MP SPEAKS | PAS’ minister, Senator Idris Ahmad, reportedly said the beer festival Oktoberfest should not be allowed in Malaysia. A deputy minister from Bersatu defended the stand taken by Idris.
For the record, PAS has been openly opposing Oktoberfest from day one despite the fact the festival has nothing to do with Muslims let alone infringe any Muslim rights.
In other words, such a beer festival does not violate any basic rights of any Muslim. If any such infringement occurs, it only implicates the rights and freedom of our non-Muslim brothers and sisters in this country.
Being a Muslim, I may have my own personal opinion on the beer festival but I strongly believe I have no right to show any iota of disrespect to the rights of any non-Muslims who wish to participate in Oktoberfest.
In taking this position, I am duly guided by the firm stand taken by a few renowned Muslim scholars in the past who unhesitatingly upheld the right of non-Muslims to freely practice their own religions.
For instance, the Muslim caliph Imam Ali, in a letter to his appointed governor Malik Al-Ashtar, reminded his appointee of the following apt advice:
"Remember that the citizens of the state are of two categories. They are either your brethren in religion (Muslims) or your brethren in kind (non-Muslims)."
Another exemplary scholar was a Muslim saint by the name of Sheikh Ahmad Zarruq.
He took a bold stand and high risk by strenuously defending the rights of non-Muslims - the Jews - in Morrocco so much so that he was severely penalised by being banished to Libya.
Protection from persecution
Islamic history also records the noble contribution of a renowned Algerian figure who fought for independence against the French invasion. His name was Amir Abd El-Kader.
Other than his bravery in fighting against the non-Muslim invasion of his land, he was also known to have protected the lives of non-Muslims - the Maronite Christians - who were persecuted by overzealous elements in the Muslim camps.
Such an incident took place during the 1860 Mount Lebanon civil war.
His magnanimous conduct did not escape the attention of many non-Muslim leaders. History has duly cemented such a lofty demeanour.
The late Abraham Lincoln even extolled his awesome virtues. One of the towns in Iowa, America, was also named after him.
Yes, this Muslim hero fought fearlessly against the non-Muslim invaders who colonised his country.
Yet, that, in itself, did not deter him from safeguarding the life of the non-Muslims who were subjected to unfair persecution by some fanatical Muslims.
In helping the Christian adherents during such a civil war, he never harboured any resentment, ill will, or vendetta against the non-Muslims despite the fact the latter colonised his land in Algeria.
What do all these historical events tell us? Yes, they tell us that Muslims are not supposed to have qualms in respecting and protecting the rights of non-Muslims.
Constitutionally speaking, I respectfully submit that the rights of non-Muslims to participate in Oktoberfest are firmly enshrined in Article 11 of our apex law.
Hence, they have every right to practise their own religion unhindered by any threats. Such a sacrosanct right ought to be jealously upheld.
Some Muslims harbour unfounded fears that the beer festival which is a public affair may engender some elements of public disorder, supposing the liquor drinkers are to be overwhelmed by severe intoxication or drunkness. As such, they argued, the beer festival ought not to be allowed.
I am of the view such concerns, assuming they are valid, still cannot diminish the embedded rights duly enshrined by Article 11 of the Constitution.
If at all there would be a public disorder, the proviso in sub-article 5 of Article 11 could still be resorted to by the authorities, if necessities arise.
MOHAMED HANIPA MAIDIN is the Sepang MP and a former deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of legal affairs.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.