Alcohol ban a blatant racist move to deny non-Muslims their rights

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy, Focus Malaysia

KUALA Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) decision to ban the sales of alcohol in sundry shops, grocery stalls and Chinese medicine outlets smacks of an insidious attempt to curb the rights of non-Muslims in Malaysia.

It is just like plucking the low hanging fruits before turning attention to the higher and difficult ones.

It also smacks of hypocrisy as beer can be sold during certain hours but not hard liquor. As though beer is not alcoholic whereas hard liquor is.

The Minister of KL Federal Territory Shahidan Kassim seems to be taking high moral ground in curbing the consumption of alcohol to appease the Malay-Muslim constituency rather than thinking of the rights of the non-Muslims.

It is not that all non-Muslims consume alcohol but it is their right whether to consume or not.

This right cannot be snatched away with a stroke of pen just for UMNO to earn some brawny points to appease the Malay-Muslim ground.

Rights deprivation

Having painfully endured the pandemic, the owners of these shops cannot even think of increasing their sales to make up for the terrible loss in revenue.

I understand that these shops will tend to forgo about RM50 mil per year, not to mention the losses in government tax revenue.

No thanks to a racist Government, denying liquor sales in the above-mentioned premises factors neatly in the zero-sum game that is being played.

Every onslaught on the rights of non-Muslims – whether denying the sales of alcohol or something elsewhere – is seen as victory for the Malay-Muslims in the country.

Such a victory is seen as loss to the non-Malays, the deprivation of their right to make decisions whether to drink alcohol or not.

Although the curb on the sales of alcohol was contemplated for some time by the City Hall, the right moment was awaited.

With ascension of Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the Prime Minister, the political stability provided by the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, and the timing of the Melaka state election, a propitious moment was set for the announcement.

In an election campaign, UMNO can proudly announce how it had curbed the sales of alcohol in the Federal capital and how this would set a powerful precedent for curbs on alcohol consumption by local councils in the country.

Unfortunately, the MOU rather than providing for political stability for the Government to address the COVID-19 pandemic has turned into something else.

It is being used as a platform to deny the non-Muslims their rights. It is not about consuming or not consuming alcohol but the deprivation of their rights to make decisions.

The Government has been emboldened to the extent of taking measures to infringe or belittle the rights of the non-Muslims in the country.

Affect PH support in Melaka polls

Of course, PAS shorn of its religious credentials would not hesitate show how it influenced the Government to adopt pro-Islamic policies. The curb on liquor being one good example.

If this is not creeping Islamisation then what is it? This unwarranted curb on the sales of liquor might affect the support base of PH in the Melaka state election.

To date, only seven non-Malay Members of Parliament – five from the DAP and two from PKR – have taken a public stand against the ban.

The Malay MPs from PKR and Amanah are rather reticent about the matter – the usual unprincipled dilemma – talking about the rights of the non-Muslims or asking the ban to be lifted might dent their support among the Malays.

Although the ban might centre on alcohol consumption in the Federal capital, nobody knows for sure when the matter of subtle or creeping Islamisation will end.

But one thing for sure is that there is going to be no cessation of the assault on non-Muslim rights. The ban on liquor may just be the beginning of the end.

The ban on alcohol in the Kuala Lumpur is not even about the harmful effects of alcohol, but it’s a blatant political move to deny non-Muslims their right of choice to consume alcohol.

Non-Muslims in the country understand perfectly what is good or bad for them. There is no need to legislate morality.

Shahidan is the last person who should know about immorality of alcohol consumption. – Nov 4, 2021

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the State Assemblyman for Perai. He is also Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.