From Terence Netto
All these years, while pushing their agenda of Islamisation of the laws of the country, PAS took care to tell non-Muslims that they had no cause to fear for their rights as citizens.
Non-Muslims were leery of these assurances.
Proponents of the PAS agenda would at times look genuinely offended when their earnest disclaimers of intent to infringe the rights of non-Muslims were met with scepticism.
Whatever PAS was selling via the rhetoric of their shariah exponents, their non-Muslim listeners were not buying.
It appeared PAS rhetoricians had not heard of the saying that the road to a religious hell in Malaysia for non-Muslims is paved with the good intentions of exponents of shariah law touting its inapplicability to the Nons.
In recent days, two moves by the authorities in Kuala Lumpur and Kedah confirmed the fears of non-Muslims that despite protestations to the contrary, Muslim enforcers don’t care a fig for the rights of others when applying their bans on alcohol and gambling.
On Nov 1, Kuala Lumpur City Hall banned all sales of beer and alcohol in grocery stores, convenience stores and Chinese medical halls within the city. These premises have long had a policy of not selling beer and alcohol to Muslims. Their sales of the stuff were confined to non-Muslims.
But under new rules that came into effect on Nov 1, grocery stores, convenience stores and medical halls are barred from stocking beer and alcohol for sale to non-Muslims, thus forfeiting some RM50 million worth of business a year.
This potential forfeiture comes on the heels of a slump in sales caused by a just-ended span of 20 months of Covid-19 induced lockdowns and slowdowns.
A double whammy is about the worst thing that these newly resurgent businesses would want at this time.
It was as if a thump on the solar plexus of these business outlets caused by the restrictions brought on by the pandemic was followed up by a punch in their stomachs by the KL City Hall ban on beer and alcohol sales.
Business owners and non-Muslim consumers were irate at this infringement of their right to conduct a legitimate business and enjoy their tipples, as beer and alcohol are not under any strictures to adherents of non-Muslim systems of belief.
Barely had non-Muslims in KL recovered from this frustrating constraint on their rights when Kedah menteri besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor announced that 4-digit gaming outlets in the state will not have their licences renewed by local district councils.
A KL ban on the grog has been followed up by a Kedah severance of gambling.
Political observers would not be surprised by the action of the Kedah menteri besar. A stormy petrel of Malaysian politics, PAS politician Sanusi has been picking fights with Penang over the latter’s rights to draw water from the Muda River for its needs.
In recent weeks, Sanusi shifted from being a thorn in Penang’s flesh to an ulcer in its mouth by demanding a higher annual payment from Penang for the alleged lease of the territory from Kedah.
Now, to add insult to injury, Sanusi has advised aggrieved 4-digit punters in Kedah, soon to be deprived of their weekly fix, to buy their gaming tickets in neighbouring Penang.
The successive moves of the KL authorities and their Kedah counterparts have ripped to shreds the assurances of proponents of Islamic proscriptions that their ardour to impose religious ordinances on Muslims will not redound to the infringement of non-Muslim rights.
As happens often in such affairs, despots who ride the back of the tiger seldom are respectful of limits, no matter what they might have assured in the past about their capacity for restraint.
Terrence Netto is a senior journalist and an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.