Friday, August 26, 2022

Why drag religion into anything, Mujahid?

S Thayaparan

"We do not want to be Malays whose emotions can be played with using narrow racial and religious sentiments.”

–Former religious affairs minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa

COMMENT | The existential threat facing this country is religious extremism. Make no mistake about that. Former Pakatan Harapan religious czar Mujahid Yusof Rawa lamented the fact that newly incarcerated convict, former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak was dragging religion into his court case by carrying out his sumpah laknat.

What a load of baloney. Maybe the giddy atmosphere of ‘Bossku’ in Kajang Prison has clouded rational thinking but the former prime minister merely took a leaf from the Malay uber alles playbook, in that anything touching religion trumps secular laws.

Mujahid (above) said - "I call on all the people to trust the Federal Court. They will arrive at a decision based on evidence and witnesses" – which again is strange because even as we speak, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah is waging a very public war with the syariah court for in essence, denying her liberty.

If the Federal Court arrive at its decisions based on evidence and witness, then why is there any need for religious law, which in reality, is one set of special laws for a specific community?

Keep in mind that every time the political establishment is in trouble, they use the religious establishment to maintain control over people.

Mujahid asks if Najib’s supporters really are the kind of people "we" want, which means people who are easily aroused by racial and religious sentiment.

This is disingenuous because Malay Muslims who do believe in secular values, who do want to put their faith in the secular courts’ systems, who believe in human rights for all Malaysians regardless of gender, race or religious values, who want an end to Malay special privileges - are the very people who the mainstream Malay political establishment demonises on a daily basis.

This is why Amanah, as the supposedly religious anchor of Harapan, is practically useless when it comes to an alternative Islamic narrative in Malaysia.

It is because, like most religious parties, they make false equivalencies the foundation of their struggle because “Najib’s people” are exactly the kind of people they want.

This is why Amanah president Mohamad Sabu four years ago clearly articulated his party’s struggle between "ultra ethno-nationalists" and "hyper-liberals" in Malaysia.

Amanah president Mohamad Sabu

When it comes to the religion of the state, my Malay-speaking activist friends are worried that the state labelled them as deviant, which meant they were liberal. As one young activist said (in Malay no less), how could he be a liberal when he could not even speak English that well?

In 2019, Mohamad said the biggest challenge facing this country today “is a clash between these two groups (with opposing views) that can drag the country into a state of uncertainty”. He argued that the hyper-liberals were “bringing ideas that erode traditional elements which form the core values of nation-building".

Secularism not alien to Malaysia

This has not changed. In fact, it has become more pronounced.

We were a progressive secular democracy before the ethno-nationalists - not the ultra-nationalists - used race and religion to turn this country into a so-called “moderate” Islamic state.

Those nascent values of secularism and egalitarianism which meant something to nation-building were ditched by the ethno-nationalists to create political and religious hegemony.

So, this idea that liberalism is something new in this country is complete horse manure. All so-called moderate Islamic operatives merely parroted the false equivalency narratives of the then religious czar when he warned of a showdown between the hyper-liberals and the ultra-ethno nationalists.

It is, in essence, a variation of the “don’t spook the Malays” narrative.

Mujahid has claimed that he doesn’t consider "liberals" less dangerous than "extremists''. When he was in power, he defended the ridiculously high budget of the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), the agency that made people numb to the corruption and political malfeasances around them because they believe their religious beliefs trump everything else.

Mujahid talks in platitudes, never in detail. His answers lack nuance but are big on the feel-good rhetoric some supporters lap up.

How's this for you? Welcome new ideas and maybe what Mujahid should be doing is reject old thinking which has done nothing but divide this country and the Malay-Muslim majority. This is why when he has to get up, close and personal on the international stage, he fumbles badly.

Hypocrisy galore

If you want to understand the dodgy nature of Mujahid’s arguments regarding private and public sin, refer to an interview he gave to Malaysiakini.

According to Mujahid, public sin is defined as a sin committed with the potential to threaten the safety of the majority or impact accepted societal norms. He reiterated G25’s earlier arguments that a person should only be held accountable by Allah for their personal sins.

If you ask me, this is all about hypocrisy being the foundation of most religious operatives and that is why attempts to justify such fascist ideals always fall flat. The boot of the state eventually comes down on sinners and innocent alike.

As Merdeka Day looms, the real struggle for the soul of this country will be between those who believe that a secular democracy will save this country, and the religious and racial extremists aided by their enablers and pusillanimous opponents.

And this remains the state of play.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum - “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

1 comment:

  1. You can take the Amanah members out of PAS, but you can never take PAS out of the Amanah leadership.