Here’s a man under siege from almost every Muslim quarters. Well, there’s Dr Mahathir, PAS and his own UMNO party. So, when members of the UMNO supreme council raised their ‘utmost’ concern to him over the inter-faith issues that were raised by the Article 11 forums, AAB has decided that he needed to armour-plate his own Islamic credentials.
He has issued an instruction for all parties to stop discussions of inter-faith issues immediately. He said such discussions would cause tension in Malaysian society.
He said: “If the discussions are not kept in check or contained, they are bound to raise tension in our multi-religious society. Religious issues are even more sensitive than ethnic issues.”
“If possible such discussions should not be carried out at all. It has passed the stage where it is worrying all of us. The Government will monitor the situation and developments.”
“Those who continue with the activities are those who want the interfaith commission (IFC) to be formed. The Government has made the decision to put a stop to the discussions on the IFC. Why must they hold more such activities?”
AAB had shot down the Inter-Faith Commission (IFC) initiative in February last year. He also told the media not to stir up sh*t on inter-faith issues.
But the Article 11 Coalition asserted that its discussions on the constitutional freedom of religion was not related to the IFC proposal.
The Coalition said: “We are very concerned that the PM’s statement to halt the public forums is based on the widespread but mistaken belief that the coalition’s activities are aimed at reviving the initiative to establish an IFC.”
“We want to take this opportunity to clarify that the forums entitled ‘Federal Constitution: Protection for All’ are in no way related with the IFC initiative.”
“The forums are also intended to highlight the concerns of civil society resulting from the plight of various individuals who are unable to obtain legal redress and who suffer as a result of the current jurisdictional uncertainty in the courts. There is no discussion about the IFC in any of the public forums or other activities.”
Amazingly, a MCA politician questioned the PM’s gag order. Kota Melaka parliamentarian Wong Nai Chee (MCA) urged the government not to ignore the issue of religious freedom in this country. He pointed out the apparent lack of understanding among the people who oppose the Article 11 forums.
He said: “Sweeping the issue under the carpet will not placate the minority groups into silence ... assuming them into a pressured position from the strident voices of majority groups.”
“Firstly, the constitutional rights of every Malaysian is a matter of public concern, and secondly, the objective of the forums is to discuss matters on freedom of religion and it does not question the position of Islam as the official religion of Malaysia.”
“Actually, the forums seeks to discuss freedom of religion in general and the legitimacy of other religions in Malaysia.”
But I think with a PM under siege from within, we may expect him not to heed nor accept any explanation from the Article 11 Coalition and least of all, from the MCA. We should expect an even less tolerant approach from him, well at least until his tussle with Dr Mahathir is over.
AAB has activated an UMNO leader's time-honoured tactic - when under seige, be an ethnic or religious hero!