Monday, October 2, 2017

Leaders must stand against intolerance in Malaysia, says Baru

October 2, 2017, Monday

KUCHING: The recent ‘Muslim-only launderette’ incident in Muar, Johor is another troubling sign of a country in which religious and racial intolerance is rising to alarming levels, says state PKR chairman Baru Bian.

He said the owner of the launderette, and those similar to him, are emboldened to act in such a way purely because the government has never taken any action against similar incidents in the past.

“To make matters worse, the Johor Islamic Council advisor and Johor Mufti supported his action. It looks like this is the tip of the iceberg, with another Muslim-only launderette being reported in Perlis,” said Baru in a press statement yesterday.

The Ba Kelalan assemblyman joined a chorus of rational voices in Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, Dennis Ignatius and the Rev Datuk Justin Wan in response to several recent incidents in Peninsular Malaysia.

“The telling thing about the state of the leadership of this country is that there were very few voices against this discriminatory practice; among the few who spoke up being Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin and Parti Amanah Negara vice-president Hasanuddin Mohd Yunus.

“Where was the voice of the Prime Minister who is supposed to lead this nation, and who boasts to the overseas community about Malaysia being a model country of moderation? His squeak was only heard after the royal telling-off by the Sultan of Johor, who did not mince his words, saying the owner’s thinking was ‘sick’.

“Taking the cue from the Sultan, the PM could only offer his usual hollow platitudes about the ‘country’s desire to nurture a united, harmonious, moderate and tolerant society’. It has not escaped notice that he did not make a stand before the Sultan did – this is yet another sign of his lack of leadership qualities and moral courage.”

Baru added the cancellation of a beer event in Kuala Lumpur is also an indication of the slide towards intolerance and extremism.

“The initial reason given (for the cancellation) was that PAS had objected to the festival, saying that it was immoral, could lead to ‘un-Islamic acts such as sex outside marriage, criminal activity and even rape’ and turn Malaysia into the ‘largest vice centre in Asia’.

“These are spurious reasons and for DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Hall) to make their decision based on them is proof of the government pandering to extremist groups and their religious beliefs.

“The festival had been held at least twice before with no untoward incidents, and this cancellation has not only cost a huge loss of revenue to the organisers and the country, it has further damaged our image internationally as well.”

Baru said unsurprisingly, a few days after the cancellation, the police stepped in to explain that the reason for the cancellation was because of a security risk and that extremists were planning a terror attack on the event.

“This ever-evolving excuse game played by the authorities has become an accepted scenario and nobody bats an eyelid when this happens. It appears that only in Malaysia does the government cancel events for fear of terror attacks, and even then, these cancellations are selectively imposed. It is the job of the police to keep all these events safe.

“By recommending events be cancelled, the authorities are not only playing into the hands of these extremists and giving them unwarranted power, they are also taking the easy way out of their duties. What about standing up to these extremists and showing them that we cannot be cowed?”

He said renowned Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol, who was recently detained in Malaysia, said it best when he wrote about his experience in the country: “By policing religion, the authorities are not really protecting it. They are only enfeebling their societies, raising hypocrites and causing many people to lose their faith in or respect for Islam.”

“I must applaud Minister (of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports) Datuk Abdul Karim Hamzah for the stand he took that Sarawak would have no issue with holding Oktoberfest; I urge more leaders to take this sensible and rational view.

“Sarawak and Sabah have many non-Muslims and our festivals, such as Gawai and Kaamatan, involve alcohol such as ‘tuak’. As far as I know, these celebrations have not brought about any of those problems that PAS is so concerned about. They (festivals) are an integral part of our culture and identity, and we must be vigilant to protect them from the creeping influence of the moral and religious policing that is happening in Peninsular Malaysia. Will we be told one day that Gawai celebrations must be stopped in order not to offend the Muslim sensibilities?” stressed Baru.

He also said Malaysians need their leaders to show by example that Malaysia still has the spirit of acceptance and harmonious co-existence that was evident in the early days.

“I believe that this is what most Malaysians wish for, but the majority does not dare to speak up for fear of being labelled un-Islamic or being targeted by extremist groups. Our leaders must follow the example shown by the Sultan of Johor, and emphatically reject extremist elements and discriminatory and bigoted practices that are creeping into our society.

“As said by the Coalition on Plan of Action for Malaysia (GBM): ‘Malaysians need to think hard where this country is going’. The longer we wait to take action, the more difficult it will be to undo the damage done to the country’.”

~ Borneo Post

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