Is Islamophobia slowly creeping into Malaysian society?

Haniff-KhatriBy Haniff Khatri

While going through the reports published by the alternative media yesterday, my attention was drawn to a report published by FMT (Sept 23, 2017) titled “Flora Damansara man must be investigated, says lawyer”, in which a previous FMT report (Sept 23) titled “Problems abound at Flora Damansara, says residents’ rep”, which also contained an uploaded video of the related issue, was the subject matter of the comment by Sankara Nair, a fellow member of the Malaysian Bar.

It is never my intention in any way to unnecessarily render a differing view to a fellow member of the Malaysian Bar. However, I am compelled to do so on this issue, simply because, of late, I find that there has emerged a concerning trend among certain members of our society that any view or issue which centres around general morality or common good of the society, is alarmingly responded to as if it is due to over emphasis of Islamic values “forced” unto the general members of our society.

In simple language, something like the frightening Islamophobia among the Western countries post-9/11.

Now, before I go further into the issue at hand with regard to the video, I would firstly like to correct the constitutional and legal error in the statement, as reported by the earlier FMT report, in which, it was suggested that our nation is a “secular” nation. Actually, in my humble opinion, there was no necessity to bring up the issue of secularism or otherwise of our nation, or constitution, to the discussion of the actual issue at hand.

However, since that has been raised, allow me to state the following. English Oxford Living Dictionary defines “secular” as “not connected with religious or spiritual matters; not subject to or bound by religious rule; not belonging to or living in a monastic or other order”.

On the other hand, a close perusal of our Federal Constitution will show that the drafters intentionally have not written our constitution devoid of any reference to any religion. In many parts of the constitution, direct as well as indirect, reference has been made to religions, Islam as well as other religions. Surely, going by the English definition of “secular” stated above, our Federal Constitution and, by extension, our nation, cannot be categorised as a secular constitution or nation. However, it does not also mean that, as a consequence, our constitution is an Islamic constitution per se. Peculiar as it may sound, our constitution in a way is best described as a hybrid constitution, a constitution which is not completely detached from religion.

This proposition surely cannot be denied by the majority of the constitutionalists, when, in fact, as early as Article 3(1) was placed in our constitution, it has been pronounced loud and clear that “Islam is the religion of the federation, but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation”.

So much for the topic of “secular” or “Islamic” nation.

Now coming back to the issue at hand, it is not denied that the gentleman in the video is a local, having his residence in Flora Damansara, and that he was addressing certain foreign residents believed to be residing in the same neighbourhood. Surely, one cannot deny that the content of his statement (as per the video) is to call upon his neighbourhood to stay away or refrain from activities involving drugs, drinking liquor in public, prostitution, and lastly, to be properly attired, if possible.

Surely, drugs, liquor consumption in public and prostitution are issues which affect integral values of any society, regardless of religion. Drugs and prostitution activities are not only unacceptable in Islam. In fact, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, or followers of any other faith, as well as atheists too, would agree to oppose those issues. Those issues cut through religion and race, regardless of whether one is a Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sabahan or Sarawakian, or even a foreigner, for that matter.

I honestly believe that the majority of right-thinking members of our society would actually be applauding this gentleman and his friends who have taken the trouble to do what they did in order to “nip in the bud” the problem of lack of interaction between foreigners, or expatriates, and locals, as well as to disseminate local values (including the harmless suggestion to be dressed appropriately, if possible).

Do we not remember what happened in June 1995 to four tourists from England, Canada and Holland, who broke the culture of the locals in Sabah and were charged for obscenity after they stripped in a public place – on the peak of Mount Kinabalu – and for their lack of “appropriate dressing”.

Have we forgotten the case of the nine Australian tourists who wore “Malaysian flag underpants” at the Sepang Formula 1 race in October 2016, and were also charged, and pleaded guilty, for obscenity due to their lack of “appropriate dressing”.

Come on Malaysians, let us not oppose a noble and proper cause to integrate the locals with foreigners for the good of their own neighbourhood, just because of our own prejudicial, negative and unwarranted judgment caused by the wrongful fear of Islam or Islamophobia!

With all the above, I really do not find it necessary to respond to the unnecessary call for that gentleman in the video to be investigated for any alleged crime under our law.

In fact, it may certainly not be out of place for me to propose that instead of criminal investigation, the man should be awarded with a Certificate of Appreciation for the marvellous work that he and his friends are doing for their local community.

“Demi agama dan negara tercinta”.

Haniff Khatri is a lawyer and an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.