Saturday, January 12, 2008

The End of Religious Freedom (?)

This post will sound somewhat apocalyptic, but I certainly do not think it's an exaggeration.

I wrote about the Christmas present for the Malaysian Catholic community earlier which never came. Well, it did actually, shortly after that when the Internal Security Ministry belatedly granted the Printing and Publications Permit for their in-house newsletter "The Herald". Better still, no specific conditions were apparently attached to the permit, for example, on the use of Bahasa Malaysia.

The renewal, despite the delay, led naturally to non-UMNO Barisan Nasional leaders praising the wisdom of the moderate prime minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The minister in the Prime Minister's department, purportedly in-charge of Christian affairs, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said he brought the matter to the attention of prime minister a few days before Christmas.
“I think the permit is good news and the Government has given the Christian community a wonderful Christmas present. The community will certainly be happy to know that the Government is looking into their welfare and that the Government is interested in all the races,” said Dompok.
The Star in one of its editorials, commented that
...our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is a fair man... Pak Lah must have listened to the views of both Muslims and Christians by now and certainly he serves as a good appellant.


It is good that the controversy has been handled in a rational and calm manner. Many Malaysians, in fact, do not see the need for it to crop up in the first place, and we sometimes need to remind ourselves that we should not see any agenda or shadow in every action or statement that we make.
Alas, those rejoicing spoke too soon and it was not to be. In less than a week after the permit was "approved", the Minister in the Prime Minister's office in-charge of Muslim affairs, Datuk Abdullah Zin issued a press statement stating that 'Allah' is off-limits to non-Muslims, and its use is exclusively Islam's.
The restrictions on the use of the word “Allah” was still enforceable and shall be upheld as decided by the Cabinet in two of its meetings – on Oct 18 and Nov 1, 2006, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Abdullah Mohd Zin said.

Abdullah, who said the Prime Minister had instructed him to clarify the matter so the public would not be confused...
Two critical issues stand out in the above statement.
  • Firstly, the Prime Minister has specifically instructed Abdullah Zin to make the clarification which means that unlike what was painted in the Star, he's not a "fair man", and neither is he "rational" or "calm".

  • Secondly, and more tellingly, the Cabinet, which comprises also of MCA, Gerakan and MIC non-Muslim members, have agreed with such discriminatory policies during the cabinet meetings in 2006. Are they not then clearly demonstrating that they are beholden to UMNO, and not instead, rightfully to the rakyat?
What is worse, is that the Barisan Nasional government isn't going to stop just there in the Islamisation process. You may have read from Sdr Lim Kit Siang's blog that the formerly prestigious English College (EC) in Johor Bahru now requires all its prefects to don the songkok on a daily basis. And as reported here in Malaysiakini, even children's books with cariacatures of prophets are seized by the Internal Security Ministry, headed none other than the Prime Minister himself, who is allegedly "serves as a good appellant".

There are countless of other examples on such exercises of (in)tolerance. The reasons given? Its the same tune that "the illustrations of prophets in the Christian children’s books are said to offend the sensitivities of Muslims".

Soon, the very presence of churches and temples in our midst will be deemed "to offend the sensitivities of Muslims". Or the fact that the mere mention of the existence of another religious belief which isn't in line with UMNO's version of Islam will be deemed a seditious offence, and hence outlawed.

Is it far fetched? Certainly not. Especially not if the rakyat continues to put on their blinkers and provide support to Barisan Nasional component parties who chooses to remain submissive to their lords and masters, the UMNOputeras.

There is certainly no other way of looking at it. I'm no apologist for PAS, but the way it is, the Barisan Nasional government led by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Ong Ka Ting, Koh Tsu Koon and Samy Vellu is certainly more fanatical in extinguishing religious freedom in Malaysia, under the guise of "tolerance and moderation".

This, ladies and gentlement, is the dawning of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's Islamic State.
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