Musa Hitam: I’m liberal and proud of it


(MMO) – Former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam has declared that he is a liberal and proud of it, joining a small but growing band of Malay Muslims speaking up in the face of Islamic fundamentalism that has crept into the country.

In an interview with The Star daily published today, Musa, the first of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s four deputies, also pointed out that Umno was founded on the principles of moderation and liberalism because the Malay nationalist party wanted Malaysia to be one.

“Only moderation and liberalism will allow us to survive,” Musa was quoted saying.

“First let me say this emphatically and very firmly – I have always been a liberal and a moderate and am proud of it. My family, my parents, my elders brought me up that way, and in my more grown up days since I entered politics, my political party Umno adopted the stance of moderation from the early days that we gained independence. But I don’t know what’s happening there now,” he added.

Musa’s declaration of his liberal beliefs comes after a group of 25 retired senior civil servants called for open debate of Islamic legislation in Malaysia and urged Putrajaya to assert the supremacy of the Federal Constitution over Shariah state laws.

Malaysia’s religious authorities have long derided liberalism and pluralism, with Friday sermons nationwide claiming a conspiracy by “enemies of Islam” to manipulate Muslims through such philosophies and other ideologies like secularism, socialism, feminism and positivism.

This has been repeated by Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who in April said that Islam was being tested by new threats under the guise of humanism, secularism, liberalism and human rights.

Musa told The Star that he was very happy to see the statement made by the 25 prominent Malays.

“To me personally, that was a very good symbolic statement made by them in that they triggered thinking, arguments and conversations. Then there were the responses, which I compliment also because they are not calling names. They are not arguing based on irrationality but arguing on an almost point-by-point basis. This was absent before,” he said.

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