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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Islam Über Alles...

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... and screw the rest of the nation.

Walski will cut to the chase:

  1. He's been on the road this past week, and as such, hasn't had the opportunity to keep abreast (properly) of what's been going on... BUT
  2. Not too out of the loop to have missed something which raises some grave concerns...

Big, big hat-tip to Marina M., incidentally, for alerting Walski to this while he was on the road...

This, of course, refers to the demands by the coalition of Muslim NGOs under the umberalla group called PEMBELOT PEMBELA, made earlier this week. The Bahasa Malaysia version of the full document (in PDF) can be downloaded here, while you can view the English summary from PEMBELA's website.

The phrase that crossed Walski's mind when he read the document:

Our way, or get the fuck out of our way...

Don't get Walski wrong - some of the things that they have demanded, like good and clean governance, and more democratic space (albeit for their own selves), are UNIVERSAL demands that ALL Malaysians aspire.

And herein lies part of the problem Walski has with their demands - why is it that all good universal values must have the Islam label put to it to be relevant?
(societal suicide in the name of God, and more, in the full post)

Walski is not the only one who feels this way. His favorite young intellectual, Dr. Farish A. Noor, excellently articulated why this trend of religion-based sectarianism it putting Malaysia on a path towards a lousy tomorrow, in a recent article. In it, he makes three important observations, based on both the PEMBELA, and the earlier Hindraf, demands (emphasis by myAsylum).

Firstly, it would indicate that there is the emergence of an increasingly vocal, visible and powerful parallel civil society that operates along the basis of particularist religio-communitarian demands and which advocates the concerns of their specific targeted constituencies only.

With the rise of religious-based consumer groups, workers groups, professional groups, etc. it would seem that the space of secular civil society seems to be shrinking on all fronts. Issues such as workers rights, gender equality, environmentalism et al. that were once neutral issues in a secular public domain have now been “claimed” by exclusive religious groups instead; and we may eventually end up with the rather absurd situation where instead of having a universal (and secular) lobby on environmental concerns, we are left with Muslim-based, Christian-based, Hindu-based and Buddhist-based sectarian environmental groups instead.

The second observation is that Malaysian society itself seems to be splitting apart, thanks to these centrifugal forces let loose by five decades of divisive sectarian politics that was initially race-based and now increasingly religion-based. If this trend continues, and Malaysian Muslims think they can only find security among fellow Muslims, and the same trend takes hold in the other communities (made evident in Hindraf’s call for Hindu solidarity), then what will happen to the very idea and ideal of a universal Malaysian citizenship that equalizes all of us?

The third observation is that the Malaysian government – which should have dedicated its time and energy to uniting these communities and forging a common public space and common universal identity based on universal citizenship – has singularly failed in this task; and has instead perpetuated the logic of racial, ethic and now religious compartmentalism by catering to the exclusive demands of the sectarians instead.

The erroneous logic of racial divisions that underlies the Barisan Nasional (BN) formula has now come full circle, and the rise of religious communitarian politics in Malaysia is the nett result.

(source: The Other Malaysia)

And this is where the danger lies. That if these demands are adopted by the next government, some of which are universal in nature, but exclusively claimed as Islamic, that we're threading a path towards certain danger of tearing the whole nation apart.

Islam Über Alles... and screw the other Malaysians whose rights don't mean squat.

The following is a heading summary of PEMBELOT's PEMBELA's demands, and what Walski's thoughts are on them. You can go look at the original expanded list for yourself, if you like.

1. Special Constitutional Position of Islam
It's funny how these people want to uphold only portions of the constitution only when it's convenient to them. All because they have come to believe that "secular" means anti-God and anti-religion. In effect, their assertions, if taken up by any politician and championed, would mean further erosion of minority religious rights. Walski, for one, agrees with Farish Noor that in a country of such diversity in culture and religion, such as Malaysia, only a secular democratic model would provide fairness to all Malaysians. Unless, of course, PEMBELA's underlying aim is to create a religious apartheid where Muslims (and only of a particular majoritist viewpoint at that) have more rights than others. This is majoritarianism at it's worst. The last bullet under this heading, "Prosecute those who cause religious disharmony, especially by making offensive remarks against Islam, under Section 298A of the Penal Code", means that dissent and criticism is not to be tolerated. So much for democracy. Or is democratic space only relevant to space PEMBELA wants for itself, and not for all Malaysians?

2. Islamic Education and Da’wah
A few things become very apparent to Walski when he read all the bullet item demands under this heading. The first - the re-introduction of "the teaching of Mathematics and Science in Malay at national schools" - indicates just how insecure these people are when dealing with the realities of globalization. This is simply a bunch of people in denial, who want to remain in the bliss of denial, at the expense of everybody else. While the rest of the world is clamouring to open up their minds, PEMBELA seems more keen to close shut the Malay-Muslim mind. Yes, mastering another language is difficult, and in the short term may cause the Malay students some difficulty (particularly those who have been brought up to think that they are somehow God's gift to Malaysia) - but nobody owes you people a living, and to get ahead in this life requires WORK. Come to grips with that reality, people.

The second thing that becomes apparent is that PEMBELA would rather discrimination be retained, when it comes to Government scholarship awards. For them, it would seem, the current system of discrimination along ethnic lines is wrong (which Walski agrees with), but the proposed discrimination along religious lines is A-OK. See the 7th bullet, which reads: "Extend the provision of government scholarships, which are currently enjoyed by Malay students, to non-Malay Muslim students". Another way of saying, if you ain't Muslim, you ain't worth a rat's ass of our concern. Well... so much for those important Islamic attributes of justice and equality... Which is why a secular basis of reward, whereby ability is rewarded, and assistance is given based on real need, and not on what ethnicity or religion one happens to be, is actually more Islamic, believe it or not. NOT in the way that PEMBELA insists it should be.

Furthermore, what benefit to the advancement of mankind does having more religious studies bring? Seriously... what benefit? So that one can differentiate between an Islamic car and an infidel one? And why the need to have the prefix of Islam before everything that is universal... like technology or management sciences? Why? Exclusivist fascism, that's why.

Finally, the notion that only the majority Muslims' sensitivities matter. If the majority Muslims (so-called) don't like it, nobody else should either. This is another symptom of the wolfish disease called majoritarianism... thinly veiled under democratic sheepskin. Almost sounds like UMNO wrote this list of demands, truth be told... In any case, what they're really asking for is censorship of anything in the media that goes against their perceived sensitivities... and as more and more things get added to their list of frail sensitivities, ad hoc, as and when they say... well, you get the picture. Or rather, there won't be any picture left to get.

3. Good Governance
Apart from the ludicrousness of the last bullet under this heading, Walski has no problem with this demand. In fact, good, clean governance is something that ALL Malaysians aspire for. Putting an Islamic label in front of good governance doesn't make it any gooder.

Interestingly enough, the third bullet item in the English version does not correctly reflect what PEMBELA's demands actually state:

"Meningkatkan penghayatan nilai-nilai Islam di kalangan kakitangan awam dengan memperbanyakkan program-program penghayatan Islam di jabatan-jabatan kerajaan."

Walski's translation (with the bold section indicating what was left out): Foster the internalization of Islamic values among civil servants through the increase of Islamic appreciation programs in government departments.

And when are the programs going to be conducted? Why, during work hours, of course, when else?

Just like calling for more time dedicated to Islamic studies in schools, this in essence means that there will be less time available for civil servants to do their work well - which is what Walski thought civil servants were paid for in the first place - to provide the best level service to all Malaysians as possible. Unless, of course, these people prefer that our tax dollars go to pay for civil savants instead. Or is aversion to work, in the name of God, what PEMBELA is preaching here?

The last bullet item - "Appoint senators among the leaders Islamic NGOs to oversee the implementation of Islamic policies and promote the welfare of Muslims" is once again PEMBELA showing their fascist exclusivism coming to the surface, and really needs no futher elaboration. Walski always thought that good governance meant that policies put in place are for the benefit of ALL Malaysians... not just a select group. Gee... how wrong he's been all this time.

4. Civil Society and Democracy
Yes, absolutely - but looking at the demands in toto, is PEMBELA demanding this for ALL Malaysians, or just for them? Read on, and perhaps you'll understand why Walski is asking this question.

5. Inter-Ethnic and Inter-Religious Relations
They want to improve inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations... well and good. And how do they want to achieve this? Why, by ensuring that no other religions are treated as equals, and to restrict the rights of other religions, of course. What other better way to improve relations than to ensure that everyone else is suppressed? Instant better relations out of the box... just add tyranny.

And as if to really drive home heading point #5 above... with a sledgehammer...

6. Islamic Faith and Morals
Ensure that it's Islam Über Alles... simply put. Reject religious pluralism, and ensure that all other religions toe PEMBELA's thin line of fascism. This is not Islam - this is a call to tyranny. Plain and simple...

Well, you know... here are some demands Walski thinks PEMBELA forgot to include, which for all practical purposes they should have, looking at their demand document in toto:

  • Change the country's name from Malaysia, to Melayunistan

  • Impose religious criteria as a basis for citizenship - only Muslims need apply (subject to further scrutiny ensuring that only the state-approved rigid interpretation of Islam is allowed)

  • Change history - since statements by our previous national leaders clearly state the intent of Malaysia to be a secular democracy - this unnecessary history only becomes problematic, and it's better to believe that those political leaders never said such things.

  • You don't like our demands, you can GET OUT! GET OUT!

Interestingly enough, the concept of the separation of state and religion, or secularism, actually has it's roots in a rationalist Muslim scholar, Ibn Rushd - better known in Europe as Averroes - who lived in Muslim Spain in the 12th century - a time when Islamic civilization was at its zenith. It was a time when knowledge was sought for its own sake, regardless of what knowledge. It was a time when ulama simply meant those who are knowledgeable (as it should be), and not the meaning the word generally has today.

If it is greatness that Muslims want, then it is the greatness that this particular era in time heralded that should be the goal. It is not the greatness that the current pursuit, based on some kind of flawed Khali-fatalism, that is going to bring greatness to Muslims and to the world at large. It was a time when Muslim philosophy and the pursuit of knowledge was not shackled by the dogma introduced by the clerics later on, which has eventually led Muslims to the sorry state they're in.

The so-called Muslim mainstream majority go on and on about how great Islam is, based on achievements brought about in the 12th century (thereabouts)... But it was an era of liberal thought and unshackled minds... and not the dogmatic downward spiral that people like PEMBELA seek for this country, embracing the very conservatism that eventually brought down the civilizational excellence that was Islam. And it is that very liberalism that they fight tooth and nail against.

Irony can be so... well, ironic.

And PEMBELA and their supporters can label Walski all they want. Walski doesn't buy their cheap labels... liberal, heretic, secularist... labels that are based on a flawed belief of what those labels represent. Walski ends this post with another paragraph from Farish Noor's piece. And Walski couldn't have described by Walski does what Walski does in this blog any better.

But we end with this one simple warning: The challenge that stands before any government of a society as plural as ours is to develop a national politics that is inclusive and accommodating to all, giving every citizen a space and a place in the national narrative and national identity. The safeguard that ensures that such a politics of universal representation can take place is a secular democratic system where the state remains the honest neutral broker between all communities, and does not favour one community over others.

Any attack on the very idea of secularism is therefore an attack on the value of universal equality itself, and those who condemn secularism as being “un-Godly” or corrupt are really the ones who wish to destroy the secular basis of a free and equal society where every citizen is accorded the respect that she or he is due. When the attacks against secularism come from the representatives of the majority ethnic-religious community (such as was the case with the rise of Hindutva supremacists in India, and Muslims communitarians here in Malaysia), what we face is nothing short of the rise of the tyranny of the majority.

For all its weaknesses, secularism remains the only safeguard we have to keep our country on a democratic track. And for that reason, the democrats among us must be prepared to defend our secular democratic and plural public domain at all costs, come what may.

(source: The Other Malaysia)

And because of this, Walski rejects these demands that PEMBELOT (for that is what they really are) have put forth. So, too, should any politician who is intelligent enough to see that short-term political mileage is only going to bring us closer to long term ruin. What they should be embracing, instead, should be something more like The People's Declaration, that was launched yesterday, together with The Barisan Rakyat. The People's Declaration is inclusive, and provides real aspirations that all Malaysians can embrace. And not petty religio-sectarian demands that will drive this nation into the ground.

Well PEMBELOT can demand all they want. It is their democratic right. Walski hopes that Malaysians see their demands for what they really are - a call to turn this country into a religious Apartheid. Islam Über Alles... and screw everyone in the process.