The rise of radical Islam in Malaysia?

We are not immune to radical Islam, judging by recent events. But although it has gained prominence recently, it is not an overnight phenomenon.

May 23, 2014

By Yin Ee Kiong CPI Asia (adapted)
We are not immune to radical Islam, judging by recent events. But although it has gained prominence recently, it is not an overnight phenomenon. It can be said that radical Islam has its roots in the early 1970s when a new type of Malay student entered university.

Unlike the students of the ‘50s and ‘60s, these students were “more rural in origin . . . more deeply attached to religious rituals . . . and seemed to be less analytical and less critical in their thinking. Less confident and less secure both emotionally and intellectually, these students do not want to encounter new ideas and new theories . . . and become dogmatic advocates of a narrow backward Islam. It is at this point that the religion becomes a tool, an instrument to serve their own interests. They have a vested interest in seeing that their type of Islam triumphs.” (Chandra Muzaffar, Islamic Resurgence in Malaysia, pp30 & 31)

Many from that generation are now in positions of power in the civil service, police, armed forces, academia and religious bodies. Many have made a career in politics, some becoming ministers. Perhaps this explains the rise of radical Islam; why the government does not prosecute those who incite religious (and racial) hatred. Why despite the fact that every international scholar of Islam (including many local ones) declaring that there is nothing in the Quran that forbids non-Muslims from using the Arabic word ‘Allah’, the government still panders to the extremists who demand their narrow views be enforced.

This explains why the bureaucrats in local governments have for years done everything within their power to impede the building of places of worship of non-Muslims. The Shah Alam Catholic Church took nearly 30 years to build due to government harassment. This is why we have so many shophouse churches today, because permission to build was almost impossible to obtain.

And now the legality of such churches is questioned under the “building use” by-law. There are no provisions for burial land for non-Muslims in many town plans and applications for burial land are met with bureaucratic foot-dragging.

Radical Islam has frightened the non-Muslims so much that many have tried to second-guess what is required of them to the extent that they comply even before they are ordered. Many mission schools have removed symbols of their religion so as not to offend the ‘sensitivities’ of the Muslims. Yet over the years, thousands of Muslim students (including the current prime minister who is an alumnus of St John’s Institution) have passed through these schools without being offended . . or converted.

But sensitivity should apply to both sides; today doa is said at school assemblies without regard for the sensitivities of the non-Muslims. And students must take Islamic Civilization as a foundation subject in universities. While school canteens must be halal, serving beef is acceptable despite the presence of Hindu students.

Putting up a stand is not about being against Islam per se, it’s about standing up to religious bullies; it’s about fair play, tolerance and a ‘live and let live’ philosophy as practised by the Tunku and his government.

That was a time when a tolerant and benign Islam was practised. Non-Muslims did not feel discriminated against and moderate Muslims did not feel pressured to conform or threatened. There was more inter-racial mixing and the nation was more cohesive.

It’s also about not letting fundamentalist Muslims dictate the agenda for our country. If liberal, tolerant Muslims think it won’t affect them, they should think again because hudud impinges on every aspect of their lives too.

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