Malaysia is not what it used to be about 30 years ago. We were less developed then and neither were there numerous hijab-clad women and men in Arabised garb. Even female religious teachers wore modest scarves with bits of hair revealed and some did not cover their heads at all.
People welcome modern development of better infrastructures and services and so you witness widespread physical changes in this country. Being resource-rich with the then sensitive political leadership and good economic planning, Malaysia has been able to develop her human capital through emphasis on secular education.
This country was set to play on the world stage and be a model of a peaceful multi-ethnic country. Alas sometimes in early 80s someone had decided to use religion for his political ambition. Drawing on the inherent insecurity of man about the afterlife, the change-agent in authority then, named Anwar Ibrahim ( currently incarcerated), yes, the same one; went on a blitz to “Islamise” almost every facet of life in this country starting with the building of an exclusive free school for hijab-clad girls then the whole of the education system and the government agencies.
More religious schools were built practically separating children of different faiths, who will be the future leaders of this country. More Muslim parents are sending their young children’s to study religious texts instead of the stuffs which will enable them to operate in this fast changing world.
That beginning has morphed into the monstrous system using laws such as the Seditious Act, ostensibly protecting the sanctity of the religion and the hereditary rulers to force, intimidate,arrest and threaten people whom they regard as not adhering to their moral rules. This system is being run mostly by those who were sent to study in Middle-Eastern countries in the mid-80s and 90s.
They take it upon themselves to guard the moral of the Muslim society. They issue edicts according to their ideology. Some are truly repressive like women cannot wear tight jeans and cannot do Yoga and cannot wish Merry Christmas et cetera.
So intrusive and insensitive have these people become that due to the poor political leadership to rein in this “extremism”, a group of 25 eminent (Muslim) Malays had written an open letter to plead for a rational dialogue on use of religion to control the life of citizens of this country and encroach on the constitutional rights of Malaysians.
I would like to share a recent open letter from a member of the Group of 25, who was the Secretary-General of our Treasury from 1991-1993, on the need to defend our Constitution which looks like being trampled on by these overzealous religious Turks.
To me the letter is an excellent expression of rationality and of moderation which the weak political leadership of this country is tossing around at the global stage but has failed to practice it at home.
Here is his letter:
Defending constitutional democracy
I THINK anyone reading the open letter on Dec 7, 2014 (published in The Star on Dec 8) by the G25 (a group of prominent Malays) will find it easy to understand its core message about the kind of country that we want Malaysia to be.
We want Malaysia to remain a constitutional democracy because it is the most effective form of government in defending the rights and freedoms of citizens.
It is also most suited for Malaysia, given the multi-racial character of its population; the differences in language, culture and religion among the people; and their desire as citizens for fair and equal treatment under the law.
A Federal Constitution that recognises the basic rights of all communities is the glue that holds together this multi-racial nation.
In a constitutional democracy, there is clear separation of powers between the legislature, the judiciary and the executive, and there are checks and balances to guard against abuse of power by any one branch of government……….