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Political animals gnaw at apostasy issue

 | March 31, 2012

Who is it that banked on Islam as political currency? None other than ex-Umno man Anwar Ibrahim himself.

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Like a pot calling the kettle black, Anwar Ibrahim made the audacious claim that Umno, being “in charge of religion”, is fear-mongering the apostasy issue for political mileage.

Anwar was quoted in an FMT report on March 29 as saying that the teachers’ seminar scheduled to be held in Johor on Saturday was “part of an effort to manage control through the use of fear and faith”.

He was referring to the planned weekend training programme titled “Pemantapan Aqidah, Bahaya Liberalisme dan Pluralisme Serta Ancaman Kristianisasi Terhadap Umat Islam. Apa Peranan Guru?”

Meanwhile Malaysiakini had the same story headlined ‘Christian threat is Umno propaganda’ whereas The Malaysian Insider pointed out that “the opposition leader was quick to link the matter to Umno”.

Anwar had told a press conference in the Parliament: “I want to state that Umno is mighty in Malaysia. Umno is in charge of religion, Umno is in charge of the finances so if the allegations (proselytizating to Muslims) are true that means Umno has failed to strengthen the faith of the Muslims.”

Meanwhile Lim Kit Siang alleged that the seminar organizers had gone against Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s 1Malaysia concept as such events would only “lead to greater racial polarisation”.

1Malaysia vs Malaysian First

Before I discuss the audacity of Anwar, let me first illustrate why Kit Siang’s call should be aptly described as ‘menepuk air di dulang, terpercik muka sendiri juga’ or in other words, the attack only serving to show up the DAP parliamentary leader’s own woeful lack of understanding.

It is DAP standard operating procedure to take potshots at the Najib national unity slogan by unwarrantedly linking it to every conceivable controversy.

One prominent occasion was when Kit Siang and his fellow DAP politicians including son Guan Eng derided Muhyiddin Yassin as being “Malay first, Malaysian second”.

Their taunting only reveals the party’s ideological shortcomings.

According to the Federal Constitution’s definition of ‘Malay’ in Article 160, the person is a Muslim who habitually speaks Malay and conforms to Malay customs.

The status of Islam is enshrined in Article 3 of the FedCon, and Malay as our national language in Article 152. On these two counts, Muhyiddin as a Malay individual aligns perfectly with the constitution.

On the other hand, Kit Siang, Guan Eng and Hannah ‘Anak Malaysia’ Yeoh do not.

Regarding the third aspect defining a Malay, let’s look at the legal standing of Malay customs.

To the layman, customs are understood as cultural practices. Muhyiddin has been at the forefront of promoting Malay culture – good on him as the deputy president of Umno.

Custom is adat; Malay adat is intertwined with customary law.

Adat bersindi hukum

Hukum bersindi kitabullah

Kuat adat tak gaduh hukum

Kuat hukum tak gaduh adat

(Customary law hinges on religious law, religious law on the word of God. If custom is strong, religion is not upset, if religion is strong, custom is not upset.)

There is a proverb that goes “adat sentosa di dalam negeri” or the customs of the land preserve harmony. Upon the formation of modern Malaya, the essentials of Malay customs were codified in the area of public law, i.e. the federal constitution.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy and one of the roles of the Sultan is as “the protector of Malay customs”. This is the ruler’s  Royal Prerogative viz. the state constitution(s) and vested in his sovereignty (daulat).

RH Hickling – an eminent jurist from the Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya (1987) – in his introduction to the concept of law in Malaysia wrote, among other observations: “The tenacity of Malay custom remains”, “adat is woven into the texture of a community” and even “the British in Malaya recognized the validity of adat and adat law”.

Clearly Muhyiddin’s Malay character is in perfect accord with the Federal Constitution.

Do not forget that “In Malaysia only the Constitution is supreme” and “What is supreme in Malaysia is the Constitution itself” – the words of the late Lord President Tun Mohamed Suffian.

And yet we find Kit Siang, Guan Eng and the DAP constantly berating Muhyiddin as being “Malaysian second”. How bizarre. What is it about these DAP leaders that ought to qualify them ahead of the deputy prime minister as Malaysian First?

Hence, considering the DAP’s unforgivable ignorance of our country’s birth certificate, can they now or at any other time be fit to talk about Malaysian First much less to keep throwing eggs at 1Malaysia?

The culprits politicking Islam

About the seminar Anwar said, “What I can confirm is that this is nothing other than a disgusting political manoeuvre to use religion to frighten the people.”

Who is it that has hijacked religion to use for political badging?

Let’s first look at Anwar’s ex-boss Dr Mahathir Mohamed who was Umno president for more than two decades. By virtue of serving as prime minister concurrently, Dr M’s thousands of speeches and public appearances are all properly documented and archived.

Did Dr M tunjuk alim atau warak janggut macam kambing (display outward piety or keep a goatee to project an ustaz-like demeanour)? Nope, Anwar did.

Dr M’s speeches were never peppered with quotes from the Quran or fancy Arabic phrases and sayings. And no, Dr M did not take it upon himself to lead congregational prayers in the mosque on Friday or at other occasions in the Islamic calendar. Instead it is Anwar who carried out all the Islamic-flavoured gimmickry.

Anwar and a number of DAP poseurs like Guan Eng with his Caliph Umar Abdul Aziz posturing, the DAP Chinese MPs and state assemblymen who mispronounce Quranic verses/the Hadith, and of course, our holy ladies of the DAP Selendang Squad.

While he may have been active in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Mahathir nonetheless did not trade on any presumed Islamic veneer to boost his political credentials.

What about other Umno figures past and present – Tunku Abdul Rahman, Musa Hitam, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Daim Zainuddin, Hishammuddin Hussein, Rafidah Aziz. Do these leaders go out of their way to portray an outwardly pious Islamic image?

So why lay the charge that Umno controls Islam?

Who instead is it that banked on Islam as political currency? None other than ex-Umno man Anwar himself.

Aside from the PAS people, today’s political personalities with a reputation for Islamic zealotry are Hasan Ali and Zulkifli Noordin. Neither are Umno.

Who controls religion?

Admittedly Abdullah Ahmad Badawi during his premiership tried to promote the Islam Hadhari project but he was the first among our prime ministers. Previous PMs, also the Umno party presidents, never cloaked their administrations in Islamic garb. That is PAS terrain and more recently the DAP’s in Penang.

By law, it is the Sultans and Raja who are the heads of Islam in their states. Not Umno! The Yang di-Pertuan Agung is the head of Islam in his home state as well as in Malacca, Penang and the Federal Territories.

Jurisdiction of Islam remains firmly within the boundaries of each state, meaning Islam is under the legislative and executive authority of the state and not an Umno affair to be directed from the Putra World Trade Centre.

The National Council for Islamic Affairs was established by the Conference of Rulers to co-ordinate the administration of Islamic matters. Every Malay state as well as Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak have their own religious councils.

The National Fatwa Council is a statutory body whereas the syariah courts are civil institutions.

Some Islamic bodies do come under the ambit of the Prime Minister’s Department such as the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim), Pusat Islam (Islamic Centre) and Lembaga Tabung Haji (Pilgrims Fund Board) but nonetheless the PM’s Department is not the personal property of Umno.

This Saturday’s seminar on Christianization is said to be organised by the Johor Mufti Department together with the Johor Education Department. However, the highly disputable accusation by Pakatan leaders implies that the Johor Mufti Department is under the thumb of Umno. Is this really so?

In truth, the institutions of Islam in Johor are not only well-established but independent and arguably the best in Malaysia. The (then) Mufti of Johor was a witness to the ceremony for Undang-undang Tubuh Negeri Johor (or in English, the Johor State Establishment Constitution) on Sept 14, 1895 when Johor became the first peninsular state to adopt constitutional monarchy.

Thus, the venerable and legally constituted office of Johor Mufti predates Umno – formed only in 1946 – by a good 50 years.

Besides that, Johor can rightly take pride in its well-organised religious education boasting an advanced and progressive syllabus. This system comprises the integrated primary and secondary school networks Sekolah Rendah Agama Bersepadu (SRAB) and Sekolah Menengah Agama Kerajaan Johor (SMAKJ) right up to Sekolah Menengah Tinggi Johor (Maahad) that caters for the lower and upper sixth forms.

At tertiary level, Johor has Kolej Pengajian Islam Johor (Marsah) which conducts twinning programmes with Egypt’s celebrated Al-Azhar University.

As such, the Islamic authorities of Johor should rightly be indignant at Anwar’s insinuation that religion and school activities in their state are remote-controlled by Umno.

If anything, it is Malaysia’s religious establishment that might truly be considered as an autonomous Third Force. There’s hardly any necessity for them to bow to Umno but on the contrary, their enforcement officers can well prosecute Umno leaders caught for khalwat or taking second wives without following proper procedures.

When the Pakatan top echelon simply shoots from the hip to stir religious sentiments and smear political rivals, it is little wonder that their fanatical followers so easily resort to insults and slander too.

The writer blogs at http://helenang.wordpress.com


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