Muhibbah concept is the true spirit Malaysians must re-create, the former law minister says.
PETALING JAYA: Zaid Ibrahim has called on Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) to champion the religious moderation that underpinned the country’s unity during post-independence years.
“It is important that the world sees Malaysia for what it has always stood for – a country where all people of every race and creed stand together.
“That was what our founding fathers called ‘muhibbah’, and that is the true spirit that we must re-create,” the former law minister said.
Zaid said the country’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, used to remind Malaysians repeatedly that this country could only thrive and prosper if the people respected each other’s race, religion and customs.
The rakyat must embrace the fact that they are different and see diversity as their strength, he said in an interview with FMT.
“Umno was always about moderation, until it began to be distracted by the focus placed by PAS on Islam,” he said.
He explained that since the 1990s, Umno began to increase its focus on religion to counter the increasing influence of the Islamic party.
“These days, in a bid to secure the Malay vote, even ex-Umno stalwarts like Muhyiddin Yassin have embraced PAS as political allies,” he said.
Zaid said this approach has resulted in the country swinging “too far to the right”, resulting in “too much moral policing and excessive religious rules which overreach into public and private life”.
“Right now, we are seeing an uprising of the people of Iran, fighting back against excessive religious encroachment by their government.
“On the other hand, we are seeing Saudi Arabia moving towards moderation to attract investment and establish better ties with the rest of the world,” he said.
In the same way, he said, Malaysia also needs to recover its moderate status.
“For that reason, the rakyat must view Umno’s decision not to tie up with PAS for the general election positively,” he said.
“A strong mandate for Umno/BN from the public will help the next government eliminate overzealous religiosity and moral policing.
“Only a strong Umno/BN representation supported by the moderate forces that exist in Sabah and Sarawak can overcome religious extremism.”
Zaid hoped incidents such as the recent raid by the Federal Territories religious department (Jawi) on a Halloween party last weekend can be minimised.
“The government would do better to teach the principles of Islam, rather than enforce them through the use of criminal laws,” he said.