Articles, Opinions & Views: Is Malaysia a secular country? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy

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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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Is Malaysia a secular country? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, September 24, 2018

A quick lesson in the history of Islam
Malaysiakini : “My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will; every man can follow his own conscience, provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him against the liberty of his fellow men.” – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
COMMENT | The same day Malaysiakini runs a piece about DAP’s Lim Kit Siang saying in Sydney that he has no doubt that Malaysia is a secular country, the fabulous Siti Kasim asked our Education Minister Maszlee Malik why there is a ‘ wife-beating’ question in an Islamic Studies exam paper, followed the next day with a rationalisation of ‘ death to apostates’ in a revision book.
Meanwhile, the affable Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu is determined to counter the bad rap of Islam but offers no other narratives that would give the religion in this country a better image, and PKR’s Wan Ji Wan Hussin – labelled a deviant by the former Umno regime – is attempting a discourse within his religion, which as far as I am concerned is a good thing, even it would probably not gain much traction with the mainstream Malay political elite.
And of course, a woman in Terengganu faces whipping for supporting herself through prostitution because her husband has not paid alimony.
Is Malaysia a secular country? The old maverick who is now prime minster (again) certainly didn’t think so. He referred to Malaysia as a fundamental Islamic state, and reminded people back in the day that it was not a ‘moderate’ Muslim country. Perhaps his thinking has changed in this “new” Malaysia, but I do wonder if any of the Malay political operatives from Pakatan Harapan would endorse Lim's message that “constitutionally” we are a secular country.
Besides the Malay political operatives from DAP, Lim’s message would carry more weight – and would be true in some sense – if a majority of Malay political operatives from Harapan endorsed the elder statesperson's message. I will wager that there will be no such endorsement from the mainstream political class, and I will also wager that this statement will sooner or later be used as a weapon by the Islamists in this country.
The mainstream Malay political class in Harapan will make some sort of weasely statement confirming that Malaysia is a moderate Islamic state which respects the rights of all peoples, and the base will just forget about this incident, with more news of the plagues on house Najib offered as bread for the circus.
‘As close as we can get’
What would these statements sound like? Well, they would sound like the feeble statements made by DAP’s Syahredzan Johan when he said this – “And as for the recent caning of the two women (in Terengganu), we have come as close as we can get to a government saying the laws (that led to the prosecution and caning) are wrong.” Really?
That is your pitch to young people that Malaysia is a secular state, that the Harapan government came as close it could, that caning two women for sexual acts that the religion of the federation deems immoral is wrong? This is the best you can offer young Malaysians as to how the political apparatus of the DAP defines a secular state?
So if two young gay Malays come home and are caught (most probably in the privacy of their home) by the religious police for engaging in sexual acts deemed immoral and are punished for it, what they can be assured of in this so called secular country is that Harapan will come close to deeming such actions by the religious apparatus wrong? Which is more dangerous, "not spooking the Malays" or "coming as close as we can to get the government to say those laws are wrong"? (The latter, by the way, is my new favourite phrase.)
When we talk of Malaysia being a secular state, we are talking to an urban audience, which laps this kind of horse manure up. We are certainly not talking to the so-called rural heartland, not to the Malay vote base of Bersatu, Amanah and PKR. And we are certainly not talking to the those who voted for Umno and PAS.
That’s the divide, right? Secular is what divides non-Muslims (and those Muslims who are demonised for thinking the same way as the ‘nons’) and the theocratic political mainstream Malay power structures.
When Syahredzan (photo) talks about the blurring of lines between politics and religion and that the government is concerned about this, everyone assumes he is talking about the machinations of Umno and PAS. But really what people should be worried about is the syariah-compliant guidelines being cooked up by the Harapan regime. Of course, all this is supposedly done to protect the rights of Muslim women, and not as a means of societal control.
Or how about when Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Fuziah Salleh, talks about how the Harapan government is committed to uplifting the Syariah Court system – "In relation to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 and other relevant laws, we are looking at them in more detail and … we are committed, ready to amend the act in empowering the Syariah Court as a whole," – which I referenced in my piece of how some of my Malay friends think public caning is a good idea.
What is the most dangerous aspect of all these manoeuvres? Many Harapan supporters will make any excuse, when Harapan Malay and non-Malay political operatives engage in the Islamisation process in this country. They minimise when they should be dissenting. You know why? Because although they have no problem attacking PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim when he cautions against not spooking the Malays, these people do not want to spook the Malays either, lest their non-Malay political operatives get kicked out of office. They allow Harapan to get away with things that they never would allow the Umno state to get away with.
Secularism isn’t about theory
Everybody writes about how the Federal Constitution is supreme, but is it in practice? You could mount an argument about why the public caning of those two women went against the constitution, but what does this mean in practice? Absolutely nothing. And secularism is not about theory. It is about practice. Sure, there are variations of secularism, but where it counts, it means that the religion of the federation – which is ridiculous if you make the claim that yours is secular country – does not in practice trump the constitution.
Have the mainstream Malay power structures in Harapan come out with a statement recognising the supremacy of the civil courts over the syariah courts? No, they have not. A couple of months ago, when I asked what was Harapan’s Islamic agenda, I referenced the flash points that we should pay attention to – “These days, it would seem when it comes to these types of provocations, the ruling establishment is silent. Since Harapan took over, we have had provocateurs at Kampung Manjoi, a prime minister hopeful telling us not to spook the Malays, a mufti telling a deputy chief minister of a state to leave the country if he loses a rigged debate, and of course, a Malay politician threatened with death because of the fake news that she wants to destroy an Islamic institution.
We are supposed to believe that this is a normal situation? We are supposed to not draw attention to this because the hard work of ‘saving Malaysia’ means we have to put up with this horse manure?
So please don’t tell me that there is a blurring of lines and that the Harapan government is monitoring it. I would argue that in many instances, it is the Harapan government which is doing the blurring.
I would also argue that they do this because the non-Malays who used to be that line in the sand when it comes to the Islamic state are now worried that dissent would mean going against the groupthink, and upset the balance of power that this ‘new Malaysia’ desperately needs.
Actually what this new Malaysia needs are Islamic counter-narratives that would ensure that the secular road is not closed to us. But of course, the political operatives in Harapan do not want to gamble on other Islamic narratives.
Their supporters are too blind to notice that it is not Umno/PAS that is defining the narrative, but rather the Harapan establishment ceding ground because the base allows it. The strange thing is. I do not blame the majority for wanting their Islamic lifestyle (or should that be Arabic lifestyle?). But why am I am resisting? Why am I fighting this?
Because I remember a time when it was not like this. I remember a time when religion did not divide us, and my Malay friends were not so afraid – not afraid of their religion and certainly not afraid that their religion would be conquered by the non-Muslims. You could say that I am not fighting for some sort of utopia, but for a past where one could make a credible argument that we were a secular country.
What did LP Hartely say? “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
They certainly did.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 12:37 PM  
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