More than 1,000 people, one report said 2,000, marched from the Masjid Jamek mosque to the Sogo shopping complex in Kuala Lumpur on May 4 to “defend the sovereignty of Islam”.
The rally, organised by the Gerakan Pembela Ummah (Ummah), was forced to end 90 minutes before time because of a heavy downpour. The crowd, according to reports, was largely made up of Umno and PAS members, with PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, PAS Youth leader Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi and Umno Youth leader Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki among the marchers.
As citizens, they have a right to rally and I congratulate them for doing it peacefully.
Why was the rally held? The organisers and participants felt that Islam was under threat and that the Pakatan Harapan government was not doing enough to “protect” Islam.
The last time Ummah organised a rally, on Dec 8, 2018, it was also to “protect” Islam and the Malay rulers. Police had estimated the crowd that protested against the proposed ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to be about 55,000.
To me, the small crowd on May 4 shows that Malays do not buy into the argument that the Malays as a community are being sidelined or that Islam is facing a threat under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.
In fact, any thinking person would know that Islam is not under threat and neither are the Malays being sidelined.
The problem in Malaysia is that even people such as the Perlis mufti, Asri Zainul Abidin, who many see as a progressive Muslim, are spreading such views. He said last month that Muslims were being bullied under the PH government.
Muslims are being bullied? Really?
On May 2, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa, describing Asri as “an old friend” and a “progressive” Muslim leader, noted that Asri’s outburst came about after police arrested preacher Muhammad Zamri Vinoth Kalimuthu, said to be an associate of Asri, for allegedly insulting Hinduism.
Mujahid asked if Asri had come to this conclusion that Islam was under threat merely based on this incident.
Mujahid then listed 10 measures implemented by the PH government to show its commitment to the growth of Islam. Among others, he noted that the PH government had: increased the budget for the administration of Islam to RM1.2 billion; given additional allocations of RM50 million and RM25 million for tahfiz schools and pondok schools respectively; reformed Islamic institutions and agencies; and committed RM17.8 billion to rehabilitate Tabung Haji.
Mujahid, of course, was being nice. Not so Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He described Asri as “deaf” for making such a wild statement.
“(He) is deaf. If he could hear (he would have heard that) we are doing all sorts of things for Muslims and the religion (in the country). But he can’t hear.”
But Asri is not alone.
There are quite a number of people – of all races – who suffer from wilful ignorance. They choose to ignore the facts in favour of preconceived notions or group bias, or refuse to accept information that will prove their notions wrong. Perhaps I may write about this in a later column, as wilful ignorance or wilful blindness is not good for multiracial Malaysia.
But, there are still people who hear well and see clearly. There are Muslim NGOs, such as Abim, which are quietly working to show that Islam means peace. And there are Muslims who are doing little things here and there to improve the image of Islam.
If you ask me, the “Malay man” who helped transform the lives of an Indian family has done more for Islam than many Muslim preachers and strident Muslim NGOs.
The story of Adi Kamal, highlighted by FMT, has been shared tens of thousands of times. Briefly, one day about four months ago, S Sukumarah’s young daughter Sarmini tapped on Adi’s car window and asked if her father could wash his car.
Adi said no but chatted with Sukumarah. He discovered that the latter had had a string of bad luck and was washing cars to keep his family going, including to buy books for Sarmini. Adi wrote a Facebook post about the sufferings of the family and soon donations poured in.
Now, the “family’s life has changed more than they could have imagined”, according to a FMT report. And until a few days ago, the family had not met humble Adi and only referred to him as the “Malay man”.
A Muslim man reached out to a suffering Hindu and changed his life. Now, tell me, doesn’t this make you feel good? With a simple act of kindness, Adi has won over the hearts of thousands of non-Muslims to the good of Islam.
Then there is this Muslim group called the Global Unity Network which visited the Sri Maha Kaliamman Temple in Kg Kasipillay and the St Joseph’s Church and Sri Jayanti Buddhist Temple in Sentul following the suicide bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people.
The NGO’s president Shah Kirit Kakulal Govindji was reported as saying on April 29 that when Muslims were killed in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a lone terrorist, non-Muslims showed their solidarity with Muslims. He said: “Even if one non-Muslim is killed, we must show concern. We must be fair to everyone.”
That action, and statement, touched the hearts of many non-Muslims and showed that acts of violence done in the name of Islam have nothing to do with the faith as practiced by Malaysian Muslims.
So, who do you think is doing more for Islam? Groups such as Global Unity Network and individuals such as the “Malay man” or those who constantly claim Islam is under threat when they know it is not, or who use Islam for political gain?
A Kathirasen is an executive editor at FMT
The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.