Time for Malay Rulers act to stop Racism and Islamic Extremism


February 2, 2016

Time for Malay Rulers act to stop Racism and Islamic Extremism

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

“Kepada pihak berkuasa, berkas mereka yang menghasut Bangsa Johor untuk membenci dan mempromosikan perkauman. Jangan pilih kasih, cari jalan penyelesaianya ke akar umbi,” – HRH Sultan Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar

In the last few months, HRH The Sultan of Johor and HRH The Sultan of Perak  have spoken out publicly to share their concerns about the dangers of racial and religious extremism taking root in the country.

The first was HRH Sultan of Johor who in a Facebook posting in both English and Malay languages on September 15, 2015 warned:

“Let me reiterate, there is no place for hatred and racism here in Johor Darul Ta’zim.  It was never welcomed, nor will I ever welcome haters and racists here in Johor. If anyone who wants to practice hatred and racism in Johor Darul Ta’zim, the home of the Malays, Chinese and Indians- Bangsa Johor, please leave Johor immediately. That is an order!”

At last view, the posting had received 81,000 Likes; 6.900 Comments and 36,000 Shares.

Last week, the Sultan of Perak, opening a religious meeting, spoke in a similar but more urgent tone. Speaking, perhaps with his mind on the recent Islamic State-inspired Jakarta attacks which has raised fears of an expanded presence and activity by the terrorist movement in Malaysia, he warned that religion is like a time bomb which can explode, triggering chaos and catastrophe if it is sensationalized for political purposes.

He also noted that “[j]ustice must be implemented, human dignity must be respected, while the king is responsible for fulfilling the role of an arbitrator in a fair and equitable manner and willing to give space to listen and scrutinise.” Finally, in recognition of our multi-racial and multi-religious society, he emphasized that impartiality required rulers to offer the ‘shade of their umbrellas’ equally to all, irrespective of their religious affiliations.

Authorities Abetting or Discouraging Extremism

sultan-ibrahim-tmj-hajj

At the end of his post HRH Johor Sultan ordered: “To the authorities, do not take [the] soft approach against haters and racists, do not be bias[ed], get to the root of the problem, and apprehend those who create racial disharmony problems here in Johor Darul Ta’zim,”

Who are the haters and racists, and those planting the time bombs and laying the minefields of racial and religious discord? And what are the authorities doing about it?

This question, posed by numerous quarters many times in the past ten years especially after the 2008 elections, has not received the serious attention it requires.

Now that two of the country’s Rulers have come out openly, it is time for the rest of the country to have a frank and open public discourse on it.

For a start we can ask some pertinent questions. We know that politics and politicians provide much of the breeding ground for religious and racial xenophobia and hate. We also have irresponsible media outlets and rabid columnists stoking racial and religious fury and shutting the scope for moderate voices. Let’s flush them out into the open and have them explain their positions to a non-partisan independent monitoring body that is not tied to the ruling government which has a vested interest in playing politics on it. And start taking firm action against repeat offenders as demanded by HRH Sultan of Johor.

But what of our religious leaders and agencies? Are they helping to douse or fan the flames of religious fires? HRH Sultan of Perak has argued that Islamic scholars and leaders entrusted with managing the affairs of Islam must carry out their responsibilities with wisdom and justice. He has also called on them to respect the feelings of others and understand the realities of our time and place.

Is this what is taking place and are our Islamic leaders and agencies up to this challenge of being role models for our society and our time? Because Najib Razak-led UMNO-Barisan Nasional government and authorities are remiss in pursuing these questions and countering extremist racial and religious sentiment, it has been left to civil society groups and concerned individuals to take on this onerous task.

Why Shoot the Messenger

Among the most prominent of the groups expressing concern on the worsening racial and religious discord in the country is the G-25 Group of prominent Malay civil servants set up in late 2014. Since its formation, G-25 has repeatedly pushed for a rational and informed public discussion on how Islamic laws should apply in a constitutional and multi-religious democracy.

Despite receiving little encouragement from the authorities, the Group has persisted in its efforts to examine the way in which Islam is used or misused as a source of public law and policy and how this is impacting on race relations and political stability.

As part of its public scrutiny, G25 has criticized JAKIM, the federal Islamic development agency, for exercising authority beyond their appropriate jurisdiction in possible violation of the Federal Constitution and thwarting the democratic process.

For its pains, the G-25 group has been accused of being anti-Islam, anti-monarchy and anti-Malay. Most recently, threats of physical violence have been directed at the group’s spokesperson, Noor Farida Ariffin, by supporters of the status quo.

It is a concern that there has been little or no effort made by the authorities, including religious, to explain that the accusations made against the G-25 are baseless. There also appears to be no attempt made to defend G-25 members from threats of harm or in reminding the public that extremist positions against those holding contrarian views are unacceptable and punishable when they break the law. Instead various key members of G-25 are being investigated by the Police for allegedly violating the sedition law.

Royalty to the rescue?

The response to G-25 indicates that our Rulers – as heads of Islam in their respective states – may have to be the last defense against racial and religious extremism, besides being the last bastion of our moderate and liberal democracy. But even they must not leave it too late to contain the religious and racial extremism. It is time for their Royal Highness to call Prime Minister Najib Razak to account for his divisive policies

Urdu novelist, Saadar Hasan Manto, writing of the defining event in the modern history of the Indian sub-continent – the tragedy and horror of Partition in 1947 which resulted in one of the greatest forced movements of people and which continues to shape the present and future of the peoples of South Asia – has described the unleashing of religious fires in this way:

“[H]uman beings were … slaves, slaves of bigotry … slaves of religious passions…slaves of animal instincts and barbarity.”

We will be descending into our own version of partition should we fail to check religious and racial intolerance and extremism, and the horrors that come with it when communities turn against each other and Malaysia hurtles down the precipice of self destruction.

10 thoughts on “Time for Malay Rulers act to stop Racism and Islamic Extremism

  1. The primordial problem is the rogue political leaders, not just from Bn/Umno Baru, but also those from the oppositions, always think ” I am Malay,Chinese ,Indian, …first or money, power ,party, …first “,BUT Seldom or Never people or nation ,…first

    ,and ,”ABOVE ALL, I AM A MALAYSIAN FIRST.”.
    This is the root cause of the problem that had brought this country to present dire state of affairs.

    .Doing nothing is not an option.

    With the blessing initiatives of the Royalty, those other subscribing leaders themselves regardless of their race, religion ,background, affiliation, and together, with the people, collectively and inclusively, must stop the rot at Najib,who may be included as part of the solution, and beyond….moving forward.progressively and productively.

  2. The recent sttements by the 2 Rulers are the best statements they have ever made in my opinion.
    They need to play a constructive role instead of just decorative.I am looking forward to more.

  3. Frankly there is no reason to have faith in any institution in his country including the royals or the opposition.

  4. Quote:- “….our Rulers – as heads of Islam in their respective states – may have to be the last defense against racial and religious extremism….”

    …and if they fail or neglect their sacred duties, (for which they are paid), to be performed for the people they call “subjects”, then they are irrelevant; so why have them around at all?

    Better use the money to help the poor, the less fortunate, the blind.

    Your subjects are watching, and waiting.

  5. Folks, relying on the monarchy isn’t exactly a good idea. I mean relying on an institution whose survival depends on race and religion isn’t exactly something that should be encouraged.

    There are more than enough political, financial and religious scandals surrounding the Malaysian Monarchy that makes any kind of hope, a fools kind.

  6. “For its pains, the G-25 group has been accused of being anti-Islam, anti-monarchy and anti-Malay. Most recently, threats of physical violence have been directed at the group’s spokesperson, Noor Farida Ariffin, by supporters of the status quo,” Lim Tech Gee.

    While ancient cultures such as that of Chinese were littered with incidences of political assassinations, only Islamic culture has the historical records of political assassinations being revered in its Sahih (strongly authenticated) hadith such as that of Al-Bukhari. It is a well-established consensus among Islamic scholars (as recorded ijma in the authoritative “Reliance of the Traveler” approved by OIC and Al-Azhar) that the penalty for slandering Islam and Muslims is death, whereas the notion of Islamic Slander is based on Muslims’ “hurt feeling” regardless of facts. It is a matter of time, not if, that Malaysia will see the ancient punishment be revised and executed by the faithfuls.

    I disagree with Mr. Lim’s suggestion of wanting the government (or Sultan) to take the lead in curbing the type of political violence because government is too infiltrated by Islamists’ ideology, reflected in the establishment of JAKIM within the Prime Minister Department. I suggest G25 to have its own security outfit with members from retired policemen and arms service personnel.

    The degree of outspokenness of G25 should be pegged to its ability to ensure its members’ safety. That is, saying less if Malaysians are unwilling to donate enough fund for your safety. Freedom of expression may be a right, but is not free – there is a cost to ensure safety before, during, and after the expression.

  7. Why now only looking to the Malay rulers to help stem racism and extremism and ensure the government rules fairly? How come when Mahathir and his cabinet were attacking the Royal families no rakyat came forward to defend the position of the Malay rulers? The Malay rulers have now been reduced to a powerless monarchy by Mahathir and gang.

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