Reply to “The Religious Front”

By AsamLaksa

Firstly I agree with batsman that religion and politics mix. I have no trouble with that even as I am a strong supporter of separation of religion and the state. In fact I don’t think any Malaysian will deny that religion and politics mix. What I disagree with is the over simplistic view of the author.

UMNO has no qualms mixing politics with religion and so was PAS at one time with the Islamic State agenda. The author has not really explained the shift in PAS politics towards the Erdogan-like faction. Is the author intentionally not telling the whole story with his constant anti-secularist stand?

PAS wants to widen its appeal in Malaysia. It wants to move out of the rural Malay heartland strongholds. As a party with aspirations to run the federal government it has to raise capable leaders who have the political savvy, knowledge and skills. A hardline Islamic stance will deter many, including many Muslims. Thus a younger generation of better educated leaders with a wider world view. The effect of this is greater acceptance by non-Muslims and educated Malays. The downside is that PAS erodes its position as the traditional conservative defender of Islam. You can’t please them all.

The balance of religious influence in Malaysia is heavily slanted against all other religions besides Islam. The Christians would be very naïve indeed to not know that religion and politics do mix as they can see examples of this throughout the world such as in the Philippines and Indonesia. The question is that what are they going to do about it?

Following the similar model of UMNO style Islamic politics will make things worse because it would give UMNO a real face to their made up fears of a threat towards the Islamic position in Malaysia. So the Christians have to tread carefully. There has been more recent action by Christians who urge their believers to vote against BN and the spinmeisters in UMNO have portrayed this as an attempt to unseat Islam as the top faith in Malaysia. So I doubt that the non-Islamic faiths are leaving their struggle on the shoulders of the secularists but rather that more overt politicking by them will make matters worse by inciting further UMNO sponsored hate and breaking down inter-faith cohesion even among themselves. There is no need for other faith based political parties.

So where does the (much disliked by the author) so called secularists come in? They don’t appear at all! You see just recognising that politics and religion do mix or insisting that politics and religion don’t mix does not solve the problem. This is where the author falls flat because he does not appear to have the slightest idea of what to do next. Sure the non-Muslims can be sensitive to PAS’ problems but PAS has to take action to remedy any wrongs be it making JAIS a more professional outfit and be consistent in speech and actions. I would urge JAIS to seriously investigate, obtain irrefutable evidence and charge lawbreakers in court for consistency and not just play politics and public opinion.

In realpolitik terms, fair enough non-Muslims must be sensitive to Muslims and everyone else. It does not help that Muslims appear insensitive to non-Muslims. And the non-Muslims are basically fed up with it and I think PAS knows this too.

I doubt that other religions reject politics in Malaysia. I suspect they are repressed and this JAIS raid is the usual attempt to show who is boss by their lack of consultation and consensus. This can only happen when there are laws and state instruments that allow such actions. As long as we have this status quo, the Muslims will always feel superior and will never come to the table with other faiths as equals. In truth many Malaysian Muslims do not want to be equals; thus this never ending conflict.

Now the secularist has no problem with considering all religions as equal but the religionist cannot. In a truly secular state, there will be no automatic state support for JAIS. JAIS would only be supported for positive religious activities in line with the doctrine of freedom of religion which means no more raids which are negative conduct. But that is very far off from the current religiously polarised Malaysia of Islam vs the rest and a bloody nightmare for many Muslims.

It is interesting to note that mixing of politics and religion are more likely to take place in more backward areas as can be seen in the Bible belt in the USA. Just like in the USA, this problem will not go away and you cannot please everyone. The best bet for PAS and PR for that matter is to balance the harms and benefits towards the direction of their coalition and the sentiments of their supporters. UMNO may monopolise the support from hardline Muslims and it is the job of the others to reduce the numbers of the hardliners. I would like to see batsman taking more action by telling the misguided Muslims to perhaps be more sensitive to non-Muslims rather than defending an unprincipled status quo.