Rohingyas and the realities of nation-states

Published in Malay Mail Online

This morning, thousands of Malaysian Muslims are expected to converge on the Titiwangsa Stadium in the country’s capital to show their dissatisfaction and anger towards Myanmar for its atrocious treatment of the Rohingya minority.

The anger undoubtedly has its roots in the fact that the Rohingyas are Muslims rather than their proximity in South-east Asia — not to mention that the group is being persecuted by militant Buddhists, which must have been a welcome change from the widespread image of militant Muslims.

Despite that, their opposition is valid. Violence against the Rohingyas has recently flared up in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, with security forces attacking under the pretext of rooting out so-called radicalised Rohingya jihadists linked to overseas militants.

Up to 30,000 of the ethnic group have fled the strife-torn area, and Human Rights Watch has since released satellite images claiming that hundreds of buildings in three Rohingya villages have been torched.

And yet, the Myanmar government led by internationally acclaimed de facto head Aung San Suu Kyi has remained unmoved by the fate of the ethnic group that it officially refuses to recognise as anything but Bangladeshi illegal immigrants.

Therein lies one of the biggest challenges facing modern nation-states.

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PAS lost its hudud game, but so did we

Published in Malay Mail Online

Islamist party PAS had rejoiced back in May when their president’s private member’s Bill to upgrade the Shariah court was fast-tracked for debate.

PAS Youth chief Nik Abduh Nik Abd Aziz had boldly claimed that by amending Act 355 that governs the limit of punishments Shariah courts can deliver, PAS will “break the chains” around Shariah law — a proof of its victory in rejecting secularism.

The mood was jubilant and optimistic; should Abdul Hadi Awang succeed in removing the limits, it would have opened the doors towards the implementation of PAS’ version of the Islamic penal law, as it has been passed in Kelantan.

Six months later, not much has changed. Instead, it has taken a turn for the worse for PAS.

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Even after Bersih 5, the Red Shirts are here to stay

Published as “It looks like the Red Shirts are here to stay” in Malay Mail Online

At the time of writing, it is the eve of Bersih 5 — the fifth iteration of the mega rally calling for free and fair elections by polls watchdog Bersih 2.0.

Several barricades have been erected around the historic Dataran Merdeka, the final gathering point for Bersih supporters who will march there from three rallying points across the capital.

Federal Islamic authority Jakim had prepared Friday sermons for two weeks in a row lambasting street demonstrations. The first one claimed that protests will open doors towards liberalism (as if that is a bad thing), and the second one this week brazenly claimed that protests are against Islamic laws. Both warned that demonstrations will open doors to foreign intervention.

Did they somehow forget that protests by Muslim groups almost always happen after the congregation of Friday prayers?

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