July 31, 2016
Racial and Religious Politics prevalent in Malaysia
by Farouk A. Peru
The Model Malay Muslim
The quality of a people’s consciousness determines its political discourse. In Malaysia, we do not lack intelligent people at all. We have many blogs which showcase their thinking and they have many followers. The only thing is that racial and religious politics are still prevalent.
Barisan Nasional, along with PAS, dominates at least 70 per cent of the popular votes. The voters of BN and PAS tend to ignore the actual issues of the day, preferring instead to dwell on Malay supremacist rhetoric.
PAS dwells on the ancient Arabic tribal law known as hudud and neither of them actually contemplate socio-political systems through dialectics. This is why our national political consciousness remains abysmal.
An enormous tidal wave which washed over Malaysian political discussions last week was the announcement by the American Department of Justice.
In the midst of this tidal wave, the Malay-Muslims rightly look to their ulama, the Islamic priestly class. Muslims often proudly declare that Islam does not have a priesthood but in truth, our priests are more blindly followed than those of any religion on Earth.
We have not yet had the reformation which returned the power of interpretation to the Muslim individual, where it should have always remained.
Well, the ulamas were preoccupied with something way more “important” ― Pokemon Go! Pokemon Go is the current reality-based game which has taken the world by storm. It is similar to the adventure games I played when I was growing up except it is enhanced by the power of smartphones and GPS.
At the risk of Pokemon fans lynching me, verbally or otherwise, I would like to say that I find this game to be unproductive and a waste of time to boot. People may argue that one needs to walk around to find stuff but I would say one needs to be careful not to trip or bump into something.
Perak’s Islamic Pope–Harussani Zakaria
Having said that, should it be made haram (forbidden)? Two muftis apparently think so. Harussani Zakaria and Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor, the Muftis of Perak and Penang respectively.
The former is notorious for declaring things haram. The latter is less known but in his report, unleashed a flurry of Arabic phrases to prove this point. He cited sadd al dharar (blocking the means to evil), dar’ul mafasid (closing off the means that can lead to evil), maslahah ‘ammah (for public interest)’. These Arabic terms are nothing more than English words related to social laws but they certainly inspire reverence from the enthusiast.
At this point, we need to ask the question, would the muftis say the same about football? Football can be quite addictive. Diehard fans often confront one another. They wear T-shirts which say unislamic things (like Red Devil).
Worst of all, the players’ aurat (shameful parts) are exposed! Football seems to be far worse than Pokemon Go but I doubt any mufti would dare say much lest they lose Malay-Muslim support. Harussani tried that a number of years ago with Red Devils but was laughed off by the Malays.
Speaking of aurat, another female (never male, it’s always female) artiste received flak for her dressing and sexy performance ― Selena Gomez. Selena was in Malaysia for a concert.
Of course, our religious squad would have none of it. This time it was PAS Youth who spoke up. They claimed that Gomez’s performance would lead to lewd behaviour. Be that as it may, I wonder if these folks know about YouTube?
One can find far more suggestive performances there and yet Malaysians have remained at the same level of morality. In any case, there is the moral police who go around catching young people being affectionate in public while videoing them and uploading the videos to YouTube! Is that moral policing or voyeurism, I wonder?
PAS members of the state exco then organised a sembahyang hajat (special supererogatory prayers) to cancel Gomez’s performance. Unfortunately, those prayers were not answered for some reason and the concert went ahead. Perhaps God wants PAS to help Kelantan’s flood victims first?
What concerns me here though is their attempt to take away the rights of citizens. We must remember that citizens are given full freedom of religion. This should (but usually does not) entail that whatever their religion does not forbid should be allowable to them.
People of other religions and indeed liberal Muslims do not consider such concerts haram. Why are PAS and their ilk forcing their interpretation upon us? If they see it as haram, don’t attend the concert.
These were the diversions of the previous week which kept us from the most important matter of all. I have not detected any statement from our 15 muftis regarding the gravity of that civil lawsuit in the US. The issue of aurat is far more important, it seems.
There were two Islamic priests from PAS who did make statements though. One was Ibrahim Man who asked for ulama trained in finance to be included in the 1MDB investigation. I understand the need for the ulama to stay relevant but credibility must be something earned. Islamic finance is irrelevant to this case.
Furthermore, Ibrahim Man’s boss, the pro-UMNO and Najib fawning Hadi Awang claimed some months before, that we require four witnesses in order to accuse anyone. With this claim, Hadi has demonstrated his ignorance about the global financial system.
Malaysia is currently declining in terms of our political discourse. One major reason behind this is the Islamic priesthood and their sphere of concerns.
Added to that are their puerile statements about the big issues. Unless we raise our level of consciousness, we will never raise the level of political discourse and bring better conditions to the nation.