Malaysia, where choices are just illusions


Zurairi AR, The Malay Mail Online

If our founding fathers were still alive, they would be mortified with how Islam — which they anointed as the religion of the federation — is being used as a blunt tool to bludgeon the rights of the non-Muslims.

As it is, they can only roll in their graves at these transgressions.

The religion of the federation was put in the Federal Constitution almost as an afterthought, but fast-forward nearly 60 years later, it has been used as an excuse for everything that has to do with keeping the status quo: keeping the Malays and the Muslims at the very top.

To illustrate the ridiculousness, just imagine if the same sort of abuse is done with the official language of the federation, the Malay language.

If the Malay language is treated the same way as Islam now, Malays would only be allowed speak the one language, while others are free to use other languages. But they would not be allowed to “entice” Malays into using languages other than Malay.

Other languages also cannot use any phrases already used in Malay, even when they share the same root. When speaking in Sanskrit, you would not be allowed to use dozens of words, since they would be the exclusive right of the Malays.

Put simply, this article in English by me, a Malay, would be blasphemous.

Just last week, Malaysia banned the screening of the Hollywood film Noah, calling it an “un-Islamic “ film which allegedly could “stir the anger and distress” among Muslims if shown here.

Funnily enough, the depiction of Noah in the film was also similarly panned by some Christians, who thought that Noah was too secular and “un-Christian.”

Many reviews freely described Noah and his family as a bunch of “tree-hugging, vegetarian hippies.” If allowed to choose, maybe not many people would even care to watch the film, with that many non-flattering reviews.

What I find most disturbing, however, is that the government can simply dictate what Malaysians can or cannot watch, just based on the “sensitivities” of just one particular group.

How come the same concern is rarely extended of other ethnic or religious groups? Why is the concern of one ethnic or religious group prioritised way above the others?

This is not limited to just films. Last week we also saw the cancellation of a pool party following complaints from groups which included both the dakwah (preaching) division of PAS and the youth wing of its rival party Umno.

For the sake of argument, ignore that the planned pool party was sexually questionable with its “topless” billing; with its dress-code of bikinis or short shorts (“the less the better”); or that women who fit that dress code could enter free of charge.

Just remember that the action taken by the KL City Hall ordering the cancellation of the party, and the subsequent closure of the venue, was all under the order of Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, who reportedly asked that City Hall use “every power at its disposal” to do so.

Since when does a minister have that much power to immediately issue such an order, without following due process?

And don’t we realise how dangerous it is to have a minister easily barking out orders, under the thumbs of just several Malay-Muslim groups?

Not everybody, including Muslims, feel that they are bound by the same moral code that the groups adhere to. How can we let a small part of our community decide what sort of code we need to follow?

These are the sort of people who are themselves enjoying freedom of choice, but decided to deny others the same freedom in order to assert their authority and moral superiority.

This behaviour of imposing one’s myopic set of values on others by force affects all of us. As a result, there is currently no freedom of choice in this country, just the illusion of it.

The non-Muslims are increasingly becoming subject to the Muslims’ values. The Muslims, while already subject to the same values, cannot even choose to opt out in the first place.

You can choose many things in this country, thanks to freedom of choice: you can choose what to name your kids. You can choose where to bring your man to dinner tonight. You can choose to read this column up until this line. Or you can even choose to ignore the next line after this.

You can choose to follow your religion strictly, or not at all. In the end, if you do believe in a higher power, it would not be your fellow man which will reward or punish you.

This freedom surely should not lie merely in the hands of the few.