June 11, 2016
UMNO’s colonization of the Malay polity
by S. Thayaparan.
Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
– Margaret Mead
COMMENT: I seem to be writing many articles on Islam of late. Some readers have emailed me asking if this was because of my rejection of the policies of PAS, while others have accused me of being anti-Islam.
First, I am not writing about Islam but rather Islam as defined by the UMNO establishment and the opposition, both of which I reject. There is a diversity of thought in Islam the world over and although sinister forces would impose their dogma on the faith, there is still a vibrant discourse ignored by the mainstream press in search for easy heroes or villains in the faith.
UMNO’s preordained leaders–Who’s Kidding
Second, I am not anti-Islam, I think that a strong case could be made that I am anti-organised religion, but I am the most Muslim-friendly commenter around. I believe that a Muslim should be free to define his or her religion in any way they see fit, with no interference from the state as long as that definition does not trespass on the rights of anyone else, including other Muslims.
The UMNO myth of preordained leadership “bears some resemblance to the (neo) conservative Straussian (Leo Strauss)principle of the creation of ‘myths’ as a form of societal cohesiveness and the political relevance of Barisan Nasiona. is much like the African National Congress of South Africa, which for years was coasting on its own myths but presently riddled with corruption and is on perilous ground where discriminate voters are concerned,” I rambled on some time ago, is something that the opposition seems to enable since coming so close to federal power.
The Penang Chief Minister’s announcement of “an RM15 million expansion plan for a small Islamic school in Teluk Kumbar, the Al-Itqan Education Centre, which houses primary and secondary school students,” is problematic for various reasons. This has been one of my main gripes of non-Malay power structures pandering to the UMNO colonization of the Malay polity.
“The moves are seen as Lim trying to appease the Muslim community after being criticised and labelled anti-Islam following the DAP’s uncompromising views on PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang’s hudud bill,” wrote Malaysiakini’s Susan Loone, but I think it goes deeper than that.
Of course, PAS has been insisting “that the (Penang) state government had deliberately stopped funding religious schools owned by PAS members” in the mainstream press. This after the falling out with PAS over various issues but as a few PAS insiders have related to me, the crippling of the professional class of PAS with the creation of Amanah.
I have argued that the non-Malay power structures are contributing to the indoctrination process by supporting UMNO-enabled institutions thereby setting back any kind of progressive movement in the Malay community. Furthermore, I have been critical of opposition parties that have been reluctant to redefine and propagate ideas that are the exact opposite of the UMNO narrative of what it means to be Malay and Muslim.
Indeed, this has not been the first time I have been critical of the Penang government in the way it deals with the so-called “needs” of the Malay Muslim community. The last time I wrote about this issue, I wrote this (which didn’t go down well with DAP supporters):
“What the DAP is doing is merely enabling their Islamic counterparts to carry on this sub rosa process in lieu of UMNO. The DAP’s upping of the religious affairs coffers from RM12.5 million in 2008 to RM64 million in 2012, as evidence of how the Malay community is not marginalised, is extremely shallow thinking but not surprising in the quest for the Malay/Muslim vote.
“Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng rants on how ‘the Malays are not angry we give money to Chinese vernacular schools, and the Chinese are not angry that the Muslim affairs council are getting money for their activities’. So let me get this straight. The Chinese get money for education and the Malays get money for their ‘Islamic affairs’.”
A battle on two fronts
In February of this year, after admitting that our tax money funds ‘Muslim’ groups such as Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), Deputy Minister Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said they are “given to almost all Islamic NGOs, whether it is Abim, Ikram, Isma, ulama association and so on – whether in the form of annual grants or programmes.”
Any kind of Muslim organisation, whatever their objectives, is the connective tissue between the UMNO state and the Muslim Malay polity. The problem here is that UMNO is fighting a battle on two fronts. The first, is the propaganda that Malays needs to be defended against the intrusion of the other communities here in Malaysia and the second is the very real threat of global Islamic extremism that threatens UMNO’s hegemony and relevance.
As Ruhanas Harun writing for The Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism (SEARCCT) elaborated, “Irrespective of their goals, organisational structure and the extent of networking, the activities of Islamic political party, politically-engaged Islamic NGOs, Jemaah and militant groups are of great concern to the Malaysian authority in case they cause political instability, disrupt racial harmony, hamper economic development, endanger regime survival and threaten national security.”
Furthermore, she adds, “In the words of former Minister of Home Affairs, Tun Musa Hitam, Malaysia’s comprehensive strategy for combating extremism consists of a ‘complex process of accommodation (when this is fully justified), co-optation (when this is required) and confrontation (when it is necessary)’.”
Whether this is, an effective strategy remains to be seen but the problem has always been that extremist forces have used UMNO’s Islamic propaganda for their own agenda and the UMNO has always been best in combating Islamic extremism with a strong leader who used Islam but ensured that it would not be used against UMNO. Not prizes in guessing who did this best.
In my opinion, the political process has been about accommodation for far too long. UMNO and opposition establishments are invested in the status quo for differing reasons but the results are the same. A Muslim polity where the majority are narcotized by religious dogma.
Tun Dr. Mahathir–The man who said Malaysia is an Islamic State
And really so-called Islamic schools have always been a problem for UMNO hegemony and the stability of the country. In 2002 former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad thundered “Of course [we will interfere] if they deviate from the real purpose of education, when they use the premises to inculcate our young with their ideologies and aims [sic] to topple the government.”
Also let us not forget that so-called Islamic education has proven to be ineffective in “elevating” the Muslim community especially the sekolah agama rakyat which suffered a blow because the federal government decided to cut funding and transfer students and teachers in 2003 “due to dismal academic performance and anti-government activities”.
All of this is, of course, not to impugn the reputation of the Al-Itqan Education Centre, where it is a requirement to speak Bahasa Arab if I am not mistaken. However, it is no point arguing about the mindset of the ‘Malays’, when nobody is doing anything to change it but instead carrying on agendas in the hope of political profit.