Monday, January 22, 2018

Vote against bribery and corruption

KJ John

ONE clear but obvious concern for most Malaysian Christians is the “agenda of backdoor Islamisation by PAS”.

Malaysia, from its inception, has been a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural society defined by a Federal Constitution which amplifies and clarifies our rules of law and due processes.

Therefore, and thereby, we were, and must only always be understood as a secular country. No particular or specific religious values can consequently be used to define public space morality.

Premised upon the secular interpretation of our foundation points within the Constitution, it is untenable that PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s RUU34 can even be tabled in Parliament. Therefore, a good friend of mine and son of a former Deputy Prime Minister, Tawfik Ismail, has gone to Court over this wrong-doing.

From the word go, it contradicts the Federal Constitution on many counts. Most importantly, and rather unfortunately, the current draft will only muddy the clarity even further, raising the topic into a federal jurisdictional matter. Our constitution clearly states that Islam is only a 9-States matter, under Schedule II of Federal Constitution.

RUU355 would then become license for extreme PAS-UMNO alliance of conservative-types to push for what becomes new federal Islamic rules or guidelines for enforcement into the public and common spaces.

Actually, when I worked at Mimos Berhad some Muslim fanatics complained about one of the stalls at the canteen where a banana leaf food variety was served was ‘haram’ because “tangan yang masaknya bukan halal!”. To his credit the CEO and then President put a stop to all such nonsense.

Personal versus public spaces

If, any individual mufti or ulamak, can unilaterally declare a simple but innocent public space procedure or method, whether it is right or wrong theologically; are we not becoming a framework for much cultural and interpretive conflict?

Are there not already simple but clear rules within all Local Councils for how “common food” can be served in public places; within previously defined limitations?

Do we really need JAKIM-appointed Ulamak or Muftis to weigh in on all matters of Local Council Administrations without due regard to specific public space concerns already being regulated by all 145 Local Authorities; to become a federal matter?

Is this not exactly where our public administration has gone sadly wrong? For example, why would any Malay-Muslim Community object to any other Congregation Hall being established in any locality, when there is no issue of noise or external disturbance generated by such groups, or if no specific bylaws are being violated? Does that view not smell of Wahhabism?

Therefore, I am calling parties in the 14th General Election to pause and decide what is really good, true, and right for all Malaysians in all matters of life without cherry picking. The concept of secular space in all Public Administration simply remains that; no sectarian or particular values will be imposed on non-believing others. That is one current cardinal rule of our Local Governance.

Universal Islamic values in Malaysia

PAS, to be fair, has always stood for their interpretation of Islamic values and would argue that their  values are still universal but never limited to personal spaces. No one can really publicly contend that. It is their right of belief but I would call it their particular and one interpretive worldview.

But it did become problematic in Malaysia, after Anwar Ibrahim joined Umno and began on such a specific Islamic Agenda within his then-Umno government days in the early 80s. For that matter, even former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is equally guilty of declaring Malaysia an Islamic Country; even if he did not use their concept of an Islamic State.

But the not so well known fact is that Dr Mahathir knowingly brought Anwar into Umno to grow and nurture the explicit agenda of good and right Islamic Values into the Administration of our Governance in Malaysia.

Such history cannot be denied but needs to also be correctly understood and recorded. In fact, I was at INTAN then, and I clearly remember my Director asking me to join the Islamic Values Committee chaired by a PAS-friendly colleague; to ensure only common and agreeable ethics and values be included into our common spaces.

Neither will I deny that Malaysia is a country based with a majority of Muslims and therefore we need to give and make concessions. For example, the “Call to Prayer” can be made publicly, unlike in the recent Supreme Court decision of India. Nevertheless, the level of noise incurred is always a matter of local governance jurisprudence.

Notwithstanding all of the above, to my mind and heart, I cannot accept a kind of Islam which ignores “other religious communities” and unilaterally decides to “preach their sermons over the loud speaker at every early morning prayer time.” That in fact is offensive and must be stopped.

Corrupt culture and values

Bribery and corruption happens when self-interest trumps interests of others.

When any individual, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, or Malaysian or American, prioritises personal interest over public interests, a culture of corruption will emerge. No religion promotes such corruption of human values of right and wrong, but when it happens, even in Muslim and non-Muslim societies; it is categorically wrong.

Therefore, let us not pretend that any one of us has a sermon to deliver on how to avoid corruption.
But we can be sure that to tackle it, we all need to have a similar understanding about facts, shapes and colours of corruption. Unless, we take this bull by the horns, and include both Dr Mahathir and Anwar into every calculus, we cannot rid our country of current culture of bribery and corruption.

To my mind and heart, it is better for us to claim to be a corruption-free nation than to claim to be an Islamic Society, but one rife with corruption. Let us learn from Singapore. You see, at the end of the day, in all societies and cultures, the true test of any religion is measured by human action and not just spoken words.

The task before all Malaysians in the GE 14 therefore is to speak our truth in love to all our neighbours and to argue that we must give Pakatan Harapan one chance to govern, and then demand that they bring in the kind and quality of changes which are imperative.

Surely we cannot claim we were not part of the problem, while quietly colluding with the system in the past. Change we can; and change we must, but, we must become the change we want to be, as Gandhi put is so well! May God bless Malaysia in GE14. – January 22, 2017.

* KJ John worked in public service for 32 years, retired, and started an NGO for which he is Chairman of the Board. He writes to inform and educate, arguing for integration with integrity in Malaysia. He believes such a transformation has to start with the mind before it sinks into the heart!
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.

~ The Malaysian Insight

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