LETTER | Since the decision by Kuala Lumpur City Hall to prohibit the sale of liquor at all convenience stores, grocery stores, and Chinese medicine halls, and the PAS-led Kedah government’s decision to ban the operation of all gaming shops and to curb the sale of alcohol in the rural parts of the state, there have been concerns among non-Muslims that their rights and access to these activities have been infringed, besides subjecting them to moral policing.
Gaming and consumption of liquor have been projected as a battle between Muslims and non-Muslims.
PAS leaders with their self-righteous attitude have imposed an argument on the basis of religion and protecting the rights of the Malay-Muslim majority, while non-Muslims feel this is an orchestrated move to enhance Islamic hegemony in the Malaysian political and social landscape.
The truth that is missing in this debate is that not all non-Muslims favour gaming or drinking alcohol, and there are those who indulge in these activities in a moderate manner without the sin of addiction.
This shows there is complexity of behaviour among human beings, and it cannot be treated as a Muslim and non-Muslim issue.
Gaming and alcohol are not vices as PAS tries to project them but activities that can be indulged in a moderate manner, or they can also result in addiction.
For example, those days, when one sits around places like foodstalls, there will be people selling lottery tickets.
People who buy these tickets want to try their luck, but that does not mean they will become addicted to gambling. Moderate drinking of alcohol does not make one addicted.
There are good, loving, and helpful people who buy lottery tickets and drink moderately.
If one looks at addiction per se, one could question why has PAS not spoken about banning the sale of cigarettes since they are also harmful to health, besides causing medical conditions that would burden families.
While it is true that addiction to alcohol and gambling has brought misery to certain families, it is vital that issue of this nature is addressed through inclusive discussions and building of consensus with non-Muslims on the harm of alcohol being sold in certain areas where there are cases of addictions.
This should be projected through statistical, scientific findings instead of addressing an issue purely from a dominant religious angle that could be construed as exclusive and done with ulterior motives.
It is time that Malaysians built consensus on issues related to gaming and alcohol instead of one political party imposing its beliefs on others which would certainly be rejected since it is based on religious flavour that has its deep roots in self-righteous, ethno-religious identity politics.
RONALD BENJAMIN is secretary of Association for Community and Dialogue.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.