Wrong to be a Malay? Wrong to be a Muslim?

Eversince the 12th General Election (PRU12), it has been very noticeable that several unhealthy developments were panning out, to what end is anyone’s guess. These developments, in my view, if left unchecked, would be detrimental to the wellbeing of the country and, Allah forbid, could even lead to the breakdown of law and order, as we know it today.

For any subversive elements to sow the seeds of discontent and disharmony in this country of different races and religions is easy enough, for it is an open secret that the most sensitive of all issues in Malaysia has been, is and will always be the twin issues of race and religion. And that is why the trend of recent controversies is dangerous indeed as it affects not only the important organs of government but also that which affects the security and the well being of the nation.

To suggest that these developments are mere coincidences is not plausible, as these developments seems to be a systematic and well planned attack, executed to realised a strategy designed to achieve a certain end-game.

As it is in the wayang kulit, we have two main characters : Barisan Nasional (BN) on one side of the divide, the coalition of parties led by UMNO that has, in all sense of the word, led Malaysia eversince we achieved Independence in 1957 and on the other side, the loose coalition of opposition parties led by PKR with DAP and PAS in tow, named Pakatan Rakyat (PR), who has, eversince the watershed results of PRU12, will do anything and say anything to wrest power from BN, and all this after having had a heady taste of power in the opposition-ruled states of Penang, Kelantan, Kedah, Selangor and for a brief moment, Perak. And the prize? Malaysia, and all its riches, realised and yet to be realised, of course.

With them being the main characters in this version of the wayang kulit, the question now is, who is Pak Dalang? Or is it Pak Dalangs instead, who as the game pans out suddenly realises the existence of the other and discovering that they both have basically the same objective, acknowledges the other but decided not to work with one another.

But what of the script? What is the end-game or rather, the extent of it?

Recent developments have introduced a phrase never before used in Malaysia, and if I recall correctly, never before PRU12. The phrase or term Malay Muslims has suddenly surfaced and through design or coincidence, taken a life of its own. Call me outdated and old fashion, but from my point of view, in Malaysia there is no Malay Muslim and that has been the case eversince the Sultanates of old embraced Islam and made Islam, directly or indirectly, the official religion of their respective Sultanates. And as far as I understand it, the term Malay Muslim first surfaced in Singapore to categorize those Singaporean Malays who renounced Islam as their faith of choice and chose to embrace other religions mainly Christianity, of which denomination I am unsure.  But in Malaysia, the spirit of the Constitution and such is the way of life of Malays in Malaysia that I grew up with ever since I was born some half a century ago combined, is such that a Malay is a Muslim, no questions asked, but a Muslim need not necessarily be a Malay. Should a Malay not profess the Islamic faith, then he/she is not considered a Malay and is instead more identified with his/her professed religion. Agree or disagree as you will, but I am stating it the way I see it and I believe that I am not the only one who subscribe to this view.

Should anyone accused me of being ethnically and religiously biased, let me state that I went to an English-medium primary school, taught by Jesuits and later on, after the school was taken over by the Malaysian Government, taught by locals comprising of mainly of Eurasians, Indians and Chinese. The only Malay teachers that I can remember were those who taught us Malay boys religious knowledge. Later on, at boarding school, I was taught by locals and expats, and received instructions in Islamic knowledge from a PAS-leaning teacher who graduated from AlAzhar. Not a problem there, because he taught us conscientiously, and clearly, for he took it upon himself the responsibility of teaching us rebellious teenagers religious knowledge. And for that, he has earned our eternal respect. Not only for teaching us the basics of our faith, but also for never insisting his political beliefs on us.

We were taught Maths and the Sciences by Chinese teachers who, by and large, taught us conscientiously and admirably. And for those of us who took Add Maths in the 70s, we know very well what mental and emotional torture that can be. So conscientious were they that to this day, I still admire and respect my Add Maths teacher who persevered and was very patient with me. The disciplinary wardens made up of Indians and Malays, taught us to temper the implementation of the rules and regulations with respect for the person, an early introduction to the term ‘discretion’.

For five long years, whilst we were under the tutelage of teachers and wardens from a mixed bag of races, we were taught the universal value of mutual respect. Life was pretty easy and straightforward then. Render unto religion what is religion’s, render unto culture what is culture’s. We would have our doa before and after meal times, recited by the prefects on duty. And whilst the prefect was reciting the doa, our non-Muslim wardens would remain silent, as to pay due respect to our doa. Any one of us caught playing truant during mass prayer times were lectured first before being dealt with seriously by the wardens.

Mutual respect. Thats what it was and it works both ways. What a far cry from today. Today, we have seen different and various aspects of life of a Malay questioned and ridiculed so much to the point that Malays are made to feel that it is wrong to be a Malay and that it is shameful to be a Malay. Worse, some detractors made it out to be a sign of incompetence if you are a Malay. Never mind the many shining examples of Malay excellence before, during and after Independence, be it in education, in administration, in politics, in business, in finance and whatever fields you may have. And never mind the sacrifices that Malays have made to ensure the security of this country. Never mind all that, for these distractors, these are all coincidences and only they know best.

A simple call for the calling to prayer has been disputed. Why? And why now? Not a single protest was sounded when the bells of the churches tolled on Sundays or on Christianity’s religious days. Not a sound of protest was sounded when the bells at Hindu temples tolled from Fridays through to Sundays as Hindus congregate at their many temples to perform their prayers. And no one protested at the thick incense smoke coming from the temples, or the din of fire crackers on the eve of Chinese New Year. When the roads were closed for Chingay, or Wesak or Thaipusam, did any one protested? NO. Why? Because we understood and we accepted it as part and parcel of the realities of living in Malaysia, a land where the people are free to practise the religion of their choice. But please do not forget, the same right also applies for Malays and Muslims.

There’s another issue, one still in the courts. And that I can assure you is a very sensitive issue. Like a bolt from the blue, a claim has been made to use a heavenly name used exclusively by Muslims all over the world and in Malaysia. Despite my overseas stints either for education or work, I have never come across a claim similar as this except maybe in Indonesia and even that mainly by the Bataks. In Malaysia itself, never have I come across translated texts that uses the heavenly name whenever I browse through the reading materials placed at my dentist’s waiting room. The issue is still in the courts. But if I may borrow that most famous of John McEnroe’s quotes, you cannot be serious!!!!

Throughout my life, I have never had a non-Muslim quoting me the Holy Quran or Hadith or Sunnah to me. I never thought I would see the day when a non-Muslim can quote me the Holy Quran or Hadith or even Sunnah but I must say, that is now history. I was in Kuala Lumpur recently and lo and behold, a non-Muslim I just met for a meeting decreed that they can quote me just that. You must be kidding me right. Is it a practical joke that has gone too far? And seriously, is it a joke? Why? Cause no one’s laughing, no one and especially not me. In my view, it is an insult of the highest order for a non-Muslim to quote the Holy Quran or Hadith or Sunnah to a Muslim, for a non-Muslim does not profess to believe in what a Muslim must profess to believe. Maybe if they comply with the Rukun Islam and Rukun Iman and then maybe we’ll talk.

Even the role of the Sultans have been questioned. A case in point is the case of HRH the Sultan of Perak, whose decision with regards to the make up of the Perak State assembly was questioned publicly by a lawyer of high regard but also happen to be an opposition Member of Parliament (MP). It beggars belief that this lawyer can question HRH the Sultan’s decision on the issue of interest because it seems that the lawyer has forgotten that HRH the Sultan of Perak was once Lord President, the highest office in the Malaysian Judiciary, before he ascended the throne of the state of Perak. Does the lawyer remotely think that HRH the Sultan of Perak, after ascending the throne, has abandon his skills and knowledge with regards to the law just because HRH the Sultan is now a Sultan? Or was there another agenda to it?

These are just some of the examples of what is happening or has been happening since PRU12. They have been many other instances that can be grouped together with the instances mentioned above. The seeds of disharmony and racial tension has been sowed by irresponsible parties. If we are to care for the well being, prosperity and harmony of this country, then issues that provoke the Malays and the Muslims must stop or be stopped, before they do more serious damage, if its not serious enough already. Parties that have an interest in seeing a divided Malaysia must be served warning, be they be from within or without. Lessons must be learnt from the past, lest the past repeats itself, just to give us all a wake up call. And this time, it may be a really really rude wake up call. For everyone.

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