By Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff bin Mohd Kassim
I refer to the news report on the police explanation that the reason for the ban by DBKL (Kuala Lumpur city council) on the beer festival is that there was a security risk that extremists were planning a terror attack on the event.
Congratulations to the police for their intelligence gathering. It’s a great comfort to know that our police intelligence is efficient in keeping the public safe from terror attacks.
Terror threats and attacks have also become a major problem in many cities in Europe and America where mentally deranged individuals, social drop-outs, radical groups and fanatics take their personal frustrations, as well as political and religious ideologies to the streets, hoping to catch the prime time TV news and become instant celebrities.
Some of these attacks are very deadly and they include Islamic fundamentalists expressing their hatred for western values and lifestyles through jihad bombings on civilian targets, on the promise by their imams that those who sacrifice their lives for Islam will be rewarded with eternal pleasure in heaven.
Whatever the threats, western authorities do not respond with panic measures to ban public gatherings, football games, music and beer festivals and entertainment centres as doing so will only lend credence to the terror groups and religious fundamentalists.
Instead, western leaders have reiterated the need for the civilian population to face the threats with vigilance and go on with their daily life as usual.
These countries are determined to stand by their values of freedom and show to the hate groups that the western democratic way of life will not change, whatever the threats.
These countries are confident that the terror organisations will not win because their people are united in defending the values they hold dear.
The DBKL ban on the beer festival is a major disappointment and a setback for human rights. It is worrying to see that the DBKL is giving support to the anti-social elements who want to dictate our lifestyles according to their religious beliefs.
Malaysians are becoming worried about the pattern in DBKL to bend to pressure groups and cancel the permits for music and cultural festivals at the last minute, causing financial loss to the organisers.
Tourist, food and entertainment businesses will surely be concerned whether there is a future for them in the economy.
We are seeing political and religious groups making demands for Muslims to be treated separately from other Malaysians at public laundrettes and toilets, at supermarkets, at cinemas and for liquor sales to be outlawed in majority-Muslim residential areas.
The DBKL ban on the beer festival has encouraged these groups to be more brazen in their demands.
We can learn about leadership in facing up to extremist threats from the Muslim mayor of London. Each time there is a tragedy, the mayor will respond bravely standing in front of world TV to describe the attack on London as an attack not only on Britain but also on humanity.
He will call for cooperation with the police so that justice will be done quickly to uphold the rule of law. And he will ask all Londoners to stand united and show to the world that the terrorists will be defeated.
In Malaysia, our leaders 47 years ago introduced the Rukun Negara, containing the five principles for uniting Malaysians with shared values of respect and tolerance for our diversity and multiculturalism.
Our prime minister, in his recent visit to the White House to meet the US president, mentioned to the world that Malaysia believes in tolerance and moderation.
In his recent Maal Hijrah message, Najib Razak again reminded Malaysians about moderation in all things that we do.
It is timely that our politicians and administrators take heed of his plea for moderation.
As Malaysia is a democracy, all groups have a right to make suggestions for their community but any suggestion that will lead Malaysians to lead separate lives should be handled with care as each administrative action to ban an event on grounds of race and religion can be divisive.
As the beer festival is not the first such ban, there is a perception that Malaysia is becoming increasingly intolerant of other cultures.
It will also create the impression that while the top leaders speak about tolerance and moderation, the little Napoleons are free to do as they wish to pander to the pressure groups.
The impression is that mob rule is becoming the norm at the lower levels of government.
Our KL mayor should stand up to say that the cultural and entertainment life of the city cannot be held to ransom by racial and religious bigotry.
The economic life of the city will collapse if there is uncertainty whether permits will be approved and then cancelled at will the moment an event becomes a sensitive issue.
The government is spending billions to make KL one of the most liveable cities in the world. It is becoming more beautiful with all the trendy architecture, modern infrastructure and nice landscaping that make the city lively day and night.
All this beauty will go to waste if the city administrators give way to the few religious ideologists who want to impose their conservative values on our lifestyles.
KL must not be allowed to become a hermit city with no life.
Malaysian Muslims need to be vocal to defend the rights of choice of all races and demonstrate that they want to continue to co-exist in a multicultural society with the diverse lifestyles that make a city great.
Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff bin Mohd Kassim is the former Secretary-General of the Treasury, Ministry of Finance and a member of the civil society group G25.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.