PETALING JAYA: Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has defended his remarks on preserving the Malays’ cultural and political dominance, suggesting that there is a free-for-all climate in Malaysia which only a strongman like Saddam Hussein can put a stop to.
He said it was time that authorities rein in leaders from among the minority communities who question the Malay dominance in an attempt to undermine the country’s national character.
“We never liked Saddam Hussein and his cruelties. But it was because of him that Iraq was not divided during his time,” he said, referring to the Iraqi dictator whose regime collapsed in 2003 following an invasion by US-led coalition forces.
Asri said Malaysia needed a strong, dominant leader to take on the “many thugs we currently have”.
“And we will look for a candidate,” he added.
“Sometimes, in a place with a lot of gangsters, the leader needs to be one of the gangsters as well,” Asri said at a Merdeka-related event at the state-run Kolej Universiti Islam Perlis on Sunday evening.
Saddam, who ruled Iraq with an iron fist for three decades, was accused of committing crimes against the country’s majority Shia as well as the Kurdish populations in the north. He was executed in 2006 after he was found guilty of crimes against humanity.
Asri also stood by his earlier remarks that Malaysia belongs to the Malays, and rejected accusations that non-Malays have been unfairly treated.
“We (Muslims) are anti-racism, this does not require explanation. Even the uneducated Malays know that Islam does not allow people to force others to accept the religion,” he said.
He said his own Islamic policies in Perlis have always emphasised justice and fairness to non-Muslims.
He cited as example Perlis’ stand on allowing meat from the Islamic ritual slaughter during Aidiladha celebrations to be distributed to non-Muslims.
“Many of my writings are in defence of non-Muslim rights in this country. You can read my articles on this topic. But now there is an imbalance. The government has no clear direction and everybody can speak up,” he said.
Asri said Malaysia’s national identity is Malay, adding that the Malays are “land owners” of the country who must be respected.
“There must be an identity. God created nations and tribes so that you can recognise each other. Everyone has an identity. Malays wear the Malay dress, not that there’s anything wrong with wearing the Indian dress. But our national dress is baju Melayu.
“Does that mean we have insulted other races? No. Europe has its ways, Thailand has its ways. Tanah Melayu has its ways,” he said, using a historical reference for the Malay peninsula.
“But if learning three to six pages of Jawi in Tanah Melayu can trigger a war-like situation, is this being respectful to the land owners?
“Justice is for all. But every land has its identity. In Tanah Melayu, its religious identity is Islam and its cultural identity is Malay,” said Asri.
Asri’s comments follow his defence of Dr Zakir Naik, in the wake of calls by ruling politicians and non-Muslim groups to deport the controversial Indian preacher.
Last week, police said they would not allow Naik to speak in Perlis, where he was scheduled to appear at several events backed by Asri.
This followed several speeches by Naik in Kelantan, in which he accused Malaysian Hindus of being more loyal to India’s Narendra Modi, and suggested that Chinese Malaysians are guests.
Early today, he apologised for his comments, saying he never meant to “upset any individual or community”.
“It is against the basic tenets of Islam, and I would like to convey my heartfelt apologies for this misunderstanding,” he said.