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The Christian bogeyman is never out of style

Published in Malay Mail Online

Facing opposition for trying to implement the controversial hudud law in Kelantan, the clergy class in PAS has found a new bogeyman: the Chinese Christians.

During the muktamar, or annual congress of the party’s ulama wing on Wednesday, PAS’ Dr Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh blamed the alleged rise in anti-Islam sentiments on the growing number of ethnic Chinese who converted into Christianity.

According to Nik Zawawi, who is the wing’s newly-elected deputy chief, the ethnic Chinese had never been hostile about the increasing advances Islam made in the public sphere when many of them were Buddhists.

Because Buddhism is not a missionary religion, Nik Zawawi said.

Unlike Christianity, which he said, has clashed with Islam for ages. And now Islam is starting to spread its wings more and more, he claimed that this was bound to rile up the Christians.

Of course, there are a couple details that Nik Zawawi had left out. Details that would never be questioned by the hundreds of ulama delegates who were faithfully taking in his remarks.

First of all, Christians only make up 9.2 per cent of the country’s population, as of the 2010’s population census. Which is still half the percentage of the Buddhists, 19.8 per cent.

And nowhere near the Muslims who make up 61.3 per cent of the population. Which by 2050, will inflate to 72.4 per cent of the population, while Christians stay at the same proportion.

Secondly, the Christians might have little reason to be irked, or even envious, about the spread of Islam.

Or at least, they have little reason to be more irked than they are right now, as it is explicitly forbidden for them to proselytise towards the Malay and Muslim communities. What could they do about that anyway?

Lastly, Nik Zawawi, and PAS in general, forget that the opposition towards them trying to implement Islamic laws is not limited to Christians.

And the predominant reason why the public is opposing Islam’s increasing advances into the public sphere is exactly because it is increasingly advancing.

There are many critics of PAS and its brand of Islamic laws among Muslims too. Which the party has gone at lengths to paint as hypocrites of the highest nature and traitors to the faith.

Which in turn just makes their detractors criticise them more.

There are many reasons to not agree with PAS. At its basest, there is the matter of trying to convince others who do not share your faith, the reason why we should adopt an archaic law with severe physical punishments, the basis of which comes from religious texts which belong only to a certain group in the community.

Then there comes the question of how it would be compatible in a plural and modern society like ours. And deeper than that, would implementing it be the be all and end all for an Islamist?

But compared to the challenge of addressing these concerns, blaming Christians seems much easier. After all, they are never out of style.

Just this week, 77 police reports were lodged as of last Thursday against a pair of indoor and outdoor festivals organised by the Johor chapter of Christian evangelical group Malaysia for Jesus Revival Movement (MforJ): the 2015 Take Possession of the Land Kingdom Conference and the Festival of God’s Power — both to feature religious teachers from across the region.

They were cancelled after the organiser’s permit application was turned down by the local council. No reason was given.

These days, it is not enough for a Christian event to assume that only Christians would come to its event.

Now, these events would even need to state that it is a “Christian-only event” — as if the cross did not give it away, to ensure that no Muslims will be present, and to make sure that no Muslim ever hears about the event, at all.

Because God forbid, if you do a trailer for the event and host it on YouTube, some Muslims may inadvertently watch it, and you will get crusaders like Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) frothing at their mouths and crying that the Christians are now trying to take over Johor.

I get that evangelical Christians, like MforJ, can be a tad over the top. Their faith healing event, Festival of God’s Power, claims that they have healed dozens of adherents from illnesses afflicting every part of their body just by believing.

But it is just as questionable as Islamic faith healing. They just use different languages of prayer.

The events have been variously described as “inconsiderate” and “insensitive” to other religions (read: Islam), to “insulting.” A certain member of the royalty even accused MforJ Johor, which is from Johor and presumably made of Johoreans, as “outsiders trying to stir chaos” in Johor.

Which is hypocritical.

Because no such protest would be held against Islamic mega-events such as Malam Cinta Rasul, Mega Mawlid or Selawat Perdana, which usually take up much larger areas of public space. Nor would police reports be lodged against them when they are blatantly shoving their religious rituals into other Malaysians’ faces.

In this country, we supposedly have freedom of religion. But some religions are more free than others.

As for Christianity, maybe it goes the other way round. That it is Muslims who tend to clash with it, more often than not.

Published inMMO column
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