WHATEVER your intention may have been, the effect of your Voices of Moderation Campaign, energised by the open letter of the 25 “eminent moderate Malays”, has been to cast the Malay-Muslim community in a bad light as condoning extremism and intolerance.
In a three-page interview conducted by Sunday Star
journalist Hariati Azizan, Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, one of the 25 “eminent moderate Malays”, stated that young Malaysians were welcoming their open letter “because they didn’t know if there were any moderate Malays left in the country.” She further stated that “what we wanted to show was that there are moderate rational-thinking Muslims in this country.”
What a dismal picture she paints of the Malay-Muslim community, morally paralysed and not responding to alleged extremism and intolerance until the emergence of the 25 “eminent moderate Malays”.
Malay-Muslims are among the most tolerant and accommodating people in the world with a culture of acceptance of diversity rooted in Islam. There is no need to preach moderation and tolerance to them. After independence, they were prepared to share power with the other communities and give citizenship to over a million immigrants leading to the erosion of their political power.
Chinese, Indians and others were allowed to engage in trade and business, practise their religion and culture to a degree where they became economically dominant.
Compare this with what happened to the Indians in Burma after independence. Three hundred thousand Burmese Indians who had been living in the country for generations were driven out and their businesses and assets expropriated. In Thailand and Indonesia immigrant minorities have been forced to assimilate.
Your campaign, regrettably, has grossly exaggerated the problem of extremism and intolerance in Malaysia.
Datuk Farida’s statement that “we want to rescue the country from the abyss that it is running headlong into before it is too late” is highly alarmist and unsupported by evidence.
The foreign media, influenced by certain local human rights and religious groups, project Malaysia as an intolerant country, suppressing the religious and cultural rights of the minorities. This is patently false.
Just look at the number of temples, churches and shrines here. Almost every month there are Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Taoist religious celebrations. The Government allows and supports Chinese and Tamil medium schools in response to the demands of these communities to use their languages as medium of instruction and learning.
Missionary schools of the colonial period are still there with no change of names and supported by the Government. Malaysia is so tolerant and liberal that certain evangelical churches affiliated to Islamophobic evangelical churches in the United States are allowed to function freely.
Compare this with what is happening in other parts of the world. In Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims are being ethnically cleansed and over 100,000 are living in refugee camps. Mobs led by Buddhist monks have been attacking and killing Muslims and setting fire to their businesses in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In India, Hindu extremists from RSS and VHP are conducting pogroms against Muslims, Christians, and other minorities.
Recently, they induced Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism by promising material benefits. In Sweden, extremists torched mosques and, in Germany, there have been anti-Muslim demonstrations. In the United States there is racial profiling of Muslims, public burning of the Quran, and closing down of Muslim charities. Thank God we are living in Malaysia.
Your CEO Wong Chun Wai wrote in the Sunday Star
, under the heading “Moderates unite”, that a small group of individuals and organisations, with no credible record, have been emboldened to make endless racist and seditious statements, apparently with the approval of the authorities.
He did not identify the organisations or individuals involved, perhaps to avoid another lawsuit, but Datuk Farida did, naming Isma and Perkasa.
He wrote that the biggest challenge for the moderates is “their ability and willingness to point out, even criticise, the flaws of their own communities and religion.” What are the flaws in the Malay-Muslim community and Islam? Please clarify.
If organisations and individuals are making racist and seditious statements, then, go after them and prosecute, regardless of their ethnic or religious background.
If the authorities are conniving, as suggested by Wong, then, move for an order of mandamus
against them in the High Court. There are legal avenues available in our country to deal with those who preach racism and extremism.
You cannot hold a community responsible for the irresponsible actions of individuals and organisations. You cannot talk of national unity and, at the same time, create ethnic compartments to deal with extremism.
Your labeling of the Muslims who support your campaign as moderates, implying that the others are extremists, must be seen in the global context of the Imperialist-Zionist strategy of sowing division in the Muslim community by labeling them as “moderate”, “extremist”, “fundamentalist”, “terrorist”.
Hamas which is resisting Israeli occupation is considered terrorist while the Palestinian Authority which has abandoned resistance and acting as policeman for Israel in the West Bank is considered moderate. Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive cars, is considered moderate while Iran which supports the Palestinian Resistance is maligned as extremist and supporter of terrorism.