COMMENT | Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claims that preacher Zamihan Mat Zin is an asset
of the state for rehabilitating terrorists. Yet, while claims are made
that this preacher is an expert at rehabilitating terrorists using a
manual (in four languages no less) of deradicalisation that the Umno
state has come up with, there is no evidence that this particular Muslim
preacher has the welfare of the diverse Malaysian polity in his heart
While I make no claims that I have seen these manuals or understand
the methodology of rehabilitating these extremists, what I do understand
is that there is a difference between (1) rehabilitating elements
hostile to the interests and security of the state, and (2)
deradicalising Muslims who believe that their religion supersedes all
other religions and that violence is the means to achieve religious
In (1) the welfare of the ruling hegemon is paramount, and in (2) the
diverse religious and ethnic character of Malaysian society is
emphasised as opposed to the myopic vision of Islam these extremists
propagate in the name of an Islamic state.
I have said that we have an extremely effective security apparatus
when it comes to ferreting out Islamic extremists but that the security
and intelligence establishment is compromised by politicians and the sub rosa Islamists within the power structures of this country with agendas of their own. How can a preacher like Zamihan be an asset to the state when it
comes to rehabilitating extremists when his own ideas of Islam are
anathema to a functional democracy and a pluralistic society? Here is
Muslim preacher who advocates “Muslim only” establishments, rails against
the so-called enemies of Islam - Wahabi, Syiah, liberals and other
deviant teachings – and constructs a Manichean view of Islam that goes
against the so-called “moderate” Islam advocated – in word but rarely in
deed – by the mainstream political establishment of this country.
The question everyone should be asking is, are Malaysian Muslims
radicalised by state propaganda mechanism like the Biro Tata Negara
(BTN)courses and the rhetoric of mainstream Malay politics? If
you believe that these are anathema to racial and religious solidarity
then you have to question what kind of rehabilitation is going on and
who this rehabilitation benefits when the likes of Zamihan are
considered assets of the Umno state.
Zamihan, like most religious fanatics, does not want to engage in a
discourse. For people like him, their interpretation of their holy texts
is the “truth” and everyone else is deviating when they question or in
some cases choose not to believe. Muslims are either beset by enemies on
all sides or are provoked by external stimuli to war amongst
So, I ask again, how can a preacher whose belief system is anchored
in the kind of myopic worldview most Islamic terrorists subscribe to
manage to rehabilitate these men so they can function in a diverse
ethnic and religious society, which is what Malaysia is? In other words,
a preacher like Zamihan displays a hostility towards other people and
religions in his words, like those of the extremists he is supposedly
So-called Western foreign policy
To extremists, Muslim solidarity is in essence Muslim fascism. This
is why we get extremists claiming that people would rejoice when Muslims
fight amongst themselves. Look at what is happening in the Middle East
today. Most Muslims fixate on so-called Western foreign policy but
rarely want to acknowledge the religious schisms within their own
communities which have caused more death and destruction than anything
the West has ever done in recent history.
Does anyone really believe that the House of Saud is reforming for
the better or is it because the Kingdom realises that after years of
waging war on Muslims all over the war through petrodollars, the
chickens are coming home to roost in the guise of their unjust war in
Yemen or the terrorist attacks against Saudi interests by criminal
organisations like the Islamic state and their affiliates.
Muslim opposition politicians in this country are routinely demonised
for deviating from the state’s script of what is an acceptable form of
Islam. In this country, certain words are deemed verboten to
non-Muslims. The former IGP has claimed that he would not carry out the
orders of the civil courts because they were in conflict with the sharia
courts even though there was no conflict in law. Non-Muslims are warned
not to interfere in Islam when the religion of the state constantly
interferes in our lives.
So, when the deputy prime minister claims that someone like Zamihan
is an asset to the establishment, where does that leave us when it comes
to the credibility of these so-called rehabilitation programs?
If anyone is interested, I have written about changing the discourse in another article.
“Shmuel outlines the argument that many Malaysians can relate to
in the section titled ‘Fighting hellfire with hellfire’, where he
writes, in essence, the radical narrative, which promises paradise to
those who perpetrate acts of terrorism, must be met by an equally
legitimate religious force which guarantees hellfire for the same acts.
Some elements of such rulings should be, inter alia: A call for renewal of ijtihad as the basis to reform Islamic dogmas and to relegate old dogmas to historic contexts.
That there exists no state of jihad between Islam and the rest of the world (hence, jihad is not a personal duty). That the violation of the physical safety of a non-Muslim in a Muslim country is prohibited (haram). That suicide bombings are clear acts of suicide, and therefore, their perpetrators are condemned to eternal hellfire. That moral or financial support of acts of terrorism is also haram. That a legal ruling claiming jihad is a duty derived from the
roots of Islam is a falsification of the roots of Islam, and therefore,
those who make such statements have performed acts of heresy.”
To me, this is a constructive form of deradicalisation that would be
effective in rehabilitating not only terrorists but also the people who
supposedly rehabilitate them.