COMMENT | The ruckus over this year’s Better Beer Festival says many things about the politico-religious establishment in this country – their narrow-mindedness, their ignorance, their intolerance – but most of all, it demonstrates why they cannot be trusted to be fair in adjudicating issues involving non-Muslims.
PAS, the Islamist party dedicated to turning Malaysia into another extremist state, has strongly objected to the Better Beer Festival and demanded that it be refused a permit. Apparently, they fear that the event, which, of course, would not be open to Muslims, could open the floodgates of hell itself, leading to crime, rape, illicit sex and moral decay.
The mufti of Perlis, long a hero of moderates, supported the call for a ban as well.
City Hall, unthinking and craven as always, bowed to PAS pressure and denied the organisers permission to hold the event.
The cabinet, which subsequently discussed the matter, supported the City Hall decision, supposedly because they were concerned about security. How very convenient!
And MCA, which only the day before had protested the infringement of our constitutional rights, meekly went along with this farce.
Of course, no one is surprised; the MCA and the whole bunch of non-Malay ministers in the cabinet have been nothing but mute witnesses to the erosion of minority rights and freedoms for years.
Non-Muslims, and perhaps much of the rest of the world, can only shake their heads in utter disbelief.
How on earth can a mere beer festival cause such tremendous carnage to the moral fabric of the nation? Where do these Islamists get their information from? Why do they feel the need to wildly exaggerate matters, assume the worst, take things to an illogical conclusion and allow their fetid imaginations to run riot at the expense of others?
People commit crimes and engage in “immoral” activities all the time in all sorts of circumstances, situations and places – in offices, in sports venues, in universities, in corporations, in the political arena and even in religious institutions. Are we going to declare all these places off-limits too because the religious establishment is so paranoid?
Furthermore, the Better Beer Festival has been an annual event for quite some time now; thus far there have been no reports of rape, adultery, crime or illicit sex associated with it.
Outside the beer halls, however, it is another story: crime, rampant corruption, rape, sex with underage girls, not to mention bigotry and intolerance, are becoming commonplace, committed in large part by more sober-minded citizens.
Instead of working to tackle the serious problems facing the nation, PAS and the religious establishment are tilting at beer barrels and demonising the small minority of people who delight in a good brew. If only they were as greatly exercised about corruption in high places as they are about adultery, this country would be a far better place.
Instead of worrying about what non-Muslims drink, PAS would also be well advised to look at their own sorry record in Kelantan.
And even if it did lead to immorality, what is it to these mullahs what non-Muslims do or don’t do, anyway? If we want to drink and indulge ourselves without breaking the law, what concern is it to the mullahs unless, of course, they also feel responsible for our morals.
Nobody appointed them as custodians of our morality and we certainly don’t need them to police our virtue. We can take care of ourselves and make our own decisions, thank you very much.
Not to be trusted
Whatever it is, the high-handed manner in which they have reacted to the Better Beer Festival demonstrates once again why non-Muslims can never trust them to be fair and respectful of the interests of others.
Whenever Islamic issues are discussed, they always argue that non-Muslims have no right to participate in the discussion or even to comment on the matter because it does not involve them.
We know now that, in the end, everything they do affects us one way or another because their ultimate goal is to impose their values, their thinking, their ways and their rules on us as much as on other Muslims. They pretend to be respectful of us while scheming to build a theocracy that is intolerant of the religious, cultural and constitutional rights of minorities.
It is also a reminder that non-Muslims are right to be concerned about the creeping Islamisation that is being foisted upon the nation because, sooner or later, it is going to rub up against our rights, our way of life. And when it does, we can expect little or no justice from them, particularly when the non-Muslim ministers we have in the cabinet are too spineless to stand up for our rights.
It’s things like these that drive me to find solace in a couple of cans of beer while I still can. Cheers.
DENNIS IGNATIUS, a former Malaysian ambassador, firmly believes that we should put our trust not in the leadership of politicians but in the sanctity of great institutions - our secular and democratic constitution, a democratically-elected Parliament, an independent judiciary, a free press and a government fully accountable to the people. He blogs here.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.