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The Star - Sharing the Nation - Get down to the real job (1 October 2017)
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The Malaysian Government better get its message right, fast. Just a week ago, the Foreign Minister told the UN General Assembly that Malaysia plans to introduce a resolution to “negate the propagation of extremism and radicalisation”; that a Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) should “douse the flame of hatred and stem the influence of extreme and myopic ideas of intolerance, xenophobia and racial hatred”.

He went on to state: “It is imperative for communities of different race, religion and culture to band together in seeking common peaceful aspirations and celebrate our diversity rather than be influenced, and enticed into extremist traps.”

Alas, on home ground, extreme and myopic displays of intolerance wreak havoc day after day. And this supposedly moderate government remains silent or is complicit.

First was the ban on the annual Better Beer Festival. City Hall said the decision was made “due to the political sensitivity surrounding the event”.

PAS had claimed such a festival was an affront to the religious sensitivities of the Muslims, would encourage immorality and lead to criminal acts, free sex and rape. And to boot, it would turn Kuala Lumpur into the vice capital of Asia! Never mind the lack of evidence.

This festival has taken place the last five years, and the little Napoleons in City Hall never saw it fit to first investigate the validity of the complaint before slapping the ban.

The outrage caused perhaps led the police to state that it was cancelled on security grounds as some militants planned to sabotage the event.

However, the Immigration director-general immediately undermined this reasoning by announcing that the Deputy Prime Minister had instructed him not to allow individuals to enter the country for the beer festival and a gay party.
What gay party? No one seems to know.

Perhaps the strategy was to manufacture yet another threat to the sensitivities of easily offended Muslims.

But we, the thinking rakyat, wondered how the Immigration Department, supposedly working together with Jakim, would identify these “undesirables” arriving at 137 entry points and serve them with the “Not To Land” notice? By the size of their beer bellies? Tattoos on their arms and legs? Sleeveless T-shirts and earrings in one ear? Pray tell.
Ah, but we are not supposed to question, challenge, think or use logic.

I wish they would also find answers and take serious action in dealing with the many social ills that afflict Kelantan disproportionately – drug addiction, incest, HIV/AIDS, deadbeat husbands and fathers.

It could very well be the vice capital of Malaysia – except that these vices are hidden from public view or take place across the border or out at sea.

And oh, how about dealing with the endless cycle of poverty?

Kelantan remains the poorest state in the country with a GDP per capita of only RM12,812. Even, Kedah, the second poorest state has a per capita income 50% higher.

See, if we are serious and sincere about caring for Islam, we will do more to deal with real problems taking place, instead of manufacturing threats and insults. Obviously, this PAS action is about politics, not Islam.

Then came the viral video of a man dressed in Arab-style jubah and skull-cap lecturing patrons at a coffeeshop on the sensitivities of the Muslim majority residents in Flora Damansara. No drugs, no alcohol, no sex, no “bare” dress, please, we are Muslims.

I wish they would show the same concern for Muslim teenagers, neglected by parents with no time, no money, no parental skills to bring them up with love and guidance, the dropouts, the drug addicts, the Mat Rempit.

Could their needs be met in more constructive and healthy ways at the community level? Could the mosque committee and the residents association be mobilised to provide support to neglected and troubled teenagers?

Could the fire at the tahfiz in Kuala Lumpur be prevented if there had been more healthy community engagement with these delinquent teenagers, many of whom come from broken homes, obviously in need of support?

And if this was not enough, then came the viral post of a launderette in Muar that banned non-Muslims from using its facilities.

The owner said he was only trying to be a good Muslim; totally ignorant of the racial and religious slur such an action constitutes in a world where the gross injustices of apartheid in South Africa and segregation in southern United States, racial profiling, discrimination and exclusion on the basis of one’s skin colour or one’s religion remain topics of heated debate.

Right-minded Malaysians got worked up because we do not want to see our country plunge deeper into a black hole of segregation over race and religion.

To top it all, on Monday came the news that the renowned Turkish scholar and writer, Mustafa Akyol, was detained for speaking without a permit by the religious authorities.

All this bad news in a supposedly moderate Muslim country that wants to lead the world in a global movement to end intolerance, extremism and racial hatred?

All these events lead me to ask yet again, where and how did these Muslims study their Islam? How could someone who lives in a multi-racial society think that his big loud notice that non-Muslims are not welcome into his shop was him just being a “good Muslim”, and would not cause offence to those he has excluded for their lack of cleanliness on the basis of their religion.

How could a religion that teaches its adherents to seek knowledge – even if it was in China, that absorbed Greek logic into its tradition and exported it to the Latin West, that embraces pluralism and demands its believers to think and reflect, be so abused today that its adherents cannot deal with differences and diversity?

How could a country that had once embraced pluralism, that sells “Malaysia Truly Asia” to the world in recognition and celebration of the wealth that its diversity brings, create a space and a climate where bigotry rears its ugly head, seemingly on a daily basis?

The truth is new norms are deliberately and strategically being created to manufacture fear and insecurity for political gain.

Just look at the seminars organised by various units under Jakim on the threat of liberalism and pluralism and deviant thinking.

Taxpayers’ money is being used to preach intolerance and hatred and no one in authority is monitoring this, not even the GMM Secretariat that wants to export its moderation.

The Sultan of Johor’s immediate intervention that there is no place for such extremism in the state of Johor is critical. Someone in authority needs to speak out to stop this headlong plunge into racial and religious apartheid.

Perhaps the Sultans, as the heads of Islam and symbol of unity in their respective states, will provide the urgent leadership needed to take principled positions on what is in the best interest of Malaysia in matters of religion.

Given the way things are going in the name of Islam, it is obvious that those in political and religious authority have failed to curb the growing extremism and intolerance.

If leaders cannot lead, then the vacuum will be filled by others who are very willing to take the lead and force the politicians to follow.

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