November 15, 2015
Malaysia 2050–In Orwellian Style–A Halal Prophecy
by Ooi Kok Hin*
*Ooi Kok Hin is a research analyst in Penang Institute. He graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy, and is also the author of the book, “Aku Kafir, Kau Siapa” , published by DuBook Press.
The year is 2050. Exactly 30 years ago on this day, a grand council was held to discuss the next big goal for the nation after the expiration date of Vision 2020. It was proposed by one clever minister that the country must strive to be a “halal nation” by 2050. And here we are, Halal 2050.
It all began when an inconsiderate “kafir” customer brought her dog to a supermarket. Pictures of the dog allegedly peeing on the trolley went viral, some people were outraged, and caused the ministry to contemplate the idea of passing a law to make separate trolleys for halal and non-halal items. They have set forth the ship in that direction, and the wind will carry it much, much further.
The “separate trolley” idea was originally intended to separate the halal and non-halal items. For the first few years, it was acceptable for a non-Muslim customer to use the halal trolley, as long as he does not put pork or alcohol in there.
After years passed and the inevitable lapse of memory, certain righteous folks expressed their long-hidden suspicion, “How can we trust the infidels not to put anything ‘haram’ in those trolleys? Even if they do not, they must have touched pork and alcohol back in their home and maybe, they do not wash their hands. By touching what they touch, we are also guilty of their sins!”
Just then, at such an opportune time, pictures of two non-Muslim customers pushing the halal trolleys into non-halal section went viral on social media.The pictures did not show them putting non-halal items into the halal trolley, but the very fact that the halal trolley is pushed into the non-halal section sufficed for guilty judgment.
Several days later, the government announced that only Muslims can use the halal trolleys (coloured in white) and non-Muslims can only use non-halal trolleys (coloured in black).
What was originally a separation between halal and non-halal items has become a segregation between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Five years down the road, worries were expressed that not only we should separate the trolleys, but also the payment counters. The opinion was further reinforced by the views of several high-ranking clerics (never mind the views of the other professions in the society).
A few decades ago, the popular rhetoric was “I should not be labelled a racist because I defended my race”. Now, ambitious politicians and ulama will win the crowd just by uttering the words, “I am not afraid to be labelled an extremist because I am defending our religion”.
Thunderous applause from their audience, who don’t seem to notice that under the ostensibly pious statement, those people are praising themselves, much like those who publicise on Facebook, “I just got all As for my exam, with 99% score in all subjects. Am going to graduate with 4.0 CGPA. Thanks to God!” The government conceded again. Separate counters then! That is how it began.
By 2030, whenever one walks into a supermarket, one can see the stark segregation in the checkout counter. People are queuing according to ethnicity! There is one line for Muslims, one line for the non-Muslims.
Of course it was done in the name of religion, but the ethnic consequence is unavoidable given the high correlation between ethnicity and religion in the country.
I was told sometime ago that Gandhi once said, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for anyone’s greed.” Greed can never be satisfied. You keep wanting more and more. It was so, that the future everyone has predicted arrived in 2035.
The government announced that supermarkets will now be separated. Halal supermarkets for Muslims and non-halal supermarkets for non-Muslims. This must be done to avoid “confusion” and any possibility of the hands of non-Muslims tarnishing the “halal-ness” of the products in the supermarkets.
Changes do not occur in a vacuum. From the supermarkets, the wave of segregation crashed into every neighbourhood, drowning all neutrality and innocence. Restaurants are segregated into Muslims and non-Muslims corners.
Once upon a time, a group of buddies could sit together in a mamak stall. It is no longer possible now due to the fears that a non-Muslim may have touched a dog or consumed alcohol before they come to the mamak, thus raising fears that they will contaminate the plates, utensils, tables, and even the chairs they are sitting on.
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“It cannot be helped. What is haram is haram,” said the government whose ears are reserved for the religious circles. “What is haram is haram. We cannot help it. Whatever is touched by the haram, it is no longer halal”.
There used to be a clear distinction between halal and non-halal. But the phrase “non-halal” is gradually replaced by a more sinister terminology, “haram”.Last time, whatever was given permit is halal, and that was it. Now, whatever is not given permit, is haram.
Not only certain items are haram, even peoples are objectified as haram, just like how the self-righteous look down on out-of-wedlock children.
If the 1960s is celebrated as the decade of the hippies, and 1980s as the wave of Islamisation, the years between 2020 and 2050 are the wave of Halal-nisation. Or to be more precise, the years between 2020 and 2035 is Halal-nisation and the years between 2035 and 2050 is Haram-nisation.
Segregated neighbourhoods. White toilets for believers, black toilets for non-believers.No handshake between persons of the Faith and the non-persons of the Faith. Two individuals of different faiths, especially if they are of separate genders, found together in a car can be sentenced to jail or 20 strokes of rotan.
Severe punishment is necessary to remind everyone to preserve “natural order” and “natural separation”. The social fabrics must not be challenged, otherwise there will be hell, they said. The Halal industry is a big business too, so any confusion or disturb to social order will ruin the economy, they said.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I don’t know who started this. Who allowed our country to end up like this? If enough voices speak out against this much earlier, could we have avoided this? Why are simple things made complicated? How far do we want to take this “halal and haram” logic down the road?
I haven’t had time to answer these questions before my alarm clock wakes me up. I don’t have time to think about that nightmare. I need to rush to work and I need to hope that nightmares don’t come true.