Articles, Opinions & Views: Do Malaysians want religious freedom in Malaysia? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
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“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God

Which must always come to pass

He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?

Have you always turned the other cheek?

To My Church have you been true?"

"No, Lord, I guess I ain't

Because those of us who carry guns

Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around

Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here,

Lord, It needn't be so grand,

I never expected or had too much,

But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Do Malaysians want religious freedom in Malaysia? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Malaysiakini : “If a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission.” ― Flemming Rose, Danish journalist and author
COMMENT | Since as academic Manjit Bhatia correctly points in one of his replies to me - that there is really no such thing as a "Malaysian" - we will have to make do with the various diverse voting blocks that make up this country. A visiting journalist (who I have known for some time) from a Southeast Asian country, here to cover the May 9 general election, posed this question to me - do Malaysians want religious freedom in this country?
I won't bother going into definitions but I could make the case that non-Muslims definitely want "freedom of religion" in this country. When it comes to religious freedom in this country, the constraint has always been Islam's interactions with the other religions. Our religions are defined by how much freedom the state grants us, which depends on the state's definition of Islam. I get that it is election season and BN political operatives are scrambling to regain the middle ground.
Mind you these days, the middle group is mainly composed of the non-Malays (which I suppose includes bumiputera non-Muslims) and the dreaded “puak liberal” that right-wing types love to demonise. Just last year in October, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuk reminded us that BN – and this cannot be emphasised more, BN not Umno – is committed to making Malaysia an Islamic state. Not only that, Lim Kit Siang claimed that the DAP supports “Islamisation” based on the constitution (whatever the heck that means) which really stuck in my craw.
Meanwhile, out of the blue (or maybe just jumping on the bandwagon) Amanah, a supposedly “moderate” Islamic party, bring ups in Parliament the question of atheism amongst the faithful. I vented in my usual way of how people do not really have a secular alternative in the opposition. The one good thing I like about the election season is that the Umno state attempts to put on a mask of moderation. In attempting to appeal and reassure the non-Muslims of their rights, the state has overturned unilateral conversion cases, invest in non-Muslim places of worship and countless other strategies which are at odds with the weltanschauung of your average Islamic bureaucrat.
We are living at a time when PAS, which used to be the sworn enemy of Umno, is snuggling up to the hegemon because the former fears a loss of Malay/Muslim support. The state religion has become more than just a tool of suppression/repression but has undergone a transformation where disparate groups eager to draw out concessions from a weakened ruling party use it. What was fascinating about the exchange between the fabulous Siti Kassim and Perlis mufti Dr Asri Zainal Abidin during the Sukaham inquiry on missing persons was the fact the Perlis mufti discovered that he was “… not in the position to answer that kind of stupid question”.
This really meant that he was not in a position publicly to exalt (for religious reasons, you understand) the disappearance of a person he had deemed a threat to national security for his supposed religious beliefs that went against the state-sanctioned Islam of this country. And at one time, this was the poster boy for religious moderation amongst opposition supporters. With the dwindling financial assistance from the House of Saud, the extreme Wahhabi-influenced Islam that the Sunni sect imposes all over the world is in trouble. PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, for instance, belongs to the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) which certain Gulf states, including the Kingdom, have placed on terror watch list.
He is cosy with the Umno grand poobah, who is mired in corruption scandals, so much so that he has to enact anti-fake news laws to discourage dissent. Only in Malaysia, a so-called democratic moderate Muslim country, can a mainstream Muslim political leader, who is part of a group that certain Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, designate as a terror group, make the claim that PAS is ready to lead this country to a new dawn.
This goes back to the reality that majority of Malaysians – Muslims - are the community who do have freedom of religion, freedom from religion or any other kind of “rights” attached to how they choose to worship. This, of course, is often overlooked because non-Muslims who feel the overt force of religious restrictions dominates the discourse. The fact is that it is Muslims who most often feel the overt force on the state in their daily lives.
Controlled environment of fear
If you are a non-Muslim in this country you have the choice of going secular – in form, if not in substance – with the DAP and very little else. If you are Muslim/Malay and join the DAP, you are tarred as a traitor to your race and religion. However, while in DAP you cannot voice out your concerns of the way how Islam intrudes into the lives of Muslims because this would cause “trouble” for your party.
Meanwhile, you are free to criticise the Islamic practices of the state when it comes to non-Muslims which in turn gets you lumped with the “puak liberal” and the other Muslims who dissent against the state-sponsored religion. Now that’s tough. Even more so when the DAP builds a "syariah compliant" hospital and describes it as the "first in Malaysia".
Forced conversions, unilateral conversions, state security apparatus personnel involved in terrorist groups and a Muslim polity continuously encouraged in their belief that the Islam is under threat from other Muslims all working for the dreaded DAP, is how the state defines Islam in this country. This is a peaceful country. Whenever there is trouble, the trouble begins and ends with the twin spectres of race and religion. This is the question - if you really believe that your religion is superior, then how can you safeguard the religious freedom of others?
Corollary to this, if you have to rely on the majority who are taught to believe this, how can you advocate on behalf of those who either do not want religion in our political spaces or want their religion to be treated “equally” as that of the state-sponsored religion? It all boils down to what I said in ‘Hadi Awang is not the problem’ – “If you are waffling on your commitment to a secular state, then you have to make your case for an Islamic state and this is where the trouble begins and ends. If oppositional Muslim political operatives and their allies would just stop using religion as the basis of critique and concentrate on furthering the agenda of the secular state, oppositional Muslims MPs would not have to worry about attempting to ‘out Islam’ their rivals because this would not be the grounds on which they battle for votes.”
Sure, we can talk about how people practice their religious beliefs in a controlled environment of fear in this country, but the reality is that the religion of the state always hangs over the head of religious people because religious institutions, the state security apparatus and mainstream Malay/Muslim politics is defined by racial, but more importantly, religious superiority. Does any political party really believe in freedom of religion in this country? Can any political party which wants a sizable vote from the majority who are told/believe in religious superiority actually advocate such in this country? More importantly, do the people who support these political parties encourage their representatives to pursue this line which would ensure that all "Malaysians" have religious freedom?
The answer, unfortunately, is ‘no’.
posted by D Swami Gwekanandam @ 10:23 AM  

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