When state and religion were separate and when corruption was almost non-existent

February 26, 2016

When state and religion were separate and when corruption was almost non-existent

by Ahmad Mustapha Hassan

During the early days of our independence, faith was a private matter and the country experienced religious tolerance and ethnic understanding.

POLITICS has become a curse to this country. It is no longer a means to achieve good governance and reliable state management. It has been turned into a source of power to inflict evil on people.

Power has been misused to enrich those in high positions.Independence has been turned into making the country socially and culturally backward.

Religion has become a source of amassing influence. The Malays were pushed into being servile, leading to a siege mentality.They were made to lose their power of rational thinking and to totally accept what the powers-that-be had committed.

During the early days of independence, the country experienced religious tolerance and ethnic understanding. There was merrymaking whenever occasions presented themselves. Dances and singing were common happenings.

Fun fairs would make their rounds in various towns. There would be games for the children and at night there would be dancing to the ­various melodious Malay tunes. Joget dancing was the order then.

Hostesses would sit in line on the stage and those interested in doing the joget could purchase tickets and go up to pick the dancing partner of their choice.

There would be joget and later this would be termed joget moden because Western tunes had also been incorporated.There would be the old ronggeng, the precursor to joget, and in the north, there would be changgong from Perlis and ramvong, joget dancing to Thai music.

People were able to dispense with all the stress of life during the day through these fun outlets. There were no cases of rape, incest and such other devilish happenings.

In big cities like Penang and Kuala Lumpur, there were cabarets whereby working people would be able to get rid of the stress of work.

This was the place where enterprising people would practise their flair for Western dancing.They would do the various ­dances, such as the foxtrot, waltz, quickstep, rumba, samba, tango and other new trends.

Competitions were also held and it was all in good fun. Religion was never part of public domain . It was a private matter.That was when religion and the state were completely separated.

The Islamic religious departments were only involved in family matters, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. Other aspects were left to the discretion of the people. Religion was never forced into the everyday life of the people.

Malay-Muslim children from a young age would attend afternoon Islamic religious classes where the various aspects of their religion were made known to them. The emphasis was that the individual was answerable to Allah and not to anybody else.

Don’t Blame PAS alone, UMNO from Mahathir-Anwar Ibrahim to Badawi-Najib is equally culpable

But UMNO’s rivalry with PAS for the support of the Malay-Muslims caused both these political parties to accuse one another of being non-Islamic, and thus the devil was let loose.

Once PAS started to accuse UMNO of being deviant in its Islamic stand and also convinced some conservative Malays of the sins practised by UMNO, the latter in the 1980s during the Mahathir-Anwar Ibrahim turned into being fanatical in its Islamic agenda.

The Islamisation of the country started to take shape. The tudung suddenly appeared as part of so-called female Islamic attire. Dances were no longer encouraged. Life had been made austere.

Islamic religious departments were expanded and new ones ­created, like the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim). Religion had been made part of the state. Malay-Muslim life had been regulated.

Money and power were invested in these religious institutions and with power in hand, more regulations were manufactured. Halal certificates became necessary to indicate to the Malay/Muslims which places they could patronise.This was done simply to exhibit the power these institutions had.

The UMNO government became victim to the whims of PAS and there was no need for PAS to govern the country as UMNO was implementing its agenda.

Malay culture was deemed ­deviant from Islamic values and Arabic culture started to seep in. There were no more greetings of selamat pagi or selamat datang. All terms had to be in Arabic.

Almost overnight we became Pious Arabs (pronounced Allabs)

Politicians in starting their speeches would rattle off in Arabic for a few minutes to show off how Islamic they were before coming to what they wanted to deliver, and would do the same when ending their speeches.

The Malay-Muslims in the country became obsessed with rituals and other humanistic aspects of religion were discarded. Thus they became arrogant and aggressive in displaying their Muslim-hood.

This is nothing but mere hypocrisy. Religion should be personal. The state should have no say in regulating Malay-Muslim life.What each individual does, drinks, eats and wears is up to each individual to choose as long as there exists no criminal element.

The state must divorce itself from religion. The country must go back to being secular and let religion be the choice of individuals.

There should be only one legal system and to have two running in the country has caused confusion, where even the learned cannot distinguish between consent, conversion and conscience.

Ahmad Mustapha Hassan is a ­former press secretary to Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

13 thoughts on “When state and religion were separate and when corruption was almost non-existent

  1. But the point really is Islamic governance is no source of answer for statism for Muslums. Reading religious text is NOT going to the Kennedy School of Government. While governance require a moral core religion excel at, modern government is largely technical that religion simply do not have even the conceptual ideas and structure for.

    Islamic statism is simply a romantic idea. It’s impractical.

    A simple matter is the issue of equality with others. Islam do not treat others as equal, it merely argue it treats other fairly, But commerce and economics require equity, non-Muslim will limit themselves if there is doubt of their equity before the law. It’s no formula for long term investment and commitment. When it comes to personal, it will always be few who would make themselves permanently part of place that, its basis is non-equal. In a globalising world, it cannot possibly be sustainable ultimately.

  2. “But commerce and economics require equity,…”

    Not really. It requires consumers.

    The excesses of Capitalism thrives in the Muslim world.

  3. The Alliance jingle for the 1959 General Elections goes like this:

    I put my name onto the register
    I am going do it
    I am going to make it
    Make Malaya better.

  4. It is not just hypocrisy.

    The root problem is the leadership with LACK of quality and good character that
    has dominated our political scene. It is the source and replications of Money politics, Abuse of power, Corruptions in mind, kind and beliefs ( personal or public), Incompetency, Unaccountability, Insidiousity and Despicable Governance, all of which have been disenablying the country’ s delivery system, particularly the judiciary, creating mistrust, hatred and divissiveness, that, together. have led the country to this scandalous and dire state of affairs , if continue to go unchecked will lead the country heading to a failed state.

  5. I didn’t live through that era. Sometimes I look at those sepia tinged images and wonder how things were. Perhaps folks who actuaally lived through that era could share their experiences. The good and the bad.

    I grew up during a time of ignorance and had to depend on the wisdom and lived experience of my teachers. They were, in fact, my compass and fellow journeymen in the quest for knowledge. They were dedicated individuals who took the task of educating the young seriously. They were not politicians. Even my Koran teacher was a simple yet wise man. He taught me to read The Holy Book,focusing on the 5 Rukun Islam, and pray. He was compassionate and open minded.

    UMNO was formed in 1946 and that gave birth to Malay nationalism and the move towards in Independence and Malayness, mild at first and sinister and xenophobic now. The Malay teachers became the force behind UMNO. Fortunately, we had few Malay teachers.

    At the Penang Free School our teachers were English, Chinese, Indians and very few were Malays. I never went to a Malay school. Until I was 10, I attended a mission school in Alor Setar run by the Christian brothers who taught me to be a humble, God respecting individual with strong moral values.They never converted me but instead, they encouraged me to respect the dignity of difference. To them, I shall always be eternally grateful, especially to Sarawak born Bro Michael (who wrote an interesting autobiography).

    Alor Setar in 1950s was a rural town and we lived in mixed communities and grew up together in blindness about race and religion. It is different today. Ahmad Mustapha Hassan and I are of the same generation of Kedahans, and so what he wrote resonates with me. Like him, I am disappointed to bear witness to how degenerate and corrupt we the Malays have become. If this is progress, stuff it.–Din Merican

  6. I thought that public sector – private sector cooperation means that the two sides will learn from each other taking the best and doing away with the bad. The private sector management has always been about doing the right thing with one eye on profitable financial management. In this age of transparency governments too have to employ this kind of management. We the people become powerless once we give our vote in the belief that the people we voted for will always do the right thing even if sometimes that right thing may be inimical to the interest of the voter but in the interest of the nation.

    I have many times said that in the affairs of a state if you make wrong turn it will decades before you get back on track. The Philippines just days ago marked the 30th anniversary of the departure of President Marcos and yet they are nowhere near where they were before that era or should I say error.

    My only appeal tho those in power and those who are behind that power is that please do the right thing. And as a guideline, if you are all the time trying to cover up your tracks and explain your actions then you are not repeat not doing the right thing. A point to ponder before you take your next step.

  7. Quote:- “Politicians in starting their speeches would rattle off in Arabic for a few minutes to show off how Islamic they were….”

    The reason why they do it is simple.

    A Muslim who submits to God who is All-Seeing and Omnipotent must in all necessity be good, honest, etc, in all things otherwise God will inflict eternal punishment. No one escapes the Eye of God. We even have a senior judge saying that a Muslim is less likely to lie in Court.

    So if a politician is seen to be religious, then whatever he says must, ipso facto, be the truth and nothing but the truth.

    The “Good Olde Days” will never return. Things can only get worse from now on and when the population of the country gets to 90% Muslim, 30% of which are non-Malay Muslims, sectarian conflict is the order of the day. Yes, the Malays have lost their country.

    As for the top UMNO politicians, they will be pruning their nice gardens in any place other then Malaysia.

  8. I fondly remember the good old days when I would (as a swinging bachelor) purchase 3 tickets for a dollar and do the joget picking the dancing partner of my choice and a different one each time of course. A thing beautiful was a joy forever. It was a wonderful world then.

    The rural Malays are not pea-brained. They should take it as a religious obligation to vote against corrupt and decadent UMNO even as a rarely good UMNO candidate is fielded. Opt for good Malay candidates from PKR, Harapan, DAP etc. UMNO cannot change itself. Simple-minded and thinking Malays should and can.

  9. For clarity, in the earlier comment here, the opening line ,

    “It is not just hypocrisy.”

    Should read,

    “It is not just hypocrisy in dealing with religion, (and race) and ,practically all other political, socio-economic matters.”

    Error regretted.

  10. /// Conrad February 27, 2016 at 8:17 am
    I didn’t live through that era. Sometimes I look at those sepia tinged images and wonder how things were. Perhaps folks who actuaally lived through that era could share their experiences. The good and the bad. ///

    I did. Without any embellishments, I can truly say that it was mostly good. Can’t think of any bad. We can sit down on the same table and eat with Malays, and yes, drink beer with them. They have the joget and ronggeng even in the “worlds” in Singapore – Great World, Beauty World and Gay World (back in those days when gay just mean happy). Malay women are not covered up – I do think they look gorgeous in their kebaya (and no, I was not, am not, and will not be tempted to rape them.)

  11. All said and done, I can only utter, “those were the days.” Oldies like us “who lived through the era should share their experiences” can only reflect upon a past that was devoid of pretension and hypocrisy where a spade is a spade, no matter what.

    Yes, joget and the ronggeng were there and, even as a robust but naive youngster, I knew what fun and enjoyment entailed. We kept within the limits and never went beyond the norms.

    Religious obligations were performed but never like they are done today. Greetings and well-wishing never begin or end with “Asalamu’aliakum”. Such greetings were only made by the poor in the kampongs who went from house to house to beg for a potful of rice. But today it has become a ritual and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Suddenly, shaking hands between the opposite sex, who is not related, becomes taboo.

    Well, you guys who weren’t there you sure missed a lot. Honestly, I pine for the good old days of yore when every Dollah, Chong and Muthu was my friend. They are still there but they prefer to remain hidden and incognito. I am sadden by this turn of event.

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