Seeing the stars, not the light


The victory made him (or her) the darling of Austria, with its president singing praises and saying this was a win for tolerance and diversity. Contrast this to the Brunei sultan.

Syed Nazri, NST

Even leaving aside the merits and technicalities of it all, the hudud debate has brought forth some unminigated eye-openers.

And I was dumbstruck by a couple of postings that had landed in my inbox the past week. Probably similar ones are already all over the Internet but I will share here the ones I received as they provide enormous food for thought. The dispatches were in connection with the latest move by Brunei to institute hudud in its legal system.

Again I stress: my point is not about a theological debate of whether or not hudud should be introduced anywhere. It is purely about reactions and, possibly, the hypocrisy and megalomania that come along.

One of the emails was from a lawyer friend, Idrus Ismail, an old classmate who succinctly wrote: “The winner of the Eurovision song contest this year was a 25-year-old man called Conchita Wurst. Singing Rise of the Phoenix, he captured the coveted title not merely on the strength of his voice, but because of who he was and still is: Austria’s drag queen who dresses up like a lady, but is fully bearded!

“The victory made him (or her) the darling of Austria, with its president singing praises and saying this was a win for tolerance and diversity.

“Contrast this to the Brunei sultan: he was tolerated, even feted, by the Western audience which loved his investments in London and LA, but the moment he introduced the Islamic criminal justice system, a boycott was launched by the likes of Virgin’s Richard Branson, who was joined by Ellen de Generes and others who wanted ‘human rights’ to be protected from this ‘aberration in law and affront to civilisation’.

“Would it not be good for these protesters to emulate the Austrian president who lauded tolerance and diversity when a transvestite won Europe’s top singing competition?

“Do Muslim audiences switch off their TV sets when Ellen’s show comes on, or do they continue to enjoy her brand of humour, disregarding her LGBT leanings?

“Do Muslim fans of Elton John start a boycott of his music when he openly flaunted his gay marriage?

“Maybe people like Branson and Ellen need to open up their minds and learn the meaning of diversity so that they can live and let live.”

This brings me to another posting blasted in an email group which carried what was purportedly Brunei’s reply to the Western press on the same issue:

“In your countries, you practice freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion, etc. It’s in your constitution. It’s your political system, your national identity, your rights, your way of life.

“In my country, we practice a Malay, Islamic, monarchical system and we’re going to start practising the laws of Islam, the syariah. Islam is in our constitution, our national identity, our rights, our way of life. We may find loopholes in your laws and justice system and you may have found ours, but this is our country. Just like you practice your right to be gay, etc.

“For this world you live in now, we practice our rights to be Muslims for this world and the hereafter. This is an Islamic country practicing Islamic law. Why don’t you worry about your kids being gunned down in schools, worry about your prisons being unable to accommodate convicts and worry about your high rate of crimes.

“The moment you hear that Islam and Muslims making a stand and trying to reaffirm their faith, you judge, you boycott, you say that it’s wrong, it’s stupid, it’s barbaric.

“Why do you care so much what’s happening here in an Islamic nation when you didn’t even bat an eyelid about the Syrians, Bosnians, Rohingya, Palestinians, etc. Thousands are being killed there and you don’t care, not one is killed here under syariah and you make a big fuss, even when the citizens here who are directly affected by it accept it with peace.”

Thought-provoking indeed. Double standards?

That there is no such thing as tolerance and diversity even in societies deemed most open?

I leave it to readers to judge because tolerance is double-edged.

As it turned out, yet another email, totally unrelated to the above, yet very profound, also came my way a few days ago from a dear friend who sent a YouTube clip of the song Already Gone, a Wilson Philips cover of the original by The Eagles. I always remember this song from this line. And it suits the above commentary tremendously:

Just remember this, my friend, when you look up in the sky

You can see the stars and still not see the light.