Keep our places of worship out of the election - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Malaysiakini : “Religious ideas, supposedly private matters between man and god, are in practice always political ideas.” - Christopher Hitchens, ‘The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain's Favourite Fetish’
COMMENT | The Council of Churches
issued various messages – coded – urging the flock to vote, with the
diocese of Melaka and Johor bishop Bernard Paul going so far as to say,
“This GE14 is that moment to move for a better Malaysia and a better
future to create a nation that we can be proud of and die for .”Really? What nation is not worth dying for now? So all those state security personnel, they are what, just living on ‘dedak’? With all these mainstream Christian leaders urging the flock to vote
and opposition politicians wearing their religious beliefs on their
sleeves, is it any wonder that someone like Umno secretary-general
Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor reminds civil servants to beware of the purported evangelical wing of the DAP?
The “evangelical” meme has been a staple of right-wing Malay social
media ever since certain politicians and their churches made extremely
careless remarks in their exuberance for regime change in the last
election. Since then, this idea of a surreptitious evangelical invasion
has gained currency among the Umno elite and this new front of attack
against the DAP has made the old meme of “chauvinism” obsolete.
Opposition types like to go about how China is bailing out the Umno
hegemon and that the China deals are an attempt to subvert the
sovereignty of this country but maybe the Umno hegemon in its latest
attack against the “evangelicals” is taking a page out of the playbook
of how China deals with Christians in their country. From the
Vatican/China deal to the policing of underground churches in the
motherland, the idea of the state imposing control on the religious
practices of non-Muslims could take on a new turn here in Malaysia where
the state already defines Islam.
When I said,
caretaker integrity minister Paul Low was giving bad advice to the
Christian community, I meant it – “What this does is give pro-Umno
propagandists the opportunity to further the narratives that Islam is
under threat and that opposition parties are attempting to destabilise
the country by religious means. Using religion as a political power tool
always results in self-inflicted wounds.”
It is, of course, convenient for the Umno hegemon to lump every
Christian, regardless of denomination, into the “evangelical” threat
because that is exactly how propaganda works. You know what makes
propaganda work more efficiently? When you supply propagandists with
ammunition. Ammunition like asking the flock to be polling and counting
agents, which is a direct intervention into the political process.
There is nothing wrong with Christians, Hindus, and however you
self-identify, engaging in the political process but you are just giving
Umno propagandists ammunition when church leaders urge their flock to
directly engage in the political process, and in substance, choose a
side. When you do that, you become political targets.
You really think that the Umno state would not use this as an
opportunity to deflect and engage in propaganda operations against
religious institutions in this country? Or do these non-Muslim religious
leaders think that because possible victory is at hand, they can play
fast and loose with their words. For heaven's sake, look at how the
state polices the Islamic faith.
These are dangerous times for non-Muslims in this country. We are
heading into an election where we could finally have a two-party system.
We could finally change the direction of this country. This is an
opportunity for the opposition and those who support it to demonstrate
that the secular impulses of the opposition is stronger than the
religious imperatives of the Umno establishment, even though we have in
the opposition many from the Umno establishment.
Because of the compromised composition of the opposition, the only
real shield we have against the religious imperatives of the state is
for the opposition to keep a strict separation between mosque and state,
church and state, and temple and state. This is not the time for non-Muslim religious leaders of any religion
to step into the political arena. This is a time of circumspection.
This is a time when non-Muslims religious leaders should be encouraging
brotherly love - to use Abrahamic nomenclature - and "not carpooling and
overcoming obstacles", which is exactly the strategies of the
Mind you, those are good things, but non-Muslim religious leaders
should be above the fray. Religious people will vote the way how they
choose to vote, but this is not the time for non-Muslim religious
leaders to overtly take sides. This is not the time for non-Muslim
religious leaders to decide that it okay to step into the political
arena and supply the faithful with religious bromides and silently pray
for regime change in a country where the Muslim population is at war
Is it any wonder that the average Malay, already narcotised with
propaganda of religion and race, views the inclusion of church politics
as anything other than an attempt to subvert ‘bangsa’ and ‘agama’ in
this country? Indeed, this is not the time for the non-Muslim religious
leaders to think they have the upper hand because the Malay polity is
split. This is not the time for non-Muslim religious leaders to issues
overt messages of regime change merely because they think the regime is
weak. I am just waiting for the Hindu/Buddhist (a difference of degree)
leadership, whoever they are, to come out and make some equally
obnoxious statement and this would complete the trifecta of religious
stupidity that infects the political landscape of this country.
Non-Muslim religious organisations making overt claims of regime
change is a foolhardy endeavour, especially when the ruling regime in
such peril, the Malay-Muslim community is in a state of agitation and
when nobody knows how this election will turn out.