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Prof. Farish Ahmad-Noor is a political scientist and historian at the Centre for Modern Orient Studies (Zentrum Moderner Orient), Berlin, and visiting Professor at UIN Sunan Kalijaga University of Jogjakarta. He is the author of 'Writings on the War on Terror' (2006), 'From Majapahit to Putrajaya' (2005) and 'Islam Embedded: The Historical Development of PAS' (2004). The 'Other Malaysia' project is a sustained attempt to foreground aspects of Malaysian history that have been marginalised in the dominant racialised political discourse and history of the country.
Dr Farish A Noor, a political scientist and historian at the Centre for Modern Orient Studies, Berlin, said that Malaysia runs a risk of turning into a “Pakistan” should political leaders continue to reinterpret the Federal Constitution by calling Malaysia an Islamic state.
“I CANNOT find ANY justification or pretend to understand some of the statements by Malaysian leaders over the past decade,” he said during a Parliamentary Roundtable to reaffirm the Merdeka social contract that Malaysia is a secular state.
Present at the launch in Parliament were Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang, DAP national chairperson Karpal Singh, All Women’s Action Society (Awam) representative Honey Tan, National Human Rights Society (Hakam) president Malik Imtiaz and Parti Sosialis Malaysia pro-tem chairperson Dr Mohd Nasir.
Also present were Bar Council Malaysia Human Rights Committee representative Andrew Khoo and Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) president Dr Harcharan Singh.
According to Dr Farish Noor, Malaysians are drifting apart from one another and are increasingly identifying themselves by race, religion or ideology. The dangers of Malaysian politics is to “the extent that communitarian politics have become normalised.”
Due to communal politics, Malaysians are also losing a national identity that supersedes race or religion, he added.
He said Malaysia politics “is increasingly becoming Right Wing” and is following the paths of many former British colonial states, where societies “regressed” into communal and sectarian politics.
Using Islamisation as an example, Farish said leaders “fall back on core religious” rhetoric when there is “deterioration in the management” of a country. Dr Farish Noor added:
Referring to a recent decision by the Fatwa council to allow the use of indelible ink in elections, Dr. Farish said:
“Any scholar of Islam will tell you that there is NO basis in traditional orthodox Islamic jurisprudence that could possibly support or justify something like the Internal Security Act.
Centuries of Muslim legal scholarship have argued against detention without trial. Yet, we have politicians summarily applied Islamic ethics to which we CANNOT , beyond any stretch of the imagination, reach the even minimum basic ethical requirement of any Muslim theology.
So what is really underlying this process of Islamisation in Malaysia, I can only point to the sectarian politician and argue that what we are seeing today is the communal political interest of ONE specific ethnic community in the country at the detriment of the OTHER communities.
We are becoming like Americans now, white American, black American, Asian American and all that. And we have enough divisions in our society.
This whole attempt to present Malaysia as a MULTI-CULTURAL Malaysia somehow emphasises NOT our diversity but our DIFFERENCES .
That’s why when there’s a national day parade, we’re all suddenly wearing our traditional dress which of course we don’t wear when we go to KLCC. You don’t dress up like this in real life. But once a year, we all have to wear all this to be very ethnic to express how different we are from everyone else.
Everyone reverts back to his suku-suku mentality. Even among the Malays it’s broken down to the Kelantanese and Minangs and we just continue to divide ourselves.”
“It says two things. First this particular religious community is making a community demand, ie ‘We don’t care what the rest of you do, you can dip your finger or your foot in the ink, we don’t care. We are special, we have to consult our experts. Our experts can tell us we can dip our fingers in the ink or not.’
Second is that, by recognising the authority of religious scholars of that community, you are basically saying, this religious authority supercede the states, ie ‘I’m Muslim first and a Malaysian second.’ If this pattern is repeated across the board (with people practising other faiths)... what happens to Malaysia
When faced with problems like these, that cut across the board, the Malaysian reaction is to (create organisations) that represents everyone.
And these organisations have very long names because everyone single suku has to have to be represented in it. And when you do that, in political sociology terms, you have bonding capital, not bridging capital.
What this country needs is not more organisations with ten different alphabets but rather organisations that bring us together on a shared common interest.
I would be much happier to see more football clubs in Malaysia where everyone can come not because you are Malay, Indian or Chinese, but because you like Chelsea or Manchester United or whatever. Then your personal racial biography becomes secondary, rather than being pushed to the front.
If you notice in the urban geography of Malaysia, you may notice that there is a competition for turf. One community wants a mosque, the other wants a church ... a temple.
But nobody says let’s have a playground for all kids to play. That’s what we are losing in Malaysia today. The bridging capital.
The neutral spaces that there can be interaction where, frankly, people don’t care about race or religion.
That is something we are missing out in this rush to make sure we are all represented and to produce more and more organisations where there are 20 alphabets in the name that we can’t even pronounce."