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Was Islamic state remark a slip of the tongue
Published on: Sunday, October 22, 2017

By Datuk Dr Johan Arriffin
The declaration by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government is not shirking its responsibility to make Malaysia an Islamic state has spooked BN component parties, especially MCA.

Asyraf added that the government was providing the financial resources to empower Islam, and that this year alone, RM987 million was provided to the Education Ministry for Islamic education, and RM559 million to the Islamic Development Department (Jakim). An Islamic state is a type of government primarily based on the application of sharia law for the dispensation of justice, and the maintenance of law and order.

Jakim is a department under the PM’s office that employed the infamous Zamihan who was arrested for disparaging the Sultan of Johore and Malaysian Chinese.

The statement by Asyraf caught MCA flat-footed. First MCA publicity spokesperson Ti Lian Ker blamed Tun Dr Mahathir who is no longer with the government, then claimed that the Asyraf statement as political posturing to entice the Malay voters, and then threw their support behind the Sultan of Johore.

BN component parties and opposition rubbished Asyraf’s controversial statement.

Upko a BN component party in Sabah was quick to point out that Malaysia is a secular state and that BN has never put forward the stand that Malaysia would be an Islamic state in its election manifesto.

Upko also said Malaysia was founded as a secular state and Asyraf’s statement is an utter disregard of the spirit of the founding of this country as stated in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the Inter-Governmental Committee report. While MCA and other BN component parties were trying hard to distance themselves from the uproar caused by the Asyraf’s statement, the BN leadership has chosen to remain silent.

Asyraf’s statement was very clever as he brought the BN into the play of Islamic state.

What we already know from press reports, Umno has given its president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak the mandate to negotiate a pact with its long-term nemesis, the hard-line opposition PAS. According to Umno Information Chief Annuar Musa, although the ideology and ways of Umno and PAS are different, the parties have the same DNA and goal, which is to champion Islam and the Malays. If they are having the same DNA, it is more than likely Umno will succumb to PAS pressure to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State and introduce Hudud Laws.

According to Bloomberg, the move is simple maths for Najib: More than 60 per cent of Malaysians are Muslim, and 50 per cent are ethnic Malays, many of them in rural areas. He needs their votes for Umno to extend its 60 years in power, and closer ties with PAS may help.

It was reported on October 18 that a senior member of the PAS-led Kelantan government hopes the Dewan Rakyat Speaker will allow debate on a Bill seeking to impose stricter Sharia penalties at the upcoming parliamentary sitting. Mohamed Fadzli Hassan said non-Muslims should respect Muslim rights by not objecting to the proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1965 (Act 355) by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang. He also said non-Muslims should respect the rights of Muslims to comprehensively practise the teaching of their religion.

I find Fadzli’s speech confusing as most of PAS leaders’ speeches. First, there is no evidence to show that non-Muslims has shown any disrespect to Muslims to comprehensively practise the teaching’s of Islam.

You can imagine what will happen if they did.

The teaching of Islam and imposing new Sharia laws is totally a different matter.

PAS should not pull wool over people’s eyes.

Secondly, if there are any objections to RUU355, it has come from Malaysians from all walks of life, including moderate Muslims who fear that PAS is going to turn Malaysia into a Taliban state and destroy the advancement we have made as multi-racial multi-religious society over the last 54 years. RUU355 will wreck the economy as anything Islamic in today’s environment is associated with hard-line Islamist and ISIS.

In the recent killing of 59 people in Las Vegas, the first things the authorities did was to find a link to Islamic terrorism.

In an interview in March, Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali acknowledged that non-Muslims are against Islamic criminal law amendments as they perceive them as another step towards the Islamisation of Malaysia.

He recognised that the situation is different in East Malaysia and said, “So maybe, just maybe, we may exclude Sabah (and Sarawak), to make it different, and even reduce the sentences”.

The big “maybe” is not comforting to East Malaysians who want Malaysia to remain a secular state.

The RUU355 fight is not over yet and the statement by Asyraf adds to the fear that Umno will support the passing of RUU355 to please PAS to win the next election. Former Umno member of Parliament Mohamed Tawfik Ismail had filed a suit in March seeking to declare PAS Private Member’s Bill as unconstitutional as it flouts Parliament procedures. Tawfik said the Dewan Rakyat’s decision to allow a motion to table the Bill by PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang is in contempt of the Rulers’ Conference as prior consent was not obtained.

Tawfik is seeking 10 declarations and orders that would effectively stop the tabling of the Bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act.

PAS is a political party and loves playing to the gallery. They try to entice public sympathy using religion.

Do not be fooled by their Islamic cloth as they are mere politicians. Political posturing and loud rhetoric are the hallmarks of PAS.

With the Sultan of Johor and Sultan of Selangor exerting their powers over religious matters in the past few weeks, it may be wise for PAS as a political party to from now on consult the rulers before making any further statements related to religion.

Religion and Islamic state should not be a used as a distraction from the underlying issues facing the nation.

Umno has always been a formidable force in general elections but this time it’s different.

Rural Malays have become disenchanted with the ruling party on issues like 1MDB, corruption in government ministries, and the Felda fiasco while they have to contend with the high cost of living since the introduction of GST.

Despite all the political posturing “it’s the economy, stupid” borrowing James Carville’s phrase which he coined as Bill Clinton’s strategist during the successful 1992 presidential campaign. The lower income groups are struggling to make ends meet while they see elitist squander billions meant for development in their respective areas.

Despite, all the economic positives touted buy our Ministers, the wealth of the nation has not trickled down to the ordinary person on the street.

Recently, MACC announced that are also considering some 60 companies suspected of mishandling an estimated RM1.5 billion out of the RM7.5 billion allocated for projects meant to benefit rural folks, between 2010 and 2015.

After the 2016 Sabah Water Works corruption cases which MACC labelled as one of the biggest corruption case they have ever handled in the agency’s history, another one crops up. Some say its victimisation of an opponent party. That may be the case, but can anyone honestly defend corruption?

PAS would do the country a favour by speaking up on god’s anger on those who commit corruption rather than pursue RUU355. Whatever laws PAS introduce, it will never be effective unless the vested authorities act without fear or favour.

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