Articles, Opinions & Views: What are the limits in ‘New Malaysia’? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy

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No Atheists
In A Foxhole
“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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What are the limits in ‘New Malaysia’? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Malaysiakini : “Please lah. Don’t be stupid!” – Art Harun, top blogger
COMMENT | The quote that begins this piece was a rejoinder by top blogger Art Harun to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in this whole “Mandarin” statement imbroglio. Art puts it well - “But please do your job as a minister as you should be (doing). After all, you were the one who so proudly proclaimed ‘I am not Chinese, I am Malaysian’. You are showing the wrong signal. The wrong attitude.” - a sentiment which was echoed by the sometimes ornery but always friendly email group of Malaysiakini subscribers I often find myself part of.
To be honest, I find all of this rather dumb. The problem with the Bangsa Malaysia ‘Kool Aid’ is the negation of race and the hypocrisy of action(s) that precede or proceed it. It is always better to acknowledge your ethnicity and the reality of racial and religious politics in this country rather than put forward a hypocritical narrative that the non-Malays have to subscribe to in order to share power with the majority Malay community.
What is really disheartening is that the same propaganda does not apply to the Malay community except when they are called “racists”, an example of which, when Art had to qualify his statement - “I am not racist. And I am not talking about Malay rights or the proverbial ‘mertabatkan Bahasa Melayu’ and stuff.”
This particular issue really does not concern me. What I found interesting is when Lim said this - “The new Malaysia is an inclusive, respectful and diverse country. While safeguarding the status of Malay as an official language, we also need to master the use of other languages in order to increase our competitiveness.” And Art’s reply - “Don’t be arrogant and dismissive of this. You are really pushing it. There is a limit to the ‘new Malaysia’,”
Forget about the Mandarin language snafu, for a moment. Lim and Art raise interesting points. What are the limits in this new Malaysia? For the record, when people go on about new Malaysia, I have no idea what they are talking about. I think for most people who voted Pakatan Harapan, it merely revolves around expectation.
They expect the state security apparatus to get on with the reform programme. They expect that race and religion will somehow not be issues either because the Harapan regime will not make them so, or that the former regime has lost its ability to fabricate them.
The reality is very different. What are the limits of this new Malaysia? In other words, what are the sensitivities of the majority community that we should be mindful of when it comes to race and religion? That’s what I thought at first. Then I said, screw it. There’s something wrong here.
I get emails in Bahasa Malaysia all the time. The volume now is the same as the mails in English. Young Malay people always email me about current issues to keep me informed of their activism, or articles/blog posts in Malay that I may find interesting. Sometimes the going is difficult. Regional dialects and the fact that some of the lingo is beyond me. Most difficult is when they write in “pakar” BM. I muddled through it though and what really gets me, whether conservative or liberal, the issues more often than not are not so much about race but religion. Sometimes the two get conflated but what do you expect, right?
I read this great letter by Abdullah Afiq in Malaysiakini - Navigating fear and loathing in ‘Malaysia Baru’- and thought, why the hell are not more people reading this? What he writes is the kind of stuff I get from the young Malays who write to me. Forget about this whole Mandarin gaffe, the real action of where this new Malaysia really is, is in what a young Malay like Abdullah Afiq describes in his letter. Abdullah Afiq, is right when he says “activists” groups like Malaysian Muslim Solidarity (Isma) are attempting to control the narrative in social media as to what it means to be Muslim. But what can Harapan do?
Here are a couple of things that directly relate to what Abdullah Afiq writes about. Abdullah Afiq believes that religious “authority” should spread their word on social media, although he qualifies this as religious scholars who are cognisant of the time they are living in, which I assume means those of a progressive bent – no pun intended.
Three points
However, what is really important here is that the powers of the state should not be used to impose any kind of religious narratives on young Malay people. Here are three points that I think test the limits of this new Malaysia much better than the language fiasco that Lim found himself in.
1. Mohamed Tawfik Ismail (Umno MP for Sungai Benut from 1986 to 1990) said the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) should be shut down instead of re-evaluated. This was in response to Putrajaya that a committee would be formed to re-evaluate this religious organisation.
How much money is spent on funding Jakim? What has Jakim done to create an atmosphere of peace and stability in this country between Muslims and non-Muslims? If Islam is in the hand of state rulers, Tawfik is right to challenge the existence of this body on constitutional grounds.
Beyond closing it down, what should be done is an extensive audit of this organisation. I want to know where the money went, who it went to and what was done it with. I believe when the curtain is finally pulled what we would discover is that very unIslamic things were done by very people who impose their brand of Islam on the average Malay rakyat through their outsourced moral police.
Keep in mind, this is the institution that decries excessive laughter. The state should not control the Islamic narrative insofar as providing a stable ground for a marketplace of ideas. Isma and their kind have every right to attempt to forge a narrative but it should not have the backing of the state. Also liberal “Muslims” should not have the backing of the state, either.
Indeed, when it comes to religion, the best narrative the state can offer is that the state, while “Islamic”, believes in a plurality of voices, which is what the former Umno regime attempted to halt.
So when Abdullah Afiq writes something like this “…when a fellow Malay proudly admits that he is a homosexual looking for a boyfriend, the majority did not know what and how to respond” - at least anyone who does this will be relieved that the state (notwithstanding silly colonial laws about homosexuality and the like) will not use religion to come down like a house of bricks on him or her and the only thing sanction will be the vicious tweets or comments by people who disagree with these choices.
2. Apostasy. Look, two years ago, when Najib Razak was the grand poobah, he made it clear in the Rooney Rebit case, that the executive can interfere to his heart’s content when it comes to the way how Islam is practised in this country.
We are talking about freedom of religion here. A right supposedly guaranteed to all Malaysians. When Abdullah Afiq writes,"…When a fellow Malay renounces God in a thread… and the majority did not know what and how to respond.” – and if the Umno grand poobah knows how to respond, then the laws should reflect this attitude - that supposed sacred cows are not so sacred after all.
Obviously, this is not a Sarawak issue only. Or Sabah, for that matter. The former Umno regime has never presented any proof of proselytising by Christian activists. What we do know is that there is enough anecdotal evidence that Muslims for whatever reasons want to leave their faith, as described in Abdullah Afiq’s letter.
If Najib as the former grand Umno poobah can decide for whatever reasons this does not apply in Sarawak, who is to say the Harapan regime cannot make the make the same strategic move when it comes to Islam in this country?
3. Harapan has to finally resolve this issue of unilateral conversion. Okay, thought I would slip this in here. Remember last year when the tabling of the proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 was postponed? Then deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claimed that this was because "…The attorney-general (AG) has been asked to study the feedback and look into the proposed amendments together with religious experts.
"This is to ensure the amendments will not be against Islamic fatwa or the Federal Constitution," said the deputy prime minister.” Guess what? I think Zahid is right. I think that new AG Tommy Thomas should look into this and finally the bill would be tabled in Parliament. Unilateral conversion is a form of religious kidnapping. The fact that the former Umno regime saw no issue with this demonstrates how easy it is to define this new Malaysia as in opposition to everything Umno did.
Creating a new Malaysia is not that difficult. Testing the limits is not such a hazardous endeavour. All that is needed is the will to do what Umno did before with fiat, but this time through the proper legal and legislative processes.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 11:22 AM  
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