Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The mathematics of an Islamic State

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy.
1984 [George Orwell]

Yet another day passes, and Malaysians go blithely about their business unconcerned that the PM and his cohorts have decreed that we’re Islamic (Read the PM's reply to DAP's Lim Kit Siang in BM). Whether being Islamic refers to state or country has been conveniently left undefined for reasons that are not only insincere, but downright dishonest. It appears Malaysians are to be content to be sandwich fillers – unceremoniously pressed between secularism and theocracy - which apparently serves to appease demagogues who oppose secularism on one hand, and those who fear out-and-out Talibanisation on the other. (See also Dr Chandra Muzzafar's take on this)

Although we have no shortage of grammarians or linguists to instruct our PM and our honourable parliamentarians, it saddens me that our elected leaders think nothing of shortchanging the rakyat. Those in Government must consider this sleight of hand politically expedient, if not diabolically clever. But we are not so easily fooled.

The strategy as I see it is to continue espousing the same line – that Malaysia is an Islamic state – until at last the worried populace grows weary of protesting, and submits to government dictate. Fait accompli. I can accept that Muslims should practice their faith as all good Muslims should and that Islam is the religion of the majority, but is it not fundamentally dishonest to impose such values on some 40% of the country who do not share Islamic convictions or aspirations? Is it not devious to ignore the testimony of our Founding Fathers, blatantly rewrite history while declaring allegiance to the Federal Constitution? Is this duplicity right, much less good? Are these declarations all there is to turn Malaysia Islamic? God forbid!

The Reid’s Commission made it explicit that though Islam is the religion of Malaysia, it shall not “impose any disability on non-Muslim natives professing and practicing their religions and shall not imply that the State is not a secular State.”

Who better to interpret the intent of the nation’s constitution than Malaysia’s first PM Tunku Abdul Rahman who was present during its drafting? The late and sadly forgotten Tunku is on record as saying, “I would like to make it clear that this country is not an Islamic State as it is generally understood, we merely provide that Islam shall be the official religion of the State” (Official Report of Legislative Council Debates, 1 May 1958, Column 4631 and 4671-2). But that’s only his personal opinion isn’t it?

As far as I understand, there was unambiguity of intent regarding the nation’s identity as our Founding Fathers were framing the Federal Constitution. Malaysia was meant to be secular – in the sense that no single religious dogma shall supplant or subsume the Federal Constitution at the expense of freedom of religion. To pretend and to insist otherwise is akin to telling all right thinking Malaysians that 2+2 makes 5.

Eighty years ago, a failed painter wrote these words: "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it. "

That man was Hitler. He understood the relationship between propaganda and the law of repetition: "Now the purpose of propaganda is not continually to produce interesting changes for a few blase little masters, but to convince; that means, to convince the masses. The masses, however, with their inertia, always need a certain time before they are ready even to notice a thing, and they will lend their memories only to the thousandfold repetition of the most simple ideas."

Hmm, the inertia of the masses - now that's the lynchpin. This manipulation of truth in the interest of the State probably lead Orwell to say this of the Nazis a few years before he wrote 1984:

“The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, "It never happened"—well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five—well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs.”

Our PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi says he’s a leader of all Malaysians, fair to all. This, too, frightens me.

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