By Kuik Cheng Kang
Looking back over the past week, my feelings about the country have been rather mixed.
On the one hand I feel worried that the government is doing everything it can to please a particular group of people without taking the possible consequences into consideration; on the other hand, I am also worried about the trend of increasing Islamisation.
Next year, we celebrate the country’s 60th anniversary, but our leaders, for the sake of their own political survival, have taken the country further and further away from the ideals of secularism.
The diverse cultural and religious heritage we had taken so much pride in is beginning to wane.
In order to please the 1.6 million-strong civil servants in the country, the Barisan Nasional government has made it much easier for them to take loans, further accentuating the already serious household debt problem and thus posing even more severe challenges to the Malay community in future.
For years, the Chinese community pinned its hope on a two-party system, but this dream will not be fulfilled soon.
The opposition camp is still deep in a quagmire of internal conflicts, unable to come up with a more reassuring shadow cabinet, or policies that are more convincing than those of the BN.
The Chinese community used to count on the DAP, but the party seems to be constantly embroiled in conflict rather than more productive things; its relationship with its Pakatan Harapan allies is wholly premised upon a delicate equilibrium in power-sharing and interests, one that could be at stake any time.
A closer inspection of current affairs reveals a worrisome and increasingly prevalent trend of Islamisation, which has been taking place so spontaneously and irreversibly that the moment we come to a realisation, we find it seems to have been deeply enmeshed in society.
PAS is putting all its effort and energy to see to the establishment of an Islamic state. What the party is doing now is buying time to wait for its eventual fruition.
Take the steamy “Pretzel Dog” issue, for instance. People started to throw in their comments after the incident came to light, all appearing to target Jakim. Some ministers have also voiced their frustration, blaming Jakim officials for taking things into their own hands.
After the farce turned Malaysia into an international laughing stock, Jamil Khir Baharom, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs, argued that Jakim would not hold back Auntie Anne’s halal certification merely because of the name of a product.
Amendment to halal certification provisions
But, after all the hoohah, has anyone actually taken the lead to call for the amendment of the relevant provisions on halal certification?
The Malay and Muslim population is dominant in Malaysia, and it is this group of people that all political parties in this country have been fighting so hard to win over.
Umno is not going to take the lead to amend the halal certification provisions, nor will PKR and Parti Pribumi Bersatu, let alone PAS.
The A&W that we have grown so familiar with quietly changed the “Root Beer” on its menu to simply “RB”, and the iconic but contentious “Coney Dog” to “Chicken Coney” or “Beef Coney”.
A&W Malaysia chief executive Samad Mohd Shariff said those who apply to Jakim for halal certification must conform to a checklist, which includes an item on the naming of products. The company even changed its web URL from “rootbeer.com.my” to “anwmalaysia.com.my” for fear its halal certification would be revoked in future.
Actually, under Jakim’s 2014 Halal Certification Circular No 2, product names which contain the word “ham”, “bak kut teh”, “bacon”, “beer”, “hot dog” and “char siew” (Chinese barbecued pork) are all considered non-halal. This ruling has been in place for many years, contradicting what Jamil had said that food names will not affect the halal certification.
If not for the Aunty Anne’s Pretzel Dog incident, many may not even be aware that the Islamisation agenda has gone this far.
Given the political split in Malay society, the only way for Umno to please the Muslim community is to come up with more Islamicised policies: it appears that religion is the only tactic to bring the Malays together.
One example is the number of Malay youngsters being sent to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East for further studies, binding Malay society to Islam.
If Umno fails again to secure the support of Chinese voters at the next general election, the party will have no more reservations in engaging with PAS.
Last week, I met Idris Jala, former minister in the PM’s department, at a wedding dinner. We talked about the current political situation, and we both agreed that Chinese Malaysians are slowly pushing Umno towards PAS without us realising it.
Kuik Cheng Kang writes for Sin Chew Daily.
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