The Star just as racial as Utusan, says DAP MP

(The Malaysian Insider) – A DAP lawmaker accused MCA-owned daily The Star today of exploiting the strict enforcement of Islamic law on non-Muslims in PAS-led Kelantan to stoke racial sentiments in a bid to serve its political masters ahead of key national polls.

Calling it a “shameful, immoral and devious act”, Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong lashed out at the English-language daily for what he termed relentless and lop-sided coverage of the ongoing storm over the enforcement of Islamic law on non-Muslims in the state, after local council officers reportedly cracked down on non-Muslims for allegedly violating local by-laws regulating decency.

“The Star is looking down at its readers, just like the racially-charged Utusan Malaysia, exploiting a situation where not many of its mostly non-Muslim readers could distinguish between hudud (Islamic criminal law), Islamic family laws, khalwat (close proximity) and municipal council’s indecent behaviour rule,” he said in a statement.

The prominent coverage of the issue in The Star showed it was subservient to its partisan owner and was bent on conveying to its mostly non-Muslim readers that “PAS is as an extremist party” and aimed at scaring off non-Muslim support for Islamist PAS and the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact.

“That is a well-known MCA’s tactics and strategies to win election for its political master Datuk Seri Najib Razak,” Liew said.

The 35-year-old warned PR parties that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) parties and the media they controlled were looking to exploit weaknesses within the pact, echoing his DAP colleague, Anthony Loke’s warning yesterday that the MCA is using hudud as election fodder to scare off non-Muslim voters.

He called on all PR state governments to “beware of Little Napoleons in our respective states and local governments attempting to plant the seed of doubt among the people to discredit Pakatan Rakyat as a credible national alternative”.

“It is now well known that the next election will very much be decided by whether non-Malay swing voters were prepared to vote for PAS and whether Malay-Muslim swing voters were prepared to support DAP in the context of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition,” Liew said.

The opposition lawmaker urged PR to work together and not lose sight of its national goal, which he said can only be won if the majority of four million middle ground voters continue to back the pact.

“Let us return to Middle Malaysia,” he added.

The Star reported last week that Kelantan enforcement officers had fined two non-Muslim couples for khalwat, a crime under syariah law, but PAS had quickly pointed out the summonses were for indecent behaviour.

Recently, non-Muslim hairdressers in Kelantan were reported to have also been slapped with fines for having customers of the opposite gender, breaching a local council by-law that bars women hairstylists from working on men and vice-versa — sparking a storm over the position of Islamic laws.

In the run-up to the 13th general election, the BN coalition has increasingly tried to discourage non-Muslim voters from voting for PR by saying that PAS would implement the Islamic penal code, hudud, and create an Islamic state.

While non-Muslims are exempt from Syariah laws, Malaysia’s dual-track court system has resulted in overlapping gray areas that have impinged on their constitutional rights.