(Source: openclipart.org) WHAT possessed them? That’s the question I’d like to ask the protesters who desecrated a cow head on 28 Aug 2009 after Friday prayers to object the building of a Hindu temple in Section 23, Shah Alam.
We know that it’s not Islam that teaches intolerance of and disrespect toward other religious beliefs, nor is it Islam that preaches violence or force if Muslims don’t get their way. We also know that it is really not Malaysian or Malay custom at all to be so obnoxious, threatening and crude. For all my life as a Malaysian, I have known Malay customs to be gentle, sophisticated and inclusive. This is most likely because the “Malay” race was actually historically constructed; its customs weaved from a convergence of different continents and cultures.
So, if neither Islam nor Malay custom drove the 50 protesters to publicly despoil a sacred Hindu creature and to threaten bloodshed because of a Hindu temple, what was it?
Possessed by superiority
My hunch is that these protesters were emboldened by a culture of Malay Muslim superiority that has been carefully cultivated and strategically stoked by the Umno-led government, Malay Muslim politicians from Umno, PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), and by the judiciary both civil and syariah.
We only need to consider the following events where non-Muslim, non-Malay Malaysian rights are deferred, even trampled on, by a system that upholds Malay-Muslim rights and sensitivities as ultimate and unquestionable.
(Pic by Bill Davenport / sxc.hu) Despite several police reports that have been lodged by Catholics against Al Islam for an undercover report that desecrated the holy communion, no action has reportedly been taken against either the publisher or the editorial team.
Despite the incendiary reports and headlines in Utusan Malaysia that promote ketuanan Melayu at the expense of the constitutional rights of other citizens, no action has been taken against the Malay-language daily by the Home Ministry. Consider how other media have received warnings and threats, and have even been suspended or shut down before for much vaguer offences.
Additionally, let’s not forget that in 2006, it was the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, under the leadership of then Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who banned any discussion of Article 11 and the proposed Interfaith Commission. Abdullah also threatened to use the Sedition Act if Malaysians attempted to discuss their constitutional rights in the light of issues arising from a clash between civil and syariah laws because some Muslim groups charged that these initiatives were attempts to undermine Islam.
According to Selangor PAS, beer must not be sold in Muslim-majority areas regardless of non-Muslims, who may want to consume alcohol and are not prohibited from doing so.
Because this is the holy month of Ramadan, PAS Youth wants the Michael Learns to Rock concert banned. They have described it as a huge insult to Islam especially since Muslims, presumably, should not be having any fun during the fasting month. The Umno-led BN government, surprise, surprise, has also chided the concert organisers for being disrespectful towards Muslims and Ramadan.
But since when was Ramadan meant to be a kill-joy for Muslims and non-Muslims? I don’t recall Catholics in Malaysia insisting that non-Catholics should also fast and sacrifice during Lent. Or Hindus suggesting that everyone else should also be a vegetarian on a Hindu holy day.
(Pic by Theodore99 / sxc.hu)
Mind you, this attempt to ban a band because of preferences, defined by some Muslims for all others, is no different from when the animated movie Babe, which starred a pig as the lead character, was banned several years ago.
Consider also how “Allah” cannot be used by non-Muslims in their worship in Malaysia, out of deference for perceived Muslim insecurity and the notion that the word “Allah” only belongs to Muslims. Let’s remember that it is the government of Malaysia that is upholding the ban on the use of “Allah” even though historically and culturally, the word cannot be copyrighted by Muslims, and was used even before Islam.
Notice also how the proscription of pork in students’ school lunch boxes and increasing regulation for pet dog ownership presupposes that Muslim sensitivities are all-important regardless of the way of life of other Malaysians.
And it’s not just food and pets, its dress codes, too. Remember how in 2005, several ministers defended the dress code imposed by the International Islamic University on non-Muslim female students? No matter that even among Muslim scholars, there is no consensus about the requirement for Muslim women to wear the tudung.
In the conversion cases involving, among others, Shamala Sathiyaseelan, M Moorthy, R Subashini and more recently, M Indira Gandhi and Mohan Singh, one outcome keeps recurring: not even the civil courts will uphold the rights of non-Muslims.
I’ll also wager that the Shah Alam protestors were bold enough to do what they did so publicly, showing no fear of being caught or penalised by the police, because they knew that they would not be arrested. After all, in the past, police have demonstrated an uncanny ability to restrain themselves from taking action whenever a Muslim mob attacked a Malaysian forum that tried to address the issues of political Islam and how they affect our nation.
We shouldn’t be surprised at all that the Selangor police stood by and did nothing on 28 Aug while the protesters promised bloodshed and clearly threatened the peace. After all, the police also took minimal action against the mob that disrupted the peaceful Article 11 forum in Penang in 2006, and against another mob, led by PKR’s Zulkifli Noordin, that disrupted the August 2008 Bar Council forum on conversion in Malaysia.
Hishammuddin (Pic courtesy of theSun)And what has the current administration led by Datuk Seri Najib Razak demonstrated to reinforce this culture of inaction in the face of threats and attacks against civil liberties and the legitimate rights of non-Malay and non-Muslim Malaysians? It excuses these threats of violence. Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein not only found time to meet the cow-head protesters at his office, he also found ways to justify their actions by making them out to be the ones who were “victimised”.
We all know that if any group protested against the building of a mosque by using a severed and bloodied pig head, the group would not have stood a chance with the authorities. And they definitely would not have been so easily welcomed, and then defended, by the home minister in his office. And that’s why, even when protests that are designed to insult Islam happens, the perpetrators of such hate antics do so without revealing themselves.
So, what possessed the residents of Section 23, Shah Alam to do what they did so boldly and publicly? I’ll be happy to wager that it’s because they believed they would get away with it. Even if they eventually don’t because of public outrage, including among Muslims, and the embarrassing international headlines, these protesters probably started off by believing that their method of protest would not result in any repercussions on them. Indeed, Hishammuddin‘s defence of them may just be an indicator of how, even if they are taken to task for instigating violence, they will be let off lightly.
And so, do you blame the protesters for thinking they would get away with threats of violence? I don’t. The evidence, after all, that they would likely escape action because they belong to a Malay Muslim majority, is just too overwhelming. Denying that a particular political culture has been put in place in order to favour such bigoted, violent and intolerant behaviour would be to deny that the 28 Aug demonstration ever occurred.
Jacqueline Ann Surin had to shout to be heard over a Merdeka dinner at a friend’s home in Section 6, PJ because the terawih prayers from the nearby mosque was being blared for more than an hour before she left. She wonders if for some Muslims, piety is best demonstrated by being a nuisance to one’s neighbours.
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Half Truth says
Day by day, Malaysia is going backward. Looks like Malaysia is heading backwards to the “Stone Age” (like the cartoon series “Flinstone era”). Back to be a cave man [or woman] […]. Shame on our Malaysian leaders/politicians [who are leading] Malaysia backward.
There are many changes and issues [that have arisen] recently e.g. the beer issue (in Selangor), the ban on band performance, [dipping] public confidence [in] law and order enforcement, [loss of] credibility of goverment [agencies], etc. The sum of all these activities fit perfectly [to demonstrate Malaysia’s] backward progress.
[…] 50 years [after] Merdeka, across Malaysia, temples, churches, masjid were built side by side without any problem raised by the rakyat. Some are so close [that they are merely a wall away from each other] and no problem [was] raised. Why now? Does this fit or match the Stone Age thinking?
No words to describe some Malaysia’s political leaders or Malaysians who supported this type of mentality and are proud of the cow head issue i.e. giving the excuse of their frustration. Or as a leader, we should advise/educate the rakyat that it is wrong to do the protest. Leaders should change their wrong views/thinking to words of wisdom or right thinking.
[This is a] wake up call to Malaysian politicians/leaders [to move] from […] childish thinking and mentality or wrong view to be a leader full of wisdom.
You asked a very good question, which has been troubling me for a while, too. What [was] the motivation of these thugs? Mind you, I don’t think they are genuinely residents of Section 23 or representative of the residents. I believe it is all very simple: money and, after the unexpected fall of the Selangor government, the desperate survival reaction, for those who have lived on corruption previously and now face the potential of reprisal.
For the silent majority of good Muslims, it is time to stand up to be counted, not to let the religion be exploited by these few sinful hypocrites.
I congratulate you for your courage in calling a spade a spade…….. well said…….in fact, this [is] what many Malaysians (MALAYSIANS OF ALL RACES) feel about what is happening in this country but are not in a position to voice it out.
As a Hindu, I am not angry but disappointed with what this small group of people (but let us not forget there is a substantially big group of followers behind them … including our Kerismuddin) did and the message they sent out to the masses.
My religion teaches me to accept the opinions of others because it is their fundamental right. But it makes me sad that this group has managed to put the great Islamic religion in such a bad light. When I [and my partner], a Hindu and a Buddist couple, can find solace in the Islamic call for prayers from a mosque beside the hospital we were in, when we were with a Christian friend who was critically ill, it baffles me to see things like this happening …… where has the government gone wrong in educating this people or has it, like you said, actually succeeded in creating a culture of Malay [Malaysian]/Muslim superiority. Let us mere humans learn to realise that GOD created all man [and women] and all religions and there is diversity in race, creed, colour and religion because THE ALMIGHTY willed it to be………
Ahmed Zain says
Umno is the breeding ground for this group of protesters with the mentality of superiority, ignorance and arrogance.
Farish A Noor says
Your point that it is not Islam that teaches hate or intolerance of other religions is valid and needs to be emphasised time and again. What we need to do is to distinguish between the normative religious praxis of Muslims and the faith they profess, and to point out the contradictions when they arise. This incident demonstrates just how any religion, at the hands of bigots, can be twisted to serve the ends of sectarianism and communitarianism that is narrow and dangerous. The fact that the politicians of the country do not even see this distinction is perhaps one of the reasons why their condemnation of the act in Shah Alam has been so lame and muted.
2nd class says
Good analysis, not just [putting the] blame squarely on Umno just because [of] hatred against Umno.
Spot on, Jacqueline.
You cannot judge a community by the actions of a few […]. In my opinion, religion should be more of a personal thing. By exploiting religion in public, it merely becomes a political football.
Arion Yeow says
Sorry, I’m nitpicking a line from your article:
“So, what possessed the residents of Section 23, Shah Alam to do what they did so boldly and publicly?”
I think the term “residents of Section 23” cannot be applied to the group of 50 involved in the cow-head incident. PAS media personnel has identified some of them including their so-called chair[person] as Umno members from Shah Alam and other locations. It is estimated only a handful were actual residents.
Until the facts are clear, I’d like to give the collective residents of Section 23 a chance to distance themselves from the incident.
Good point, but so far the collective residents of Section 23 haven’t, ya?
Patricia Ting says
I salute you for your courage. I am a Catholic and am very much saddened by the acts against our holy eucharist… I pray that God will forgive those responsible. I am also saddened for my Hindu friends who have been so terribly insulted. You cannot be more right, ultimately it is the policiticians who are responsible!
Did you hear what Mukhriz has said about the consequences if action is taken on those involved?
Nope, haven’t heard. Share with us and include the source?
Ah Chong says
Yes, they did it because they knew they could get away with it AND be defended by the very authority which was supposed to act against them. From the police to the minister in charge of the police and public peace and security, they have found allies in perpetuating Ketuanan Melayu.
That they did it after prayers in the most holy of months in the Muslim calendar, they not only insulted Hindus and all Malaysians, but the very religion which teaches tolerance.
Sadly, the government sees through blinkered Malay-Muslim glasses. 1Malaysia is a utopia where one race rules over the others. When it comes to the crunch, 1Malaysia falters miserably. So sing the 1Malaysia song and dance the 1Malaysia dance.
I would bet the answer is money. If someone could prove it, I would reckon they were paid to do what they did. After all, we have lived in co-existence and harmony for so long, why NOW?? Obviously someone “up-there” has his/her own agenda, and I doubt religion or race has anything to do with it. Convenient distraction!!
Indeed, you have hit the nail right on the head. It is not an issue of religion but what has been played out to be. I believe that Islam, and all the other religions, do not condone such acts. But Islam has been used to gain superiority over the others, by people who will use religion to get whatever they want. They have given Islam a negative perception and these scoundrels have been getting away in the past [with] the “blessings” of those in power. Malaysians are more matured not to fall in the trap of these political goons and be caught in the dirty games.
The incident that took place was embarassing! It mocked Islam, made a joke of the Malay race and placed Malaysia as a terrorising nation. In one of the twitts by one of our politicians, he mentioned that it will certainly flame the anger among our Hindu brothers and sisters. How wrong he was with his comment. It was an insult for us too, the Malay [Malaysians] and the Muslims.
You don’t have to be a Hindu to be sickened by the protestors. You just need to be human, a person with values that encompasses respect, tolerance, understanding and faith.Those who did march and gladly screamed out “Allahu Akhbar”, while carrying a banner with foul words…shame on you!
Perhaps it’s time for you to look into yourselves and see whether you have found God? Islam does not teach us violence. It certainly does not teach us to disrespect other beliefs.
You should not be astonished by this conclusion of yours, Ms Surin. We signed up not for a Malaysian Malaysia, but for a Malay Malaysia. The leadership over the past 52 years, both Alliance and the Opposition of 1969 have only reinforced this policy of a Malay Malaysia.
“Malay” here is not what is biologically defined as a Malay, but the constitutionally defined Malay. So Indians, Arabs, Turks, Javanese, the Bugis and Chinese [Malaysian] of the Muslim faith have hijacked the Malay bandwagon as permitted by the constitution. These races are not the gentle Malay stereotype of old. Traditionally, their cultures drive them to win, at all costs and all means if need be. It’s programmed into their genes.
So these self-serving smart Malay [Malaysians] will do what is necessary to reinforce their hold on power, as that power is the key to the gold in the treasury (and the licences, tax dollars, kickbacks etc).
As long as a non-Muslim can be the bogey to rally the Muslims around (as the Nazi’s did with the Jews and Germans), this oppression by the Muslims on non-Muslims will continue in Malaysia.
Accept it. We and our parents signed on to accept this when we stayed on in Malaysia instead of migrating to other tolerable lands; when BN was voted in, in each and every election and when the NEP, the emasculated judiciary, and every other insult was imposed on the non-Muslims that any right-minded people would have objected to.
Face it. Malaysians are slobbering cowards, not willing to put their families and their own lives at risk. Go watch Valkyrie, Schindler’s List, and see what true courage is. It’s the willingness to put our life and the lives of those that we love on the line for the benefit that it will bring others. These others that are of no blood relationship.
How many selfish Malaysians who buy 4D, pirated DVDs, fake watches, handbags and designer clothes would be willing to put their fat butts on the line?
Actually, neither I nor my parents or grandparents signed up for a Malay Malaysia. I’m sure that’s true of other Malaysians, too.
And the reason I stay on in Malaysia when I could be living a much better life elsewhere? It’s because I know of so many courageous Malaysians who have made sacrifices to make Malaysia a Malaysian Malaysia, including my Malay Malaysian friends and colleagues.
You are, of course, entitled to your views but I don’t believe resistance is futile. Compliance (i.e. “Accept it”) just makes it that much easier for bigots to take over our country and the place we call home. The reason I write is to ensure it isn’t so easy for them to get away with what they are trying to do. Resistance not compliance is the way I choose to be a citizen in this country.
No point writing all these. At the end of the day, you fools bring […] Umno into power.
So blame yourself. They [are] going to screw you further.
Well written and ought to be made known to the vast majority of Muslims. In Kuching, (Muara Tebas), Sarawak, there is a large Chinese temple and amongst the workers there are the Malay [Malaysian] kampung folk. All the kampung dwellers are Malay [Malaysians]. This is a fine example of co-existence among the multi-racial communities of Sarawak.
“presupposes that Muslim sensitivities are all-important regardless of the way of life of other Malaysians”
What do you mean by “presupposes”?
It’s a FACT that Malay Muslim sensitivities are all important. No pre or post suppositories needed.
Don’t all you pendatang know that?
Haven’t you gotten the message? We’ve waved kerises, made rabid speeches, and told you all how much we’d love to bathe our side arms in your blood.
Haven’t you gotten the picture?
There’s no presupposing. OK?
And how dare you complain about the broadcasting of the terawih prayers!
We’re doing that for your salvation!
We need to get the word out to the unbelievers, like you. Let the aural bliss and salvation reverberate, so you may abandon your wicked ways and walk the path of righteousness.
Crank up the mosque PA systems up to 11! 24 hours a day!!!
777dB – FOR GOD!!!
Everybody talks about the coming GE13 and proclaims that we will be able to kick them out if all Malaysians vote agianst them. I agree but at the same time, please be watchful as the powers-that-be will not allow this to happen. They will ensure May 13 is invoked again to keep them in power.
Dear Ms Surin,
I’m old school. Thus BN winning every election since Merdeka means compliance and support by the population.
The resistance that came from the sacrifice of you and your friends have not worked. The voting population is still on the side of BN.
A successful resistance is a sacrifice that delivers its intended result. Lech Walesa, Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, Lee Kuan Yew, the DPJ and Megawati delivered. Sacrifice with clear goals, they did sacrifice indeed.
Beyond Anwar, who is universally acceptable to lead the resistance if and when Anwar falls?
Beyond Malaya, who is ensuring that Sabah and Sarawak joins the tsunami?
It’s great to have ideals, but Malaysians are practical. Most of them accept the status quo. The Malaysian Malaysia is now Singapore. At that time in 1965 the people had a choice to take Singapore citizenship or remain as Malaysians and accept Malay Malaysia. What was accepted by our parents? You know the result of our parents’ judgement in 1965.
I guess your analysis then explains the March 2008 election results?
When you have no technological and scientific mastery, all you can do is go round and round cultural intricacies. Chill-lah Jacqueline, a mosque may have a loud speaker and some agitators but who controls global communication media?
You harp on the follies of a minority of Muslims but ignore how Malaysians of all ages and creed are succumbing to hyperconsumerism, ignoring environmental issues, and lagging behind in science education. Take some time to popularise these issues instead of playing into such trivial and primitive sandiwaras over and over again.
Malaysian Heart says
Excellent article, clearly expounds our situation today. However, if terawih prayers are a nuisance, can’t temple drums, church bells, minority religious processions and practices etc also be construed as nuisances? Some acceptance is called for, perhaps?
To answer the rhetorical statement of piety best described as being a nuisance, the answer is “Yes”. One of the earliest memories I had as a child was attending a kindergarten underneath a surau in the small town where I lived, since it was the only kindergarten there. My first prayers were Islamic prayers, and I could pray the entire Bismillah.
We were all sitting in a circle and our teacher told us to pray. We began praying, mumbling our rote as we went along. The teacher told us: “Louder!” — and so we prayed louder. Not content, she went again: “Louder! Let the whole world hear your declaration of faith!” — and so I prayed as loudly as possible, imagining that a random passerby going about his [or her] business would be assaulted by our childish voices, which would mean that we could finally get this praying business to an end and move on to something else (whatever it was that was next).
The reason I could remember this incident was probably because I learned later (again, still a child, but older) that in Turkey, mosques were not allowed to blare the azan. Of course at that time I had no idea about things like secularisation of Turkey and things like that yet. It just registered with me as a shockingly different way of interpreting religious practice, since I had always assumed that praying as loudly as possible was THE religious practice for Islam.
Now that I am an adult, I think my teacher might have thought the same.
It’s all about politics. Umno “leaders” are just carrying out Najib/their master’s order. They have to take back Selangor at all costs before more scandals are exposed!
First, they need to make PR government look weak and ungovernable.
There will be more manufactured crises to come where Umno people will initiate and blow everything out of proportion and then BN will come to the rescue (the few recent events have confirmed this strategy).
Clearly, our federal government is out to create chaos in PR-governed states. They are using all available institutions of the nation to try to wreck the [PR] states. As a federal government, they should assist in the states’ development and progress instead of acting like terrorist against its people!
More people should come forward to voice our disapproval of the federal government’s actions to destabilise the states and by default, the nation’s stability! Those who terrorise must be treated as terrorists and be punished as such before our nation slips further into decay!
Victor T says
This isn’t to praise but to make known an observation: you’re the only – and this is no exaggeration – the only Malaysian editor (writing in English or Chinese, etc) who is in equal measure incisive and insightful, and willing, as close as is possible, to be honest on [different perspectives]. You must have struggled between para two where you speak of “Malay custom” and then with the “culture of Malay Muslim superiority”.
But you don’t go far back enough. The second part “culture” inserts a religious element to the first, custom. Once the Malays took up Islam, all history prior to it had to be relegated to primordial status (Naipaul describes this phenomenon very well). Remnants of the pre-Islam Malay “custom” still survives, but not by much. The religion allows for no room. Hence, it produces the likes of Ridhuan Tee (remember him?) who in turn exploits the special religious status.
You delude yourself to think it is possible to resist; at best you appeal to decent Malay [Malaysians] – the superiority is constitutionally sanctioned. Lord Panda is far more pointed. Farish, as always, tries to intellectualise away the oppression by redistributing it to other religions. But which religion in modern times? Where in Asia and outside of medieval Europe do we see this sort of Wahhabist / Arabian manifestation?
Dennis Madden says
Indeed, you are quite right. What Islam says has almost become irrelevant under the weight of Malay [Malaysian] hypocrisy. The attitudes that [some] Muslims teach are appearing to be less and less Islamic as every day passes and the hypocritical behaviour of [some] Malay [Malaysians] tears this country apart.
Dennis Madden says
The residents of Section 23, if they were not supportive of this demonstration, should have immediately voiced their outrage. Did they??
So don’t preach to me about the “good” Muslims; they are a myth. Whoever said: “All that it requires for evil to prevail is for good [people] to do nothing” knew the “good” Muslims of Malaysia … and the “better” Muslims of the mosques… and the “best” Muslims of the royal families perfectly.
Actually, several Muslims have already signed the petition condemning the cow-head protestors. And other Muslims have commented here on The Nut Graph, expressing outrage at what happened in the name of Islam and Muslim majoritarianism.
I wouldn’t be so quick to judge all Muslims because of the actions or inactions of others.
What can we expect after twenty odd years of listening to hate politics? Whether or not these were representatives from Section 23 or whether they were shadowy groups supported by whomever, the point is Malaysia needs to step back and think about where it wants to go.
In the end, this is about bigots, but I would argue it isn’t about religious bigots or zealots. To me, this is a pivotal point in our national history and we have to recognise that taking away race in the IC alone is not enough. We also have to do away with the segregation that the dichotomy between Islam and non-Islam (which is now the popular divisive instrument) has created before it gets further entrenched within our laws and institutions. Basically to do away with anything that essentialises groups at the expense of recognising individuals as having agency.
We are all Malaysians and governed by the constitution and civil law. Why can’t it be that simple? Why should I, as a Muslim, need to be regulated by a special law? If a Muslim were to drink and drive, charge him/her under the existing traffic laws for driving under the influence. If a Muslim chooses to consume alcohol in his/her own home, without causing harm to anyone but himself/herself, whose concern is that? If Muslim authorities are so concerned for the welfare of Muslims, ban Muslims from anything harmful, including working in high-risk jobs like police, or the military, or medicine (God know what sorts of germs run around this days) or from silat (you could seriously injure yourselves!) or a whole lot of other things! My point is Muslims like everyone else are adults and have to make decisions that concerns them by themselves. And provide the support groups and services if they need to reach out and get advice. Otherwise, catch them if they commit a crime.
Regulating spiritual matters as moral crimes is difficult, if not impossible, to regulate fairly. Is this right then? After all, the Islam I grew up with was one that constantly promoted fairness and compassion. The catchphrase was that a person was responsible for his/her own actions.
Good Muslims exists as good people anywhere do. The religion itself preaches one to be responsible for oneâ€™s actions and despite human imperfections, to always strive for perfection. Your comment about a good Muslim being a myth reflects a certain irony. But my point is that we must move beyond the labeling and generalising of peoples as groups. People are people and groups, no matter how much we may feel compelled to assume characterises the individuals, do not make up the individual. To assume that a category or group replaces individual agency is simply another form of bigotry.
Dennis Madden says
Jacqueline… what is needed is nationwide outrage, not just comments from a few liberated Muslims. Outrage of the type the Danish cartoons created… albeit 6 months later.
My quote still stands.
Farouq Omaro says
What possessed the protesters? The seat of the Selangor state government!
Ida Bakar says
To Dennis Madden,
I am sorry you have not met a good Muslim. When the cow-head blasphemy came to the fore, many Malay [Malaysians] and Muslims wrote in protest in Malaysiakini and The Nut Graph. Perhaps you (and other readers) would like to put your name to this petition:
To Dennis Madden (again), you may notice that amongst the signatories are:
Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia (IMAM)
Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
It goes to show our current PM is all talk and no action. Non-Muslims should support having surau and mosques in non-dominant Malay [Malaysian] areas, just as the Muslims should allow [Hindu] temples, churches and Chinese temples to be built in Malay dominant areas as well. Why not?
A very sad state of affair indeed. But what can we do? Only if the majority of the Malay [Malaysian] Muslim ummah change their mindset that they are a superior race in terms of everything then only we can expect the 1Malaysia concept to emerge. Looking at the way things are going, I doubt that will ever happen in Malaysia. We are heading for doomsday and God bless us all and save us all the unprotected pendatangs.
Jacqueline…..I understand your anger but your analysis of this latest incident is rather myopic, and maybe the politically correct thing to say…..but you have missed a key ingredient in understanding this problem.
By looking at only Malaysia, you miss the global context. One really needs to take a hard look at every country where Muslim majorities live with non-Muslim minorities. I mean countries like Pakistan, Dubai, Indonesia, Egypt, Iraq and so on.
May I suggest to you and your readers that this is symptomatic of nearly all Muslim majority countries with non-Muslim minorities in their midst.
In each case, you will see minority rights being trampled and the non-Muslim minorities living in a state of powerlessness and fear. In many instances, atrocities are frequently commited against them. The latest incident in Pakistan of the killing of Christians in Gohra over a false blasphemy charge is a reminder of this scenario.
You don’t see a similar case of minority Muslim cultures being oppressed and denied their right in non-Muslim majority [countries] or those living in [western] countries. Muslims do not have to beg for years for the right to build a mosque in Western Judeo-Christian societies. Nor do they have to worry about the bodies of their deceased relatives being kidnapped from the morgue.
Every incident of Muslim violence and intimidation of non-Muslims is explained away by [journalists] such as yourself, and many others as a “few misguided individuals who have misunderstood the teaching of Islam”. Well guess what? There appears to be no end to these incidents and the world is getting tired of the same old platitudes – it simply does not wash anymore!
I believe the problem lies in the fact that Muslims are trained to never question religion from a young age. Unlike other religions, Islam [in Malaysia] does not seem to tolerate the idea of faith being an individual choice. From the very begining, at a very young age, it is force-fed with the implicit threat of intimidation, punishment and even violence. Hence in my view, it’s no surprise when adult Muslims decide to use the same intimidation tactic against minority non-Muslims in their midst.
The other more subtle and less-talked about aspect of this divide is that Islam does not seem to respect any of the non-Abrahamic faiths (Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism, etc.) The only faiths that are mentioned in the Quran are the “people of the book” which means Muslims, Christians and Jews. Anyone outside of that list is treated and dismissed as a heathen non-entity. You can certainly make the same argument about the Bible and the Torah also, but Christianity and Judaism teach their followers to think critically even about faith.
When Muslims are in the minority; they are always the ones to cry the loudest and hardest about discrimination and subjugation.
Muslims all over the world will rally to the rights of Muslims minorities in the name of the ummah, but ironically when Muslims are in the majority, their aggressive, condescending nature and policies are very apparent in their dealings with their non-Muslim minorities.
The wise Bishop Nizar Ali of Rochester in the Church of England who incidentally is Pakistani by birth, made a point of taking Muslims to task. You can’t cry victimhood, and be an aggressor as well…..it simply does not wash.
All this has been indoctrinated at the education level into students and reinforced by certain religious centres. The only way is to get better education and more independent thinking for our next generation.
We should have a walk, and let’s all hold hands and sing the Pepsi Cola song…”I like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony….”
Wouldn’t that be a nice gathering for the world on 22 Oct 2009, because this is the only date that is not a day in the world calendar. Let’s name it “World Living Day” where people of all religions, colour, race, age, sexuality, and rank hold hands and walk backwards for many miles to a field. And let our children free many, many birds as a symbol of freedom and humanity, and individuals rights, and respect, and intelligence and tolerance. Love among us in Malaysia. As it was when we were young, like the simple, humble, (kuih lapis?), pink, white and red, with many layers, and very sweet. Yeah, let’s show them… we had enough of these charades…
I get the feeling this state of affairs is set up, condoned or stoked by the powers-that-be for their selfish ends which justifies the means.
I hope I am wrong and that these leaders are purely incompetent.
Soul Sister says
I’m waiting for a response from Selangor PAS commissioner Hassan Ali and PR leader Anwar Ibrahim, or are they watching their political rice bowl? I voted for PR and I don’t seem to hear anything from them to support Khalid Samad. It’s all form and no substance from Hassan […], isn’t it? Why has Anwar Ibrahim not spoken in support of the PR Selangor government on this issue?
There doesn’t seem to be a real credible leader whom we can look up to. Every politician, apart from one or two is in it for the post and power. Come on, Zaid Ibrahim, can you come out of the woodwork and take over the leadership? I read your book and am quite taken with your overall view.
Sharon Nelson says
I LOVED your piece, Jacq. That is indeed a pressing question: where this boldness comes from, and your analysis is spot on.
I actually like living in a country where I can hear the azan from home.
But we live in tricky times when one call to prayer is endorsed by state inaction and exaggerated sympathy; culture; custom; apathy and politics to be superior to another.
As I said, I’m happy to live in a country influenced by an Islam that is pro-human rights, gentle and genteel.
But I didn’t sign up for a Malay Malaysia either.
Ms Surin, you are so right! It is so sad that people can behave like this. No religion ever teaches intolerance and anarchy. It’s people who use religion to their advantage for reasons they know best. This country is really going backwards – non-Muslims or non- Malay [Malaysians] cannot do this or that because a fraction of not so right-thinking Muslims or Malay [Malaysians] say so. Very sad!
It is indeed a sad time that Malaysians, non-Muslims and non-Umno affiliated Malay Muslims are experiencing. It is also time for all of us to be bold and take a stand and say NO to the Umno-led BN government and its racially composed component parties. Under the 22 years of dictatorial rule by [Dr Mahathir], a breed of arrogant Malay [Malaysian] leaders and subservient non-Malay [Malaysian] leaders emerged and the ordinary citizens of Malaysia had no voice. NOW, these people must come out and with ONE VOICE decide on making the CHANGE for a just and trustworthy government for all Malaysians. This cow-head incident may be the first but no matter what the provocation, let us not retaliate by stooping to their level or with bloodshed. But let us instead all unite TOGETHER under One People of Malaysia to free ourselves and our country.
Before Merdeka on 31 Aug 1957, we played and visited our Indian, Malay, Chinese [Malaysian] neighbours and respected one another’s different traditions and customs and even until 13 May 1969, and for a majority of us, even after 1969, we still maintained good relationship with our friends be they Malay, Chinese or Indian [Malaysian]. However, since the 22 years of Mahathir Mohamad, the education divide worked its way in to segregate our school children, and the beautiful Malay gentlemen [and women] of the East faded to give rise to the brash Ketuanan Melayu. The result is that the nation has retrogressed into tribal mentality and if allowed to go unchecked, a new “Nazi” race may emerge.
PS: Ponder this: What if all the “pendatangs” were to “disappear”, wow! Where will Malaysia be?! Let’s face it, we need one another – so all we other Malaysians, let us be brave, bold and come forward to fight for our rights. People Power is the greatest weapon.
A good read. Regarding your last comment, I hope you do not think that the terawih prayers are a nuisance. If [you believe that], I think a little bit of understanding [about] the reason for terawih prayers and some tolerance might be able to shift such [an] opinion. 1Malaysia!
I do not think that terawih prayers are a nuisance at all so long as they are not blared at really high volumes and really late into the night in a neigbourhood where people live.
Is there a need for terawih prayers to be so loudly broadcast? I’m told by a friend who also visited Section 6, PJ that on one night, the terawih prayers could be heard even after midnight. I’m also told by my Muslim friends that there is no religious requirement for the terawih prayers to be broadcast to the community, and definitely not at such high decibels.
One doesn’t have to be Muslim to understand what an incovenience such actions by mosque officials are. I could be a Muslim parent with a small or sick child who can’t put his/her child to bed because the terawih prayers were unnecessarily being blared so loudly into the neighbourhood. Or consider the person who has to be in bed by 9pm because of a work shift a dawn.
At the same time, while non-Muslims are constantly being asked to defer to the customs of Malay Muslims, so little respect is likewise shown for the customs of non-Muslims. Isn’t that what the Muslim mob in Section 23, Shah Alam is saying? That as Muslims, they would be offended, their faith challenged, if temple activities happened in their neighbourhood. If the same argument is used by non-Muslims against Muslim customs, imagine what kind of 1Malaysia we would have.
Respect and acceptance cuts both ways. Right now, it’s not respect or acceptance that is being demanded of non-Muslims. It’s compliance at the threat of aggression, violence and injustice. How is that firstly, even Islamic, and secondly, healthy for our multi-cultural nation?
1Malaysia is a false slogan for so long as the nation’s leaders allow, even encourage, such divisive behaviour, action and policies.
Why be surprised? It’s the amok mentality of the Malay [Malaysians] at work!
Yeah right… blame Umno and the Malay [Malaysian] again… don’t you have any other tactic?
Firstly, this is not a “tactic” if you’re suggesting that my column is a way to undermine Umno. I don’t think I have that kind of influence or power at all, and frankly, I think Umno is doing a fine job all its own without needing any help from me.
Secondly, perhaps the question that needs to be asked is, are my observations accurate and the incidents I cited factual? If they are, then why shouldn’t any journalist worth her salt be able to write about what Umno and some Malay Malaysians are doing to this country? The best way to refute my argument would be to argue why they are inaccurate or baseless, rather than to label my column as some kind of “tactic”.
And thirdly, it isn’t just Umno that’s responsible. If you read my column carefully enough, you’ll note that I’ve also criticised PAS and PKR members for being part of this scheme of things.
Riz Pereira says
Regretably, the modern proponents of Islam are not literate enough to grasp the true meaning of the religion.
Now they set about using the religion to make life miserable for Muslims and non-Muslims.
Is this the only way they can “get-off”?
I am impressed. Keep up the excellent work. What does it cost monthly to keep you going?
It costs us about RM80,000 a month.
Lillian Tai says
I know exactly how you feel because I feel the same with each passing day. All of us have “limitations” unlike the special “race”. So, what I do is the little difference and effect I can impact. I want to believe it will make a difference in the long run and I also believe in speaking, discussing and educating the young ones whose minds have been excessively brainwashed and “polluted”. It is so sad 🙁 and at times I’m so ashamed to be referred as a Malaysian! Regardless, I am and still are a true and patriotic Malaysian. God bless and watch over our land. You keep up the good work, dear!
so sad.. says
Just read about the meeting with the residents and the MB..I am just so sad for this country….we may all agree that there are many Muslims who are appalled by the cow- head protest etc etc etc. But bottom line is this….what is their opinion about having a temple there? If they want to petition, let all religions, including Muslims, petition for the right of Hindus/Christians/Buddhists […] to a place of worship where it serves a community of people. Based on the NUMBER and not the PERCENTAGE of people. Let Muslims fight for the rights of their non-Muslim brothers [and sisters]. Muslim majority? So in a town of 1 million Muslims, a minority of 100,000 Hindus has no right to a temple? So sad for Malaysia.
Subhas Chandran says
As a Hindu and one who has followed the political developments closely for the last 30 years, I am rather disturbed by the state of events lately. Can I share this with all Malaysians: a common practice by many Hindus is to do some breathing exercise (pranayama) early in the morning (between 6.00 – 6.30am).
I have been doing this for the last one year. This is also the time that coincides with the sembahyang subuh for Muslims. As I start my breathing in a meditative form, the subuh prayers that is amplified from a mosque nearby DOES NOT IN ANY WAY DISTURB ME from my concentration. On the contrary, it gives me a mood of spirituality in the course of my pranayama. Oh yes, what I look forward with Hari Raya coming soon are the Malay festive songs played in shopping malls. Yet another phenomenon on Raya morning is the takbir.
I believe all these problems are purposely strategised by BN to create a sense of insecurity among the citizens so that three years down the line, there will be good reason for them not to hold a general election that may see the demise of BN.
response to 3K says
In response to 3K’s “You harp on the follies of a minority of Muslims but ignore how Malaysians of all ages and creed are succumbing to hyperconsumerism, ignoring environmental issues, and lagging behind in science education. Take some time to popularise these issues instead of playing into such trivial and primitive sandiwaras over and over again.”
I doubt Jacqueline ignores all those important issues you mentioned above. Unless you don’t give a damn about what she just wrote and the issues regarding fundamental justice and respect for others, then perhaps you are barking up the wrong tree? If you want to ask someone to stop playing games/sandiwara perhaps you could direct it to those who are actually doing and perpetuating the bigoted and racists acts.
And frankly, I’d like to believe these are the follies of minority Muslims.. but right now where are the voices of the “majority” [of respectful Muslims who want justice]? Why aren’t they speaking up? I have read maybe three so far. I hope to see more…if Malaysians are to build bridges, we should start by breaking down communal issues like these and making it our business to speak out against injustices from our own so-called community.
It is indeed a waste of time to deal with this when there are so many more issues to deal with. But I’d blame it on those ignorant idiots who give Islam and Malay [Malaysians] a bad name. I’m trying hard not to judge the majority Malay [Malaysian] Muslims for not speaking up..but if this gets worse.. then they are to be blamed as well for not speaking up or doing something about it.
Thank you, Jacqueline, for enunciating my own sentiments so clearly. I just hope people acknowledge that the Malay-Muslim [Malaysians], too are victims of our current socio-political lunacy. The “Malay-Muslim rights and sensitivities” you refer to is a deceitful, artificial construct made by few to poorly represent the many. The Muslims and the non-Muslims, the Malay [Malaysians] and otherwise – we’re all the victims of megalomaniac repression. We have all been betrayed by those who should otherwise develop our growth, unity and humanity. With that, I raise my glass to you and endorse your article wholeheartedly. Cheers.
That’s a really good point. Thanks for making that observation.
Mohd Nizam says
It is because of things like this that makes me feel embarrassed to be Malaysian. I’m a Muslim, I pray five times a day, I fast, and I do not drink alcohol. And yet I do not feel the need for such things as banning concerts during Ramadan and protesting at building a Hindu temple. So what if a temple is built, Malaysia is a melting pot of different cultures.
The government of Malaysia better start acting more 21st century and less medieval times if it wants to achieve 2020. I’m seriously considering obtaining New Zealand citizenship (for which I well qualify for). I’m a specialist doctor working in a Malaysian hospital. If the government continues to anger citizens like this, soon it’s going to see a country where the more educated simply cannot accept such “kuno” way of thinking and leave the country for good. And at the end of the day, it’ll be Malaysia that’s left undeveloped.
You were right when you pointed out that it was not Islam or the Malay culture that caused the incident. You asked a reasonably fair question. Your answer though lacks sufficient insight into the fabric of Malaysian society in terms of its evolution over time and how successions of events have had an impact on the evolving thinking patterns of our society.
Your presumption and answer to your question is not only shortsighted but also has fanned the flames of hatred towards Malay [Malaysians] and the Umno leadership. Might I add that I am neither a Malay [Malaysian] or a member of Umno. I remain apolitical.
As a Malaysian who believes in the goodness of our wonderful country, given its warts and all, I would like to appeal to [you] as a responsible journalist that rather [than] providing the answer (which set off a chain of unsavoury and unnecessary responses), you could have provided alternate possibilities of why it happened.
My own feeling is that the whole thing reeks of dirty politics and [was] probably masterminded by unscrupulous person or persons to achieve their own ends. The perpetrators should, in my opinion, be identified and punished according to the law.
We should not however point fingers at anybody if we do not have proof. Speculation is what we are engaged in and that can be dangerous. Let us together try to build a better understanding among each other rather than to add to the already damaged situation that we are faced with.
It seems like it is a deliberate attempt by Umno to cause disharmony/racial tension in order to oust the Pakatan Rakyat. Lame. On another note, would they remove mosques/suraus in 90% non-Muslim neighbourhoods? Blaring also, what. Especially during the wee hours of the morning.
You’re spot on Jacq, but looks like the cow-head carriers will have to face the music, now that the AG has said they will be charged with sedition and illegal assembly, among other things. The reason for this could be due to public pressure, but I wager the upcoming Bagan Pinang by-election played a major part in convincing Najib & Co. that they have to act. Still, the way things go, I doubt any of the protesters will get the punishment they deserve – after all, once the by-election is over, there will be no pressing need to ensure that justice is done. And once again, they (the Malay [Malaysian] Muslim majority) will be safe in the knowledge that in Malaysia, they are untouchable.
Sadly, this animal mentality is a factor which hinders social cohesion and progress in our multicultural nation state. Never ever put blame on the people or religion with regard to this immaterial issue (not worth making a fuss about). I would say this is ignorance, this kind of mentality.
I’ve watched the dialogue with regard to this issue. Sadly, there wasn’t any fruitful discussion and instead we only see “animals” making noise. In addition to that, they should have closed the event to [the] bunch of scoundrels who were only causing a ruckus during this dialogue.
I do think we insult animals when we compare bad human behaviour to those of animals. Animals don’t premeditate violence and aggression.
I feel very sad for Malaysia that after 52 years of independence, we are at this cross roads where racial disharmony is at its worst.
I admire your guts and [the] insights […] in your article. It encapsulated the whole picture of the situation in Malaysia.
I can understand what the Hindus are going through as it is exactly what the Catholics experienced when Shah Alam residents protested regarding the relocation of a church on their premises. This was done after all approvals had been given and piling work had already begun. Only after the Church had had enough of the merry-go-round and won a court case against the government did the Church of the Divine Mercy materialise in Glenmarie, in an industrial zone. Isn’t a church meant to serve its congregation i.e. to be where its parishioners are? Shah Alam is not exclusively for the Malay [Malaysians]. Hello! Others live there, too!
Shouldn’t Muslims focus on educating fellow Muslims on the faith rather than treating them like children and hiding temptations from them. Surely this is the real test of one’s faith. To be tempted and still be true to one’s faith. And to the youth of today, the more restrictions they face, the more rebellious they will get.
Gopal Raj Kumar says
So they dragged the head of a cow (a Brahmin at that) on to the steps of the administrative centre in [Shah Alam] and stamped all over it to make a point. Where is the offence? The cow was dead. The act was symbolic.
Each day, millions of cattle are slaughtered for the very same purpose in more irreverant and brutal ways than this one event in pursuit of our lust for meat. Killing cattle bred for death and meat is neither a necessity nor is it healthy for the human body. Yet we say nothing about it.
In fact, we join the Western media in ridiculing Hindus for their respect and worship of all God’s creatures as manifestations of life and God when it suits us.
What is it that we are being so precious about here? McDonald’s serving beef in a Hindu-dominated area or the fact that Muslims do not want a temple in theirs? The fact that a minority community should be allowed to tie a yellow ribbon around every mango or fig tree in the neighbourhood to stake their claim to build a temple? Or is it that a group of protesters regardless of race or religion (Muslims as you see them) have decided to make a point in a symbolic fashion offensive to some about not wanting to have a Hindu temple in their midst? Where are their democratic rights to express themselves freely, however offensive that may be to some? Or does your idea of democracy and freedom of expression have a selective interpretation to exclude Malay [Malaysians] and Muslims from expressing themselves?
A pigs head was thrown into a mosque at a Brisbane suburb late last year. Urine and human feaces was dumped at other places of worship in France and in the US following 9/11. The Indian government stood by whilst one of India’s premier historic monuments, the Babri Masjid was dismantled brick by brick by marauding Hindu fanatics in the mid 1990s. Baruch Goldstein bloodied the mosque On the Rock in Jerusalem killing 36 Palestinain worshippers in the 1990s. Chinese troops desecrated the holy of holy’s of the Tibetan Buddhists over and over again for the last 50 years. What’s new and outrageous about the cow head being carried by a mob who does not want a Hindu temple built in their neighbourhood? Where does this outrage come from?
Hindus could build a monument greater than any amount of bricks and mortar can do for them with a temple structure by meeting with Malay [Malaysians] and listening to their arguments first then conceding to their demands not to have a temple built in Section 23, Shah Alam. That would turn a perceived loss into an indelible victory no amount of blood and bones could achieve. But in the heat of this divisive debate as to who is more righteous or more Malaysian, we appear to have a need [to] make scurrilous accusations about the desecration of the holy communion by Al Islam without any proof of what really occurred in that investigation. What a load of baloney.
Jacqueline Ann Surin must have just arrived from Mars to have been disturbed by the terawih prayers from a mosque in the neighbourhood. Others have had to endure the ching chang, the kling klang from temples Hindu and Taoist for centuries in other parts of Malaysia without complaint.
Jacqueline perhaps has unwittingly stumbled on the reasons for the cow-head demonstrators in demonstrating her latent Catholic bias against Muslims by complaining about those very same things the Muslims, as a majority, whether […] in Shah Alam or elsewhere in the country (over 60% of the population), have to also put up with.
Let’s be tolerant and stick to the facts now, Ms Surin and not [be bigots] ourselves, shall we?
Milas deys says
My commennts to your column yesterday were not published. Do you practise selective publishing based on whether the comments are in your favour only or if they are not in your favour [and] you are able to give a smart reply.
Incidentally, I live close to Section 6 in PJ. I do not hear the terawih prayers as you made it out to be. I do think you love to exaggerate just to get across a mischievous message. May God forgive you and show you a more honest and conciliatory approach.
Hi Milas deys,
We haven’t had a chance to look at the comment you’re refering to. Yesterday was a public holiday for us and no editor was working to moderate reader comments. I am only now finding the time to attend to reader comments.
Secondly, we edit comments according to a policy that is publicly available on our site. You can check it out yourself here: http://www.thenutgraph.com/comments-and-columns-policy. The only time we allow disparaging comments about an individual is when it is targeted at us. Criticisms against The Nut Graph have been published as comments before. You can see for yourself the comments that are posted in our donation appeal (http://www.thenutgraph.com/the-nut-graph-needs-your-support).
And finally, you should maybe try talking to residents of Section 6, PJ who have to put up with the unnecessarily loud terawih prayers in their neighbourhood. You may not hear the loud and long prayers but they do, just as I did on Merdeka night. Are you suggesting that your reality is more truthful than other people’s who actually live in or visit Section 6? In any case, nobody is complaining about Muslims praying the terawih prayers during Ramadan. The issue is this — do the prayers have to be broadcast so loudly and so late into the night? Could Muslims fulfill their prayers without inconveniencing the entire neighbourhood? I believe they can. Question then is, why isn’t the mosque in Section 6 doing this?
I would have the same criticisms if the faith community was Christian, Buddhist, Hindu etc. Having consideration for one’s neighbours is a trait that I believe all the major religions teach and if its adherents cannot respect that tenet, what does it say about their show of piety?
“Our faith will be challenged” seems like the constant battle cry by this group of Malaysian Muslims who argue against any form of deferment to the custom(s) of non-Muslims.
The first thought which comes into my head every time I hear that line being bleated is this – “Their faith is really THAT weak kah?”
Ahmed Zain says
The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.
Hi jacq, this Gopal Raj fella got some personal issues with you, ka? Maybe you hurt him unknowingly some time ago…so many personal “attack” statements….keeps following you around….claims to know you….
Anyway, “The act was symbolic”…that’s EXACTLY THE POINT YA…that was the purpose of the act … to symbolically insult, degrade and done with the singular purpose of creating the most response from the other side…to incite.
Don’t understand his argument, just because others do bad things elsewhere makes this ok? We should be similarly outraged at all despicable acts.
Listen and obey? Haha, then what …go worship in the jungle?
The sad thing is that I did not feel outrage when I saw what they did. I felt sad. The sad thing is I did not feel outrage because it was something that I expected from them. That is my perception of them. When did it happen that people can be so outraged about a place of WORSHIP rather than a place of SIN? I come from a place where there is a temple, three churches and a gurdwara beside one another. The mosque is round the corner…. further down the road there is another chuch and a temple side by side. How did it come to this that one is offended by another’s place of worship…?
I like your question: “When did it happen that people can be so outraged about a place of WORSHIP rather than a place of SIN?”
One would think from the way the protestors were acting that a Hindu temple was a vile place of evil. What a shame that Malaysia has come to this…
Jac.. I refer to your remarks: “Respect and acceptance cuts both ways”.
I believe you are being selective. Whenever things do not go your way, you choose the middle ground. But then again, if you could refer [to] articles from your fellow journalists, most of them or in fact, a majority of them are based on one-sided stories…go figure. You can’t be selective when choosing [the] middle ground. Be consistent with it….always, in all ways, play two sides of every story.
no so pious muslim says
For all those who participated in the protest, go refer this article.
Wake up… please.