislation. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa is an affable politician and I think - hope - he means well by advocating for this Act, but this legislation is, in reality, a boon for the Islamic deep state and all those who subscribe to a particular form of Islam.

Generally speaking, do non-Muslims go about insulting Islam? For all this talk about Christian proselytisation, has there been one shred of evidence that this goes on? To wit, what about the so-called deviant teachings of Islam – the Shia norms – for example; are they protected under this Act?

And what of legitimate criticisms of the Islamic faith by various NGOs like Sister in Islam, who are always on the receiving end of police reports for tarnishing or insulting Islam; what about these types of “insults”? Does quoting for religious texts which put religion in a bad light an insult to the religion?

There’s that, but more importantly, who defines Islam in this country? The state, and of course, the dialectic between Malay power structures which use religion to ensure compliance amongst the Muslim polity. Hence who determines what is insulting to Islam is the state, in this instance the Malay/Muslim powerbrokers in Pakatan Harapan.

But forget about Islam, if you can. We have seen how the Harapan state deals with a provocateur like Indian Muslim preacher Zakir Naik. So, would this Act be used against him? Or would it more likely be used against someone like me, who is routinely labelled as anti-Islam and anti-Malay?

I have to call out this horse manure on this particular soundbite. It sounds good when Mujahid claims that this Act would be used against not only those who insult Islam but also against those who insult the other religions. But here’s the thing. In order to do that, all religions must be treated the same. Is Mujahid actually claiming that all religions are treated the same in Malaysia or is this just another convenient soundbite to lull people into a false sense of security?

Sure, we could talk about free speech and freedom of expression, but since these concepts only seem to apply to people of certain racial and religious persuasions, what we should do is recognise that the conflict, especially when it comes to religion, has always benefited political parties.

And you know who has benefited the most from religion in Malaysia? Amanah, of course...

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