No one is free from religion in Malaysia - By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Malaysiakini : “To you, I'm an atheist. To God, I'm the loyal opposition.” - Woody Allen
COMMENT | The last time I wrote
about Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi
Dusuki, he was busy informing the Malaysian public that BN was committed
to making Malaysia an Islamic state. As usual, I was irate that our
glorious opposition was waffling as they normally do when it comes to
anything “Islamic” that confronts them.
“Meanwhile, the opposition is doing nothing about this. Nobody in the
opposition has ever made statements that reaffirm the primacy of the
Constitution or the opposition’s agenda of ending the Islamisation
process. We do not even know if this is one of the reforms that would
‘save Malaysia’ that the opposition intends to carry out.”
This time, it is even worse. Why on god’s good green earth would an
Amanah parliamentarian bring up the non-issue of atheism in Malaysia?
Check that. If some “moderate” Muslims make the claim that there is no
compulsion in Islam, and Amanah is marketing itself as a moderate Muslim
political entity, why would this issue be of importance to “saving
Malaysia”? Aren't these types of questions the province of religious thugs who
would clamp down on anything remotely egalitarian in this country?
Remember when the Islamists expressed concern over the atheist plague
and one provocateur claimed that the reason why some Muslims left their
religion was because they wanted to experience pleasure, I had to
remind him that this was not the case here in Malaysia. “If anything, what the official narratives of Islam in this country
have demonstrated are that Muslims have to be prevented from seeking
‘illicit’ sex, alcohol, smoking, music videos, movies, books,
pornography, the company of the opposite sex and of course, excessive
laughter. Now the reality is that many Muslims have sex, drink alcohol,
smoke, watch music videos, movies and pornography (online), mingle with
the opposite sex, and laugh a lot.
"Hence as Muslims, they already experience pleasure but what prevents
them from openly experiencing pleasure are the religious police who are
paid to ensure that they stop having pleasure. Of course, if you are a
rich Muslim, then you are exempt from the overt policing that your
average Muslim is subjected to.”
It seems to me that Amanah does not believe in free speech or
expression. Amanah merely continues the Umno/PAS narratives that Muslims
are at risk from ideas other than from their holy book. No evidence is
tendered as to how youths are influenced by atheists, only ab initio this is a bad thing. Is this the kind of "moderate" Islam we can expect from the opposition?
When Asyraf claims that there is no freedom from religion in this
country - which is religious fascism by the way – what does the
opposition think about this? Is this one of those situations where the
opposition claims that it an Umno trap to distract from the larger
issues? Well, it was an opposition member that brought it up. Is this
another situation where the opposition ignores the issue hoping it would
go away until the next time issues like these crop up?
Pundits who claim that Muslims are not free from religion in this
country are missing the point. Muslims are bound to Islam and they can
embrace no other religion or no religion at all, even if they wanted.
They are not free from religion, they are not free from Islam. Apostasy
laws, rehabilitation camps, state sanctions against Muslims who attempt
to leave Islam is evidence of this. This is not a provocative statement, this is a fact, acknowledged by
politicians, the state security apparatus, the law and Muslim activists.
In other words, they are not free from religion. Specifically, they are
not free from Islam. All other religions are irrelevant.
As reported in the Diplomat
in August, Dr Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College
who focuses on Southeast Asian politics and security issues, said,
“Malaysia has become steadily more intolerant, and this has been a
top-down government policy.” Abuza described the clergy as
state-sponsored with vetted sermons.
“The people most at risk are clearly the ethnic minorities, atheists,
and Christian Malays, which is actually unconstitutional. I was just in
Malaysia, and the intolerance displayed by Malays is growing. I don’t
know one Chinese or Indian that is not alarmed at where this is headed.” Constitutional experts have come out strongly against Ashraf’s “no
freedom from religion” statement but the reality is that this is not a
general declaration about religion. This is about Islam. What the deputy
minister really means is that in Malaysia there is no freedom from
Islam. The former inspector-general of police (IGP) warned atheists not
to cause unease amongst Muslims. Hindus, Christians and Buddhists have
shown no interest in stopping people from leaving their faith.
Religious provocations like threats to burn holy texts, disrespecting
religious symbols or icons, investigations into possible proselytising,
claims against other religions, banning of words, imposing dress codes
in public institutions, unilateral conversions, religious kidnapping in
custody cases, rehabilitation centres, seditious comments against
specific religions, unlawful conversions of minors, and the host of
other provocations comes from the practitioners of the state-sponsored
religion and not from minority belief systems.
When I made my case that the Rukunegara was nothing but a placebo, the first line in the piece
was “what if you had no belief in God?”, which is the first line in the
Rukunegara. If non-Muslims think they are free from religion in this
country, they are mistaken. They are bound by Islamic dictates just like
their Muslim brethren, but all this is lost in the fog of partisan
politics and political expediency. As usual, folks think that this is a joke. This is not about forcing
you to have belief in god. This is about forcing you to accept that
belief in god means that you are subjected to the same dictates of
people who have no choice when it comes to their religious beliefs.
Nobody in the establishment cares if you believe in god.
theme is that you must be mindful of the fact that the majority’s belief
in their god trumps your individual religious beliefs or lack thereof. Atheism is merely a convenient scapegoat to co-opt the beliefs of
others into a state-sanctioned belief system where the state sanctions
behaviour or ideas it considers deviant in the name of the
state-sanctioned religion, in this case Islam.
It really does not matter if, in fact and law, there is no basis for
the claim that there is no freedom from religion in this country. The
reality is that so long as the state controls a specific religion and
how it is promulgated in this country, all of us are not free from
religion, no matter how we choose to self-identify when it comes to our
religious beliefs or lack thereof.