“Gerakan Bangsa Nasional (GBN) will push for the recognition of Islam as the official religion of Malaysia and the legislation of new law that criminalises Islamophobia”
Raggie Jessy Rithaudeen
There is an urgent need for all Muslim organisations, NGOs, political parties and activists in Malaysia to come forward and demand that Islamophobia be made a crime punishable by terms of imprisonment. This comes in the wake of a slew of insults by non-Muslims towards the Prophet Muhammad, Islam and people professing the Islamic faith. A similar call was made by the newly appointed Turkish ambassador of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on the 11thof January 2019.
On that day, Mehmet Pacaci told the Anadolu Agency – an international news outfit headquartered in Ankara, Turkey – that the Western world needed to accept Islamophobia as a crime. I’d give ten thousand bucks for Mehmet to fly over here and say the exact same thing to father-and-son tag team Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng. Serving as DAP Secretary-General and Minister of Finance in the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad government, Guan Eng recently entered in his Facebook that the formalisation of ties between UMNO and PAS was a “declaration of war” on the non-Malays.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is Islamophobia at its best. It is highly likely that the junior Lim inherited the trait from his father, who, back in the eighties, gave speeches that kept the Chinese on “red alert” whenever it concerned Islam. It is an open secret that the majority of Chinese are steadfast with their support for the DAP. Since Guan Eng’s rants almost always target Muslim-based parties that aren’t DAP-friendly, not only do they instil fear in the Chinese against Islam, they serve to polarise the Malays into two distinct groups – one that believes the DAP is Islamophobic, and the other, that the DAP is victim to the first group.
So what exactly is Islamophobia?
Well, it really depends on who you’re asking, though the general consensus seems derived from a definition put forth by the “Islamophobia Observatory” at the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). According to this version, the term refers to “an irrational, powerful fear or dislike of Islam,” with manifestations being extreme prejudice, stereotyping, hostility, discrimination, denigration of sacred Islamic symbols and the non-recognition of Islam and Muslims by the law of the land. Not all these traits apply to every single nation the world over, though. In Malaysia, Islam is recognised as the religion of the Federation, though that can mean just about anything to legal practitioners depending on who’s doing the interpretation.
The only way out of the conundrum is for Islam to be accorded official status. That would present the Government of Malaysia (GoM) a compelling reason to push for the legislation of “anti-Islamophobic laws.” If I might suggest, the laws should impose very heavy penalties upon those who “incite irrational fear or prejudice towards Muslims, the religion of Islam and its history” and to all those who “impress upon the general public that Islam is a problem for Malaysia.” The non-Muslims need not fear as the Federal Constitution of Malaysia is adequate with safeguards that guarantee their right to freedom of religion and excludes them from Islamic jurisdiction.
Most people think that the cause of Islamophobia in the West is terrorism carried out by Muslims. I thought this as well, until I looked at the evidence. I found that anti-Muslim sentiment actually went down in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and did not change after the Boston bombing, or even after San Bernardino or Orlando. Instead, Islamophobia spiked in the run up to the Iraq war and during the 2008 and 2012 election season, especially among Republicans. See: Islamophobia is Made Up.
So Islamophobia is not the organic result of bad Muslims doing bad things. It is also a tool of public manipulation to manufacture consent for disastrous wars and for votes. The current election is just the next and most extreme iteration of this phenomena.
Malaysia is multiracial. But it is also Muslim majority. Any attempt by the DAP to polarise the Malay-Muslims and alienate them from the Chinese isn’t only wrong, it’s suicide. Islam is communal in approach and demands that the ummah comes together to defend the religion when seen under threat. All it takes is for the right person to come along and put things into proper perspective for there to be an uprising of untold proportions. As it is, Dato’ Seri Haji Abdul Hadi Awang and Dato’ Seri Mohamad Hasan have already taken a pivotal step towards the unification of Muslims and sent chills down Guan Eng’s spine.
It is high time we had laws that could earn people like him and his father some serious jail time for “inciting irrational fear or prejudice towards Muslims.” For that to happen, we need to put an end to this “Islam is the religion of the Federation” thing as the definition is largely ceremonial and somewhat symbolic. As long as we do not accord the religion official status, the Malaysian narrative will always be dense with religious bigotry. The time has come for us to put a lid on that bigotry by coming to terms with reality. And reality is, Muslims will account for almost 75 per cent of the voting population come the 16thgeneral election.
Keep denying this, and things will just get from bad to worse, with a possible spill over of the bigotry all over the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Should that happen, there is this quaint voice in my head that keeps telling me who the Muslims would go hunt first…