Posted: 25 Oct 2013 04:29 PM PDT
It's about Umno-Malays domination and their claim to the exclusive right to set the country's agenda, riding roughshod over the concerns of the minorities.
Religion is used as a convenient tool because Islam and Malay identity are inseparable. Rather than use the ethnic dichotomy to pit the Malays against the non-Malays, which has lost its punch as more and more Malays (especially the urban Malays) have grown wise to Umno Baru-BN's trick of pitting the races against each other (GE13 is proof enough), Umno now exploits the Muslim/non-Muslim dichotomy. Umno has decided that this is an even better tool as it gives it an air of Divine Will, an act sanctioned by Allah.
The Allah issue is a guise to hide Umno Baru's agenda which is the Malayisation of the country. This is not the first time that Umno has tried to turn Malaysia's multicultural identity into a Malay identity.
It's about Ketuanan Melayu. It's about institutional racism. It's about putting the 'pendatangs' in their place; people who should be grateful with what they are given, 'guests' who should know their place. And for those who don't (know their place) they are shown the exit – they have been reminded enough times lately by ministers, politicians and Malay NGOs.
We do not have to dig too deep into our past to see the many attempts Umno has made to remodel our multicultural national identity, and as religion and race are tied with regard to the Malays, Islam is part and parcel of this identity.
Let us look at the Umno-BN government's track record to see this pattern of Malayisation and Islamisation of the country.
(I say the Umno-BN government, because the non-Malay component parties – MCA, MIC, Gerakan – are complicit to the plot if only by their acquiescence).
Islamisation and suppression of other religions
Even before the introduction of its Islamisation programme in 1982, the government has been promoting Islamic values as the country's values while ignoring the values or contributions of others in this multiracial country. It was as if there was only one set of values – the Islamic one.
"It is important that we prove that the Islamic system can fulfill the needs of not only the Muslims but other communities as well" said Dr Mahathir Mohamad (New Straits Times, 18 March 1985)
To leave nothing in doubt, Mahathir went on to say: "I hope we will not waste any effort shouting slogans which sound nice to the ears but empty in content. Instead we should go gradually forward in implementing Islamic principles." (The Star, 2 August 1985).
Hence the process of Islamisation took hold and was fast paced in government, administration, and education. This has caused great anxiety among the non-Muslims not because they were anti-Islam but because this undermines the basic foundation of Malaysia as a secular nation where there is religious freedom with Islam as the official religion.
The Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code were amended in 1982 ostensibly to deal with 'deviant' Islamic teachings (anything that is not in keeping with the government's version of Islam). However it also allows for "state interference in the practice, profession and propagation of non-Muslim religions". (Lim Kit Siang – Malaysia Crisis of Identity, page 39). This was another nail in the coffin of religious freedom in Malaysia.
In education, 'Islamic Civilisation' was made a compulsory subject in universities. While the non-Muslims accepted that it was good that they come to understand Muslims better through this subject, their proposal that, for the same reason the study of other major religions' civilisations can help Muslims understand the non-Muslims, was ignored.
The process of Islamisation was also felt in schools. There was an increase in government control of schools, especially of the mission schools. Before long, the principals of mission schools – who were traditionally Christians – were replaced by Muslim principals and principals of other faiths.
In the early 1980s, Moral Education as a compulsory examination subject was introduced for non-Muslim pupils while Muslim pupils were taught the Koran. The suggestion by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) that it was only fair that "Pupils Own Religion" (POR) be taught was rejected. (It should be noted that in Indonesia POR is provided for all pupils and no religion has advantage over the other yet Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation with an overwhelming Muslim majority).
What further alienated non-Muslim parents was that the majority of the Moral Education teachers were Muslims and as such there would be a natural bias towards Islam.
Other acts of Islamisation in schools included instructing mission schools to remove crucifixes from the building and the removal of the cross or any other Christian symbols from their school badge and replace it with a star or a crescent.
In Sabah the authorities banned the teaching of Christianity on the school premises even after school hours. Because of strong protests this ban was lifted.
The doa is now recited in all school assemblies something which even the missionary schools did not do in my time.
The Islamisation of the education system has been going on for years. The Deputy Prime Minister at that time, Anwar Ibrahim, said in a press statement that the changes brought about by the government in the education system were in line with Islam. (New Straits Times, 26 March 1994).
I wonder what is Anwar's present position on this today?
Places of worship
The discrimination and suppression of other religions took many forms.
Regarding places of worship, it was recommended that Muslims be given an allocation ratio of 1:800 population with a spatial requirement of 0.4 hectare for a mosque. For a surau, it is 1:250 and 0.1 hectare. For non-Muslims the ratio was 1:4000 with a spatial requirement of "suitable standards" for a church or temple.
MCCCBHST request that they be treated equally was rejected. However the "suitable standards" was made more specific. Non-Muslims were now allocated 0.2 hectare – half that of the Muslims'. In fact, it is less when considering the ratio remained 1:4000 which is five times the number of people required for a mosque.
Another form of discrimination and suppression was by refusing or making it extremely difficult for non-Muslims to get planning approval for their places of worship. Land was not allocated for places of worship for non-Muslims and burial grounds not provided for in the master plans of some of the new towns.
The Sultan of Selangor commented in 1984 that while he was happy to see many suraus and mosques in the state, he aired his unhappiness that there was not a single place of worship for non-Muslims in Shah Alam. He wondered aloud, tongue-in-cheek no doubt, if non-Muslims ever prayed. He further observed that although land for places of worship for non-Muslims had been identified, its conversion had been stopped, ". . . perhaps by the state government or the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS)" (The Star, 17 January 1984).
The Shah Alam Church of Divine Mercy (often dubbed "the-on-and-off church) is probably the most famous example of how the authorities try to thwart attempts by non-Muslims to build places of worship.
The Catholic Church had applied for a piece of land to build a church in 1977. A 1.116 acre was allocated by the state and sold to the church in 1985 after the Sultan of Selangor's much publicised comments.
Formal approval to build a church was given in May 1993. Work started on the church in Section 24 of Shah Alam in June the same year.
Almost immediately Muslim NGOs and politicians protested claiming that the church would challenge the sanctity of Islam as the country's official religion and the position of Muslims. The Menteri Besar Muhammad Muhammad Taib instructed the municipal council to withdraw the approval.
It would be too tedious to go through the details of this saga. Suffice to say the government gave in to the Muslim extremists and offered the church a new site at Lot 172, Jalan Pemaju amongst the factories in the Industrial Park.
The Church of Divine Mercy opened its doors 28 years later in September 2005 after navigating every obstacle the government could throw in its way.
The continued reluctance by local authorities and state governments to cater to the needs of non-Muslims is probably the cause of the sprouting up of 'shophouse churches' and temples.
Administrative roadblocks on non-Muslims
Other examples of the State's actions vis-a-vis non-Muslims include: lack of burial ground, the propagation of Islam to non-Muslim minors despite strong parental objections. The conversion of 17-year-old Susie Teoh is a case in point. Her conversion to Islam was challenged by her father Teoh Eng Huat who appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the verdict of the Kota Bharu High Court that parents have no right to determine the religion of their children. Apparently this is contrary to reading of the law by Tun Mohammed Suffian Hashim (the late Lord President) that the religion of a minor under the age of 18 is decided by his/her parent or guardian.
Cases of dubious conversions persists to this day including cases of alleged 'body snatching' – when the state religious department take corpses for Muslim burial despite the protests of family members and evidence that they were practising other religions – Hinduism in most cases.
The import of Al-kitab, the Bible in the Indonesian language, was banned under the ISA in 2 Dec 1981. This was lifted after the churches protested.
The prohibition of the use of certain words deemed exclusive to Islam is not something new. State governments in Perak, Selangor, Kelantan and Terengganu in the 1980s issued a list of 36 words, including 'Allah' that non-Muslims were forbidden to use. After the MCCBCHST protested the list was pruned down to four words (Allah, solat, Kaabah and Baitullah). The Christian leaders refused even this list on the principle that no government has the right to forbid anyone to use any word of any language on earth.
So the banning of the use of 'Allah' is not something new. It is worth noting that the non-Muslims have consistently refused to accept this ban.
The Immigration Department also did its part in suppressing other religions by making it difficult for priests to enter the country. This affected the Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus greatly as they needed the priests to conduct religious ceremonies and there were not enough local priests.
Sabah and Sarawak are not exempt
If those in Sabah and Sarawak think that it's only about the 'A' word, that they are free from this suppression they should look back on the government's track record in their states.
The Sacred Heart Cathedral in Kota Kinabalu is the most famous case.
Some Muslims in Sabah had objected to the rebuilding the Sacred Heart Cathedral that would have been the biggest Roman Catholic church in the Sabah when completed. The old church had been demolished so that a new one could be built in the same design as the St Joseph's Cathedral in Kuching and able to accommodate a congregation of some 1,380 in a single sitting.
In Sandakan, Sabahan Muslims objected to the building of a Buddhist temple in Kampung Tanah Merah. The then Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Chong Kah Kiat resigned over the issue of Maru, a Goddess of the Sea statue in Kudat, Sabah, for which approval was granted but later withdrawn when Muslim extremists protested.
In Sarawak, the Sikhs were attacked for building a gurdwara in Kuching.
The letting in of Muslim immigrants into Sabah is as much a political issue as it is a religious issue. It is to change the ethnic and religious balance in the state – to create a Muslim majority which can in turn impose restrictions on other religions just like in West Malaysia.
East Malaysians accept the government's assurance on the use of Allah at their own peril. The problem goes beyond the use of one word. It is a problem of Malayisation and Islamisation.
While all religions are affected by the government's ban on the use of 'Allah' and other restrictions and discrimination, it is the Christians who are the main target of Umno's politics. This was made clear by the Minister for Tourism and Culture Nazri Abdul Aziz who told other religions to butt out of this controversy. "I hope non-Christian groups won't get involved in this matter. It is between us Muslims and the Christians. This is very sensitive." ( Malaysiakini, 21 Oct 2013)
Posted: 24 Oct 2013 11:25 PM PDT
SUARAM insisted in the letter that there are various defects and shortcomings under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak that defy the President's views. SUARAM had listed among others, the history of racism, religious extremism, corruption, electoral fraud and various other criminal activities as the reasons for Malaysia not deserving such acknowledgment.
SUARAM has also claimed that the government has committed serious human rights abuses for selectively deployed repressive legislation such as the Sedition Act 1948, the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and the Penal Code in order to suppress protests against the election result by human rights defenders, opposition leaders and Malaysians from various religions.
To add to that, SUARAM had also pointed out that the government has been 'demonizing the non-Malays' (the Chinese) for voting the Oppositions. And of course, 'Zahid's shoot to kill' statement was also mentioned in the 'whining letter'.
The list could at any time be swapped with the Opposition's attack points as it does not reflect a genuine effort to protect human rights. This, is nothing to be surprised of because majority of SUARAM's leaders are also holding positions in the Opposition party.
Malaysians believe that President Obama will take SUARAM's letter as nothing more than a whining from a spoilt brat who is way passed tantrums. BERSIH's Ambiga once tried the same trick, pulling the shirt of an Australian's MP whining with her best pitiful look for the Mat Salleh to come and spank our Prime Minister for not letting the Opposition wins the election.
Surely, the Mat Salleh of Australia knows better than to listen to the crap. The fact that the government had barely won the election had, in itself, proven that Malaysia is as democratic as any democratic country could be.
The fact is that, SUARAM is writing to the America on behalf of the ungrateful citizens of Malaysia who have had everything but insist that they have nothing.
Ever since Independence, the only life known to Malaysians is that it is the Chinese who controls the economy. Chinese discriminating other races in all aspects of economic activities has since become a part of life, which is not healthy. The Chinese becomes more and more arrogant and oppressing, while other races become more and more angry at them. All the emotions had led to May 13 1969 racial riot and finally to the bumi-rights policy.
So far, the bumi-rights policy has been proven to be the most effective way to tackle the problem of economic disparity among races. The bumiputeras no longer angry while the Chinese can continue to make money.
It is interesting to note that the spokesperson for SUARAM and the leader of BERSIH are Indians, not Chinese. Obviously, they don't give much thought that their own race is also being discriminated by the Chinese in the private sectors as much as in the Chinese dominated opposition party, DAP.
Just in case President Obama didn't know, DAP is now going through so much pressure for being accused by its own members to deliberately cheated and manipulated their party election in such a way, so that the Indian representatives were denied of their rights to vote. Not to mention that the party actually appointed a Chinese to represent the Malays in the party. That is the Opposition for you Mr. Obama, the same one crying of discrimination, racism and injustice against the government.
Yes, 'race' is a factor of everything in Malaysia today as we can see through the election result where 97% of the Chinese rejected the ruling party. Malaysia has always been very tolerant in giving all races a space in the cabinet so that their voice would be heard. The ruling party which is made of numbers of parties to represent every race and tribe has proven to be the best formula in maintaining stability and peace.
But the Chinese wants more power. Controlling the economy is not enough. They want to conquer everything. They cannot do that if the government keeps protecting and helping the less fortunate, the bumiputeras or the original settlers, in the long struggling effort to close the economic gap. So the Chinese rejected the ruling party for it, thus, lost their voice in the government.
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