Muslim liberals must speak up, says PKR’s Khalid

khalid JAAFAR

Islamists have been loudly heard for too long, says analyst, and asks why Muslims are moving to liberal Western countries and not to predominantly-Muslim countries.

(FMT) – If Malaysia ever turns into another Pakistan or Iran, where the Muslim extremists rule, blame it on the liberals for staying silent, says policy analyst Khalid Jaafar, a liberal advocate.

Khalid, executive director of the Institute of Policy Research, said “liberalists” must speak up against decisions and issues brought up and implemented by Islamists.

He said there had been a sense of revivalism in Islam since the 1980s. In the beginning, it was seen as a positive contribution to society, with Muslims returning to their roots.

“There were concerns about morality, ethics and religious hollowness, with many feeling education had failed to address the needs of religion. People in the 1980s felt they had got independence and Malaysia was already developing well, but that we were not keeping up with the needs of the religion. These feelings were not isolated to Malaysia, but felt the world over,” he told FMT.

However, he said the need to get in touch with the religion went in the other direction, heading towards extremism, which liberals and nationalists failed to discern. “From the start, they have been devoid of intellectual engagement.”

Khalid said liberalism had been in Malaysia’s DNA since independence, but the education system failed to counter Islamist thinking on freedom of expression, responsibility, rule of law and the Federal Constitution.

“The education system and leaders have not been able to address the issue sufficiently. There has been no contest of the ideas by the liberals.”

He said Muslims must understand there is no contradiction between Islam and liberalism because religion is not only about the wellbeing of this life and the hereafter.

“We are also talking about running the country. Countries which practise liberalism have prospered. People are less oppressed there.” He said liberals should be able to extol the success stories of countries such as those in Europe and America.

He said if these countries were not considered to be ideal places to live in, then liberals should ask Islamists why Muslims were moving to these countries and not to predominantly-Muslim countries.

“They realise some have tried to implement the vision of an Islamic state, like in Pakistan and Iran, but they see things are not getting any better, but are actually getting worse.

“There is no freedom of expression. They are not getting the type of economic and social development they want.”