The arbitrary enforcement of dress codes at various government offices and the suggestions that non-Muslims not eat in the presence of Muslims during the fasting month are disturbing in that they impinge on the rights of non-Muslims in this country. The mufti of Perak even went so far as to say that non-Muslims should dress more ‘appropriately’ in public places out of ‘respect’ for Muslims who will sin upon seeing people, including non-Muslims, who do not cover their ‘aurat’. The ongoing controversy stems from the mistaken belief that it is the duty of non-Muslims to remove all temptation from Muslims so that they are spared the necessity of mustering their self-discipline to resist normal urges of the flesh. Is this what the practice of Islam is about?
Many years ago, when I was a student at iTM, a fellow student from Sarawak was eating a slice of cake during Ramadan when a Muslim student approached him and knocked the cake from his hand. Needless to say, we were shocked by the assault as such things never happened in Sarawak. We view the recent incidents with alarm, as these are signs of the attempts to Islamise our secular country. Such attempts are getting more frequent, and the government appears to be succumbing to the voices of the extremists by allowing them to happen, such as the enforcement of dress codes by their security officers and allowing teachers and muftis to make unreasonable and offensive comments with impunity.
The Islamic religion as I understand it, is not a religion of compulsion. There is certainly no compulsion on people of other faiths to ease the religious duties of Muslims by removing so-called ‘temptations’ from their sight. Temptation is everywhere and cannot be removed. The purpose of fasting and the requirement of religious piety, as I understand it, is a testing of one’s faith and willpower in dealing with ‘nafsu’ and other external ‘disturbances’. Instead of asking others to remove the forces of temptation by covering up and hiding in the toilet to eat and drink, teachers and leaders should encourage adherents to delve into themselves to find the strength and willpower to resist temptation and to carry on with their normal daily activities. We live in a multi-religious country where Christians, Buddhists and Hindus also fast as a part of our religious practices but there is no demand that people of other faiths respect us by not eating in our presence. Therefore, the excuse of ‘not-respecting’ one’s religion cannot and should not be used to justify the on-going arbitrary imposing of dress codes and attempts to regulate the eating habits of non-Muslims in this country.
By demanding that non-Muslims mollycoddle and tip-toe around Muslims, the muftis and teachers are doing the Muslims of this country a disservice, and bringing their religion into disrepute. The only way to avoid temptation is to become cave-dwelling hermits, and even that is no guarantee, as the mind and imagination can be the most difficult to tame. I am thankful that there have been many articles and letters written by moderate Muslims speaking the voice of reason, and I am sure that the majority of our Muslim population have stronger faiths than what the ultra religious teachers and muftis give them credit for.
East Malaysians are sorely disappointed with the Prime Minister for his silence on these matters. Having visited Sarawak so regularly in the previous few months and basking in the support of the Chief Minister, he should bear in mind that we do not take kindly to having our constitutional freedoms and human rights threatened by the champions of Islamisation. We are still waiting for him to act like the Prime Minister for ALL Malaysians instead of a beleaguered party chief struggling for survival. His track record in defending our rights such as in the ‘Allah’ and Bible issue has been dismal, and we fear that racial and religious tensions will continue to escalate if he cannot find the testicular fortitude to lead this country out of this festering mess that is a consequence of the BN government.
ADUN N70 Ba’ Kelalan
30 JUNE 2015