49 years earlier the British Union Jack was lowered for the last time and the Malayan flag raised to exuberant cries of ‘Merdeka!’ by Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. 49 years later, the vision of the nation’s founding fathers has been threatened by the myopia of race and Islamism.
Malaysia’s first PM is on record (1st May 1958 Hansard) saying, "I would like to make it clear that this country is not an Islamic State as it is generally understood, we merely provided that Islam shall be the official religion of the State." Au contraire, said present parliamentary secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department Masitah Ibrahim in response to a supplementary question by DAP’s Karpal Singh. “The opinions of the former prime ministers that Malaysia was a secular nation were purely personal,” she retorted.
This is a stunning declaration without so much as a reprimand by members of the ruling party in Parliament. It was left to opposition MPs to raise the alarm.What are Malaysians – especially non-Muslims – to make of this?
Thomas Fuller's article in IHT titled, Nation’s secular vision vs ‘writing on the wall’ quoted Malaysian scholar Farish Noor saying, "The idea of a secular state is dead in Malaysia. An Islamic society is already on the cards. The question is what kind of Islamic society this will be." Ivy Josiah, director of the Women's Aid Organization, says the writing is on the wall: "It's only a matter of time before Malaysia becomes another Taliban state." (Read Fuller’s article here)
Meanwhile, Fellow at Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) Md Aslam Ahmad tells us what he really thinks of Malaysia’s multicultural heritage. In what is possibly the official line of the present administration, he aims his polemic at secularism and skewers our pretty tourist-brochure illusion:
Who says the secular worldview is our common worldview? That is surely not acceptable to Muslims, who are aware that secularism is antithetical not only to Islam but to all religious worldviews.I’m glad Ng Kam Weng of Kairos weighed in with a strong response to that nonsense. Multiculturalism and pluralism have defined Malaysia since its inception in 1957 (and even earlier), and are hardly alien ideologies. Saying Md Asham had “inverted the dynamics of rational debate in this country by suggesting that the non-Muslims’ call for multiculturalism is driven by an ideology inherently hostile to Islam” he challenged the author to drop his sarcasm and take a look at Islam’s backyard where it is clear that religious and cultural conflicts have proliferated, regardless of Islam's claim to unity. (Full article here)
Leaving the ignorant and confused Muslims aside, there is no way to make conscious Muslims accept a secular interpretation of life and existence as espoused by Western culture and civilisation. The followers of other religions should recognise the fact that their religions have many things in common with Islam, particularly when it comes to ethics and morality. It is through Malaysia, as an Islamic state, that other religions would thrive, and that we have better chance of fostering national unity based on a common religious worldview.
A secular Malaysia would be an enemy not only to Islam but a common enemy to all religions. (Full article here)
In the meantime, Malaysians took another slap in the face with this unnecessary squabble: BN MPs from MCA questioned the issue of new history textbooks that excluded historical figures such as Yap Ah Loy who founded Kuala Lumpur in the late 1800's. Non-Malay leaders’ role in the Independence negotiations and resistance to the Japanese occupation have been curiously omitted. Education Ministry parliamentary secretary Komala Devi explained that it wasn’t the government’s intention to sideline the contribution of any ethnic group, but to improve “sections perceived to be boring and unimportant by students.” Boring and unimportant? Right. What we see surely does not reflect an iota of good intention, does it?
Admittedly, there is little to celebrate in a country that continues to alienate her own people with such callousness. In some ways Marina Mahathir’s sentiments are shared by many right-thinking Malaysians whatever the color of their skin or creed. Are we a dying breed then? Here's an excerpt of what she wrote in her Musings column recently:
You can almost feel a near-hysteria in the air that, for some people, their country is being threatened by some kafir poltergeist. But then their “country” is one that comprises only one type of people, practises one religion exclusively, tolerates no diversity of opinion nor discussion, assumes the moral superiority of only one race and condescendingly tolerates the existence of others.There's not a few who believe her father ex-PM Dr Mahathir had a hand in Malaysia's sad descent. But his daughter Marina was with me in the same secondary school in Alor Star and for awhile we were also in the same literary society committee. There’s always some things in her articles I don’t agree with (even in the above piece), but there’s a lot more that I concur with. For instance this one ended on a poignant note, and it brought on a rush of nostalgia. Hate to admit it, but um, it gave me a lump in my throat. I, too, would like the Malaysia I knew back.
Their country is one where they wouldn’t dream of going into the home of someone of another religion, let alone eat with them, where the slightest thing is a threat to faith and therefore should be banned, where thinking is deemed satanic, where judgments are made on people at the smallest excuse, where people who are cruel, moralistic and sanctimonious are lauded as heroes of the race, where lies are blatantly told to get around everything.
I don’t know about you but that sad and confusing place is not my Malaysia. For Merdeka this year, I’d like to have it back please.(More)
>NECF (National Evangelical Christian Fellowship) statement regarding religion and the Federal Constitution here.
>Maria Kana on Missionary response to Islamisation:
In 1988 the MCCBCHS issued a Declaration On Freedom Of Religion Or Belief And On The Elimination Of Intolerance And Of Discrimination Based On Religion Or Belief in an attempt to halt the growing tendency to enact state laws which were deemed to be in contravention of the freedom of religion clause in the Federation Constitution. Thirteen years later the MCCBCHS is of the view that the situation has become worse. In January 2002 the same Declaration was re-launched to urge the Federal and all State Governments to respect the rights of every person to freedom of religion and recognise that Malaysia is constitutionally a secular State (Press Release, MCCBCHS, 31.01.02).>Michele Malkin takes aim at the Lina Joy issue here and wonders why American feminists are strangely silent.
The stance adopted by the MCCBCHS (Malaysian Consultative Council For Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism) in rejecting the description of Malaysia as an Islamic state also reflects the position taken by the Christian Church on this contentious issue. Nevertheless the Church must accept the reality that the absorption of Islamic values will continue, in the words of the government publication entitled “Malaysia Adalah Sebuat Negera Islam”, “until the goal of entrenching Islam into the nation’s system is full achieved” (Catholic Asian News, March 2002).
In the light of serious implications, which such a policy of inculcating Islamic values holds for the future, the Church must now attend to the path to take in mission and evangelisation. (Full article here)