Published in The Malay Mail Online
It is a relatively good time to be an Islamist in this country.
If signs are to be believed, it is only a matter of time until Malaysia becomes a full-fledged Islamic country, just like how it was meant to be.
Last week, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was kind enough to grant the Mentri Besar of Kelantan, Ahmad Yaakob, an audience. It was believed that part of their discussions centred on steps to allow hudud laws to be implemented in Kelantan.
This, of course, came after Ahmad’s party, the Islamist PAS, passed a resolution during its annual congress last month, calling for the Federal government to not impede the implementation of Islamic laws, especially hudud, in states which are run by the opposition Pakatan Rakyat.
This frenzy, in turn, came about after the Sultan of Brunei decreed that Islamic laws including hudud be enforced in his country, inviting praises from PAS among others, despite international concerns over human rights.
PAS delegates even went as far as calling attention to the Acheh province in Indonesia, urging for the same kind of moral Gestapo to be given authority in Malaysia to harass citizens.
The frenzy for hudud in PAS’ annual congress was followed, almost serendipitously, by the Sultan of Johor’s announcement that the state will revert its rest days to Fridays and Saturdays to allow Muslims time for their weekly Friday prayers.
The last time this had happened was before 1994, and unlike previously, this time around the proclamation was made without much consideration for business entities, and almost failing to recognise Johor’s status as a neighbour to the burgeoning economy of Singapore.
Alas, this is a small matter. The sultans have listened to the rakyat. Islam is back in the grandstand.
For some, this might feel like a fortuitous turn of events. But not everyone obviously will feel the same way.
I was chatting with a senior PAS leader just before the party’s annual congress, and he expressed his worry over the creeping skin-deep Islamisation that the country is going through.
“The next general elections will be about who seems the most Islamic,” he said, and despite his Islamist credentials, his concern was understandable.
For a devout Muslim, this discomfort comes with seeing Islam being cheapened to a mere political tool, with support for hudud seen as the ultimate tool of proving a politician’s devoutness.
It is as if just by crying one’s religious credential over the others, it automatically absolves him of his many other sins.
We have already seen the ball rolling during the Umno general assembly this week.
Seemingly locked in religious auction with PAS, its Malay support base eroded in the last polls, Umno had beaten its chest, proclaiming itself as the “real” champion of Islam.
A delegate from the women’s wing even declared Umno as “more Islamic” than PAS, citing proven Islamic products such as Islamic banking as purportedly the fruits of Umno’s labour.
We also heard the Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin calling for a Constitutional amendment so that Malays will only adhere to the Sunni denomination of Islam, in another demonisation against the Shia sect.
The deputy prime minister also urged for Islamic studies to be a lifelong learning, whatever that means, to combat liberalism of all things.
We have witnessed a truly rare event, where both PAS and Umno mirrored each other: condemning the “liberals” and advocated human rights as undeniable threats to the sanctity of Islam in the country.
Thanks to smear tactics and fear-mongering by some narrow-minded Muslims NGOs, we have now been assured of not only a state-sanctioned, but even bi-partisan effort to deny Malaysians minorities of their rights.
Top of the list, however, is talk that both Umno and PAS should combine their powers for the sake of the Malays and Islam.
Talks of a unity government between the two have always been in the air, but never have they been so loud. Some of the public are truly looking forward to it.
If anything, if both of them do resort to unity after years of labelling each other heretics, it would only show their desperation and lack of political depth to survive the upcoming years.
For now, they might be in consensus. But it might not be long until they start the heretic blame game again in the game of one-upmanship.
The Muslims might think that they are winning out of this—surely this is a victory—but whether they will benefit from this remains to be seen.
One thing for sure, those who will suffer the most from the creeping Islamisation are the multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-ideological Malaysians. You and me.
There is nothing worse than being the minority, and to see the government that is supposed to represent you fixated on the whims and fancy of only one domineering ethno-religious group.
The road towards the next general elections will be intimidating. The hope of seeing any political body standing up for a secular Malaysia looks bleaker than ever.