More bad press for Islam?

Only in Malaysia do we have “holier-than-thou” Muslims who scour the landscape to find things that offend their sensitivities, without caring for others.

(FMT) – The Mon Chinese Beef Roti Restaurant recently made headlines after a TikTok video showed one of its staff donning a songkok while wearing a cross on a necklace, leading to social media questioning the restaurant’s halal status.

Fearing repercussions that might affect its business, the restaurant promptly fired the worker and issued an apology to its customers.

The restaurant manager claimed it was an oversight by the management, leading to the termination of the “offending” employee. She expressed profound apologies to those offended or made uncomfortable by the incident and pledged to be more vigilant in the future.

‘Holier-than-thou’ attitude

The employee was probably an innocent person trying to earn an honest living but became a sacrificial lamb for the owner of the business.

A voice of reason, Penang mufti Wan Salim Wan Noor, said Muslims should be mindful of the image of their religion, adding that non-Muslims often associate the behaviour of Muslims with the teachings of Islam.

“Most non-Muslims do not read books to understand Islam. They usually observe the behaviour and actions of Muslims,” he said.

In January 2019, a set of lights at the Grace Residence building in Penang, which when lit resembled the shape of a cross, created a huge controversy.

The lights were never intended to form the image of a cross or display any religious meaning.

It was much ado about nothing, but some Muslims with nothing better to do turned it into a national issue.

The Palestinian cause and LGBTQ

Muslim teachers and students wearing Palestine freedom fighter garb have not helped the image of Islam, either.

This situation has been worsened by boycotts of businesses like McDonald’s and Starbucks due to rumours that these businesses are owned by Jews.

The Muslim bigots forget that the majority of the 21,000 McDonald’s Malaysia employees are Muslims and any boycott would hurt them the most.

Muslim sensitivities also crossed over to the band Coldplay, with some urging the prime minister to ban the concert as the band’s members sympathised with LGBTQ and Israel.

Anwar rejected the suggestion, saying that the British outfit is among dozens of rock bands that support the Palestinian cause.

After giving the Islamic development department or Jakim its biggest ever budget, the prime minister has finally found some voice of reason to thwart rising Muslim conservatism.

Perhaps it was a lesson learned when overzealous ministry officials raided Swatch shops as one of the watches carried the rainbow design allegedly associated with LGBTQ.

The authorities have been sued by Swatch over the incident.

Muslim bigots hurting their own kind

A Malay business lobby group slammed McDonald’s Malaysia for using its ethnic Malay staff and franchise owners as “human shields” to deflect criticism from anti-Israeli boycott campaigns.

The Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM) accused the local operator of the global fast-food chain of hypocrisy in its stance of “supporting its workers”, alleging that very little of its profits are passed down to its workers.

“It must be said that whatever McDonald’s restaurants are facing is not comparable to the atrocities currently being inflicted in Gaza,” said MTEM CEO Nizam Mahshar.

I am left to wonder whether these Malay lobby groups care about the economy or simply want to score political points.

Malaysia producing more extremist youth

Deputy higher education minister Yusof Apdal said the involvement of youths in radicalism in the country is quite worrying as 80% of arrests by police in the latest available data involved those under 40.

“The data presented shows the seriousness of the extremist threats in this country, especially among the youth,” he said at a recent seminar on the prevention of radicalism and extremism.

Yusof said the ministry would continue with programmes to prevent radicalism and extremism in collaboration with researchers at higher education institutions and enforcement agencies.

Systemic failures

A 2021 paper by Siti Suriani Othman and others titled “Radicalism and extremism among university students in Malaysia” found that educational institutions are considered the “third force” in countering violent extremism and terrorism.

Alongside government agencies and the intelligence community, higher learning institutions have multiple roles such as detector, educator, presenter and producer of ideas in countering violent extremism.

This is not the case with the Malaysian education system.

We have seen the Malay Dignity Congress, where senior academics of universities were comfortably co-mingling with Malaysian politicians like Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Abdul Hadi Awang, who hold extreme views on Islam and the “Ketuanan Melayu” (Malay supremacy) concept.

Recently, we saw how the Palestine-Israel conflict had been brought into school compounds with teachers and pupils brandishing toy guns, promoting violence and hatred at such a vulnerable age.

The situation was made worse when the education minister defended the teachers and students involved in the drama and told parents and critics to butt out.

She forgot that parents and community leaders are also responsible for their children’s education.

With the biggest budget in Malaysia, the education ministry needs to be reminded that concerned taxpayers have every right to call out a failing education system to save Malaysia from religious extremism.