Articles, Opinions & Views: Hadi Awang and me: Divisiveness is our brand - 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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Hadi Awang and me: Divisiveness is our brand - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, January 27, 2020
Malaysikini : “In the real world, equal respect for all cultures doesn't translate into a rich mosaic of colourful and proud peoples interacting peacefully while maintaining a delightful diversity of food and craftwork. It translates into closed pockets of oppression, ignorance, and abuse.” ― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilisations
COMMENT | In my article concerning Abdul Hadi Awang’s dubious comments about the G25, I took a swipe at “progressive Muslim intellectuals”. I wrote: “Progressive Muslim intellectuals always say that non-Muslims should not comment on such issues but this again divides us as a country and makes it difficult to engage because our rights as citizens, regardless of race or religion, are being trampled on and we cannot say anything less we invite the fury of demagogues like Hadi and sanctions from the state.”
This did not go down well in certain quarters. A close friend who is a public Muslim intellectual and who has never advocated such position called me up on it. Sharifah Munirah Alatas in her piece “Read, study, understand, then comment” goes so far as to equate me with Hadi, arguing that: “They should spend more time educating themselves about inclusiveness, rather than divisiveness.”
Sharifah assumes that I have no inkling of what a progressive Muslim intellectual is, while I assume that Sharifah has not met an average Malaysian voter in her life, when she writes this – “If we have to be racist and bigoted, I suggest we confine it to the politicians. At least the situation can be contained, through the ballot box.”
Really? Malaysians vote for racist or bigoted politicians, all the time, Sharifah. That's the problem with having race-based parties and non-Malay politicians who, for whatever reasons, do not want to commit to egalitarian policies.
She also cautions that my comment, borders on “a sinister attempt to divide and rule”. I figure progressive Muslims intellectuals are a specific class of people and in my eight years of writing for Malaysiakini, my agenda was to marginalise this class. Now I know how Hadi feels whenever I write about him.
Sharifah places much emphasis on educating oneself before commenting – but takes 61 words out of a 920-word piece to conclude that like Hadi, I am an impediment to the reform agenda of the political apparatus of this country.But you know what? Sharifah is correct. I do engage in divisiveness. I will give you an example. Shariah correctly points out that I argued that the G25 were not encouraging people to leave Islam.
Here is the thing though. So what if they were encouraging people to leave Islam? Indeed, it would have been a discourse – a problematic one at that – if they examined the idea that there is no compulsion in Islam. The no compulsion in Islam idea and religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution goes hand in hand, hence it would have been the perfect opportunity for progressive Muslim intellectuals to make the case that Islam encouraged freedom of choice and the Malaysian Constitution endorsed this choice. Now a majority of Muslims in this country would not agree with this statement. I will wager even those supposedly “moderate” Muslims would baulk at endorsing such a statement. To understand this idea better, readers are encouraged to revisit my 2017 piece, Welcome to Malaysia’s religious jungle.
Nurul Izzah Anwar (photo) got into a bit of a kerfuffle when she stopped short - "I am, of course, tied to the prevailing views" – of supporting the idea that Malays should have the freedom to choose their religion.
In that article, I also wrote about my disdain for the “true Muslim” meme and of course ran with the idea that Malays/Muslims are the worst off – even if a majority would disagree with me – when it comes to how the state controls religious freedom, something Malik Imtiaz touched on during that forum where Nurul Izzah got into trouble. I am (in the words of Harry Lee who claimed he was nominally a Buddhist) nominally a “Hindu” and I could care less if someone were advocating that people leave the Hindu faith. Hence I see no reason why I should not extend this worldview to all Malaysians. I see no reason why this would be a problem if the G25 were doing the same.
Therefore, my kind of thinking is divisive, especially when “reform” minded Malaysians are reminded that “tolerance” means forgetting that not all are treated equally, especially the majority who are bound by diktats of the mainstream political orthodoxy and the vast religious bureaucracy.
But if you really think about it, my “divisiveness” is also inclusive, despite what Sharifah argues. While Hadi and his divisive politics have the backing of the state, the acquiesce for whatever reason of a majority of Muslims and is the de facto position in mainstream Malay politics, my divisiveness is based on the idea that all Malaysians are equal and we should strive for laws that articulate this idea.
Constantly told Malaysia is an Islamic state
My divisiveness does not make for good mainstream politics or consensus-building when it comes to disparate groups attempting to maintain power. Indeed, in that very piece, I argued that a progressive Muslim like Siti Kassim (below) should have her say and that someone like Hadi should have his too. What this demonstrates (unlike what Sharifah believes) is that I am aware of “key concepts and trends within the milieu of Malaysian identity politics”.
I believe that the surest way to “reform” is where we jettison the Manichean worldview that identity politics encourage and commit to the idea that secularism and freedom of speech give everyone an opportunity to challenge or exchange ideas. I am constantly told that Malaysia is an Islamic state.
While Sharifah may think that I have “no inkling of what a progressive Muslim intellectual is”, she would understand the ignorance of her statement if she did not merely rely on 61 words from an article she mostly agreed. If she instead familiarised herself with my work of eight years, where I have borrowed ideas from Muslim intellectuals from the late Kassim Ahmad to the slain Egyptian thinker Farag Foda.
Furthermore, as a young man serving the state during the harrowing days of May 13, 1969, to military education in Dartmouth and Indonesia, working for an international arms company, a local state-sponsored NGO, a practising lawyer, a UN volunteer and someone who has lived in the rough, I understand intimately not only the banality of identity politics but understand how economic, social and religious policy impacts the average rakyat in a way, that the sterile confines of academia and forum going would never impart.
Sharifah accuses me of making a generalisation and then makes one of her own. She wrote, “If he reads more extensively, he would realise that any group of progressive intellectuals would welcome all constructive ideas.” Groupings of “progressive intellectuals” here and abroad are obsessed with enforcing “progressive” orthodoxy and creating safe spaces, mired in political correctness in an attempt to control free speech and generally reject “conservative” ideas as not constructive.
Sharifah ends her piece claiming that if Hadi and I should spend “more time educating themselves about inclusiveness, rather than divisiveness... otherwise, it would be difficult to justify that Islamophobia is wrong”. The very idea of “Islamophobia” is rooted in identity politics. I have written about this loaded term elsewhere.
What I find interesting is this: Is there difference when someone like Sharifah uses the term Islamophobia and say, someone like the Mufti of Perlis Asri Zainul Abidan, uses the term (Islamophobia)? Maybe the difference is akin to the difference when I troll progressive Muslim intellectuals (and yes, mea culpa, I was trolling) and when Hadi refers to them as terrorist organisations.
While I expected a slap on the wrist, what I received was a public flogging, which, considering the subject matter, is entirely appropriate.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 3:12 PM  
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