COMMENT | For some time now, I
have been a strong advocate of a counter-narrative to the mainstream
dogma of Islam in this country. This while the Pakatan Harapan regime
has been cowardly in their response to issues ranging from the public
canning of lesbians to coddling extremists like Zakir Naik and the
Kampung Majoi incident.
The latest is from Mujahid Yusof Rawa, minister in the prime minister’s department, regarding all matters Islamic and his dust-up with The Star over its headline and is worth paying attention to.
If people have been paying attention, there really is not much good
news when it comes to Islam in this country. If anything, the Harapan
regime has been derelict in their duty in confronting the extremists in
So why would Mujahid make statements such as the ones he made in an interview in The Star. Let us examine these statements.
1. “Let’s say you commit something within your personal, individual sphere – I will not interfere.”
What does this mean? That Mujahid personally won’t knock down doors
and drag Muslims out of their private spheres? Is he speaking as a
minister in charge of Islamic affairs or is he just shooting the breeze,
his words having no meaning in a policy sense and are not worth
2. “For example, consumption of alcohol is wrong for a Muslim, but if
you consume it within your sphere, then as part of the government, I
will not interfere.”
Now, he is talking as someone who is part of the government. Well, if
he talking as a representative of the government, what does this mean?
That there will be no more raids or whatever else kind of moral
policing? Because if his words do have meaning as a representative of
the government, what else could they mean in terms of policy?
3. “My concern is what goes on in public that encroaches on
sensitivity, legality or criminality. Only then does the government come
in, not because we want to be moral police but because we want to
secure the public sphere.”
So now we know for sure that Mujahid is speaking as a government
official. The use of the term “we” signifies that this is government
policy and not some sort of personal preference. So, could we assume
that there would be no more moral policing in private spheres as opposed
to public ones? Apparently not.
4. “The government’s narrative of Islam will translate into our
policies, all the Islamic judiciary activities, all our relations with
Here we go again. Mujahid says that this opinion of his would
translate to government policy. So if a rational person reads this, what
would they conclude? That the government will not carry out moral
policing in the private sphere but would do so in the public sphere so
as to not hurt the sensitivities of the majority, right? Apparently not.
5. “This issue of enforcement on khalwat has been misused and
exploited in some cases. It is important that they (enforcement
officers) do not interfere with the individual sphere.”
Here we go again. Mujahid claims that enforcement has been misused
but more importantly officials should not interfere in the private
sphere of Muslims. So this would mean that it is government policy not
to raid private spheres of Muslims, right? Apparently not.
6. And this bit of reportage – “Although such raids fall under the
state jurisdictions, he is engaging the religious agencies at state
levels to convince them to adopt the stance of the federal authority.”
So why exactly is he engaging the state religious authorities? If by
his own admission it is the government policy not to interfere in the
private sphere of Muslims, what is Mujahid attempting to convince
state-level actors to do?
Now apparently to the current Harapan Grand Poobah, all this sounds
great. So much so that Dr Mahathir Mohamad goes on about how Islam has
been given a bad rep by the hardliners. Mind you in his first
incarnation as prime minister in the old Malaysia, the prime minister
admitted in an interview with Time magazine that he kept hudud at bay but when he stepped down Islamic mischief soon began.
“They were not able to make any progress with their hudud laws during
my time. I didn’t tell them that this Islam is out-of-date or anything
like that. I said Islam stresses justice and what you are doing is to
create injustice, therefore it is wrong.
“But when I stepped down, they brought it up again. Hudud is
man-made; it’s political, it is just meant to show that you are very
Islamic [...] Today, Muslims are in a lot of turmoil, and it’s not
because of Islam. It is because they reject Islam,” said Mahathir. Speaking of not allowing "them" to make progress with their hudud
laws, perhaps, the current Harapan regime should demonstrate such
resolve by not throwing more obstacles in front of former Simpang Benut MP Tawfik Ismail's challenge against Hadi tabling of Act 355.
The Attorney-General's Chambers may think this matter is now academic
but as Tawfik’s lawyer Rosli Dahlan – a lawyer who defended the late
Kassim Ahmad and a recipient of the transgressions of the Umno state –
claims, how could it be academic when Hadi will no doubt attempt to
table the act again?
A far more honest approach would be for Harapan political operatives
make their stand clear - now - on Hadi’s bill, stating they will not
support such a bill – in keeping with the prime minister’s history of
keeping hudud at bay in the old Malaysia – or agree with Tawfik’s
contention that Hadi’s proposed act is unconstitutional. But, as usual, I
digress. However, the prime minister backing up Mujahid's stance that the
federal government will not intrude into the private sphere of Muslims
in this country is a good first step. Reading the old maverick's rather
forceful defence of Mujahid policy intent and the kind of Islam Harapan
wants to promote is a positive indication that (perhaps) this was really
a new-ish Malaysia.
No doubt the media in question is going to fold. This is why some
people in this country despise the political operatives from Amanah.
They do not have the guts to be a moderate Islamic party but have no
problem attacking PAS's conservative stand. What I do not understand is why Harapan doesn't make the argument
that moral policing is expensive? We are supposed to be in a time when
the government is on an austerity drive. Lim Guan Eng is worried that he
would be the most disliked minister of finance because of the
cost-cutting measures that are going to be in the next budget.
Shouldn't this be the time when the federal religious bureaucracy
chips in and help save Malaysia too? Shouldn't this be the time when
state religious departments in Harapan-controlled states do their bit
when it comes to cost-cutting? As I said policing morality takes time
and money. Both of which are in short supply.
The fact is that Mujahid is not confident enough to promote the kind
of "moderate" Islam that he goes on about. The prime minister, who
apparently does not have a problem with what Mujahid said, is now left
hanging while Mujahid’s minions promise stern action against The Star for what some would (mendaciously) argue is a faulty headline.
Before the election, grand words flowed from Mujahid's mouth but now,
he is just another Islamic bureaucrat playing to specific bases knowing
that the Harapan base will not hold him accountable for failing to
further a so-called moderate Islamic agenda.
So I guess the more important question is not why Mujahid said the
things he said but can anyone trust whatever comes out from his mouth?