COMMENT | In a recent speech, MCA
president Liow Tiong Lai called on the Chinese community to vote MCA as
a counter balance to the theocratic impulses of PAS. He reminded the
Chinese community of the secular nature of our system and warned that nobody should impose their religious teachings on others.
This, of course, is complete horse manure because as “Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki reminds us, BN - not Umno but BN - is committed to make Malaysia an Islamic state...”.
What politicians who actually believe in a secular state, as opposed
to politicians who believe that Malaysia is a secular state, should
advocate is that religion should not be imposed on anyone. Consider also the mendacity of PAS which claims that it will not work
with Pakatan Harapan because of the chauvinistic nature of the DAP, but
they will work with Umno even though we have the leader of the MCA
claiming that it is against the theocratic state of PAS and that
Malaysia is a secular country.
The two recent religious and social flashpoints - the Better Beer
festival and the Muslim-only laundrette - were not resolved but merely
swept under the carpet. The former with the use of a national security
threat and the other by royal decree. Neither of which satisfies even
the most basic tenets of a “secular” state or even a democratic one.
Meanwhile, the opposition makes the same claim. They believe they
should get the non-Malay vote to ensure that there is a line in the sand
between mosque and state. This, of course, is complete horse manure
Whenever there is a major issue when it comes to the state religion,
it becomes a contest as to who represents the interests of the majority
better. Non-Muslim allies are complicit in these sectarian conflicts
because they do not want to rock the boat they believe would lead them
to the shores of Putrajaya.
We are often told that in Harapan, the component parties are equal
partners. But can anyone ever be an equal partner with any political
party that defends ‘bangsa’ (race) and ‘agama’ (religion)? In other
words, can anyone ever be an equal partner with proponents of a state
religion, especially if the parties involved come from different
When it comes to the issue of Oktoberfest for instance, the Penang
chief minister claims that Penang is not a Taliban state because unlike
Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, the festival was not banned. Does this make
Selangor a Taliban state because the extremists got their way? Moreover,
if so, what does it say about equal partnership in Harapan when it is
the opposition that controls Selangor?
As long as the ethnic numbers hold, balkanisation could be a possibility, I suppose. “Depending on your point of view, the balkanisation of Malaysia
is something that is a very real possibility because of this agenda of
turning Malaysia into an ‘Islamic’ state. This is not something that any
rational person would want and I am including the Malays in this
equation, because if they really wanted to live in an Islamic paradise,
they would have voted for PAS a long time ago.”
I mean, some folks already look to Johor as a haven from the racial
and religious bigotry that dominates the Federation. In case you were
wondering, this is not a good thing but just another data point as to
how toxic the political climate is in this country.
When the current Umno president makes the claim that Chinese
representation in government means that the Chinese have a voice, how
useful is that voice? Does this mean anything when there has been a
process of Islamisation that over the decades Chinese representation
could not counter? Similarly, does this idea of equal partnership in Harapan really
translate to having a voice against the Islamisation process that the
Malay establishment power brokers will not abandon?
I have been going over the work of Lim Teck Ghee (photo) in preparation for the launch of his book that Malaysiakini contributor Steve Oh reviewed
yesterday. Lim is the kind of academic that does not make
pronouncements from an ivory tower. He understands the concerns of the
average citizen - not average urban citizens, well them too - but more
importantly, the rural communities who endure the most of establishment
A couple of years ago, he ended his prophetic piece - Can Malaysia step back from the brink?
- with, “The momentum of continued political bickering and ethnic and
religious discord if not broken - especially against a backdrop of
economic stagnation - could set the stage for the next momentous
development in the country’s evolution: either a dramatic break with the
past through deep reforms - this appears a distinctly unlikely
possibility; a sharper turn towards an Islamic conservative future; or a
retreat to emergency rule in which Umno-led right-wingers, and other
powerful stake players including the monarchy tied to maintaining an
authoritarian ethnocracy, make a bid for, and successfully seize power.”
In the last two scenarios in Lim’s piece, Islam is the glue that
binds whatever permutation of the hegemon that emerges out of the
political and cultural conflict that Malaysia is heading into in this
upcoming general election. The choice is simple. Either we have deep
reforms and parties committed to such reforms or we carry on the way we
are and we eventually become an Islamic state envisioned by the likes of
the extremists embedded in the establishment.
People who do not buy into this strategy of appeasement for the sake
of votes keep asking me, what we as non-Muslims can do? I have no idea
but I ask them in return, if the opposition draws that line in the sand
against mosque and state and loses the election, would that place us
non-Muslims in a better position?