Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Putting Religion Neutral and At The Back Seat

To manipulate a man is a careful project. Too light a hand and he follows on his own whim. Too heavy a hand and he will turn on you.

Malaysia still remains on autopilot mode while religious NGOs have been making plenty of noises, bickering trivial matters that is as like intruding people’s privacy, and religious authorities have a hand in making policy decisions that goes down to every individual. All this remains and yet the government is not very firm in making their stand on these matters. While these people bicker, thumping their chests declaring themselves holier than thou, the fabric of society and economy in Malaysia is slowly disintegrating, as there has been countless number of cases of blood of innocent people spilled, being crime victims, people being discriminated, places being torn down, and so forth.

Why? One of the answers would be that bear in mind that Malaysia to this day has only ratified two of the nine articles of human rights, namely articles regarding women and children. But other articles like civil / political rights, economy / social / cultural rights, refugee status, racial discrimination, torture and cruel degrading punishment, disabled persons and even migrant worker protection rights (signed) were never ratified at all. This has indirectly given a loophole in law to allow bad apples in the authorities / enforcement entities to do things that can be kept secret. It is no doubt that there have been plenty of reports from various human-rights NGOs in Malaysia about third-degree interrogation (beating in custody) and all the misconduct coming from the authorities (just because of a few bad apples).

Human rights NGOs have been heavily whacked to and fro by Muslim NGOs, ISMA in particular. Likewise, even MPs have accused other MPs for supporting LGBT. Most individuals in the accusing NGOs have demonstrated emotional vulnerability and inferiority complex when they commit such accusation. What they are unaware of is that their statements indirectly hint of the tendency to put aside these groups of people, who are even humans, who cry for help, but yet treated like lepers. 

Most youngsters today are no longer the same in the mindset against the previous generation. Sometimes, their actions have drawn the ire of the older generation, old men in particular who have called various measures to stifle them all for the reason of security and public order. The question remains on where do we exactly draw the line or, if there’s a line being established, rather to raise the line or lower the line to the point of being considered of committing something out of order.

Example: some concerts from international artists that youngsters of all races have been waiting for were cancelled at the last minute. The last hurdle towards getting the permit to perform at any venue is always the conservative dress code. Make fans happy and you are actually forcing these people to go to either Bangkok, Jakarta or even Singapore just to see this show as result of not letting them have their fun in their lives. Boohoo.

There is now a trend of Muslim youths shifting towards freethinking and atheism in the Middle-East. The trend kept on expanding despite the popularity not being reported in their own country’s presses? While many think that the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Tunisia and Egypt seem to make people turn against people who thinks liberal, secular, and trying to think beyond the boundaries of religion, on the contrary, it had a reverse effect. The myth that Western influences over them is not entirely true and accurate. However, it underlines the notion that is that the heavy hand of religious interference has impede the ability of think further in the advancement of knowledge and science

Few may understand that some of the social-related authorities in the country are their own worst enemy. They have introduced various measures that are tantamount to violating a person’s privacy. Even the raids on people suspected of committing acts of adultery and indecency are also not even spared. On the worse cases, it seems that the some of the Friday sermons that were reported by the news were more or less going astray from the original teachings. Some of the instances include the (GST) sermon or even the Chinese bashing were already showing that the organization uses the religion as cover and a political instrument to coerce agreement (manufacturing consent) by force, by drilling the falsehoods for the people to turn against their fellow non-Muslim Malaysians.

I am quite surprised to see a remark from the Islamic affairs minister that there would be a proposal brought forward to arm religious officials with guns, bringing them on the same status with the police. Oh my, you mean if they are going for those raids, they can bring their new toys and point those things at people? Religion at the whims of a gun barrel? So the national society has gone cuckoo.

Look around. I thought Malaysians would be exponentially highly educated after 50 years, but it has gone roller coaster from the mid-70s until now. Literacy rate instead is around the precarious levels of dunces. Most of them can’t even speak perfect English, most of them don’t get those professional level jobs, and many of them would rather skip the knowledge and feel of hard work to get the quick buck. I guess the English and the Dutch’s (colonial)’s negative assessment of the natives here was right after all after more than four centuries here.

Kemal Ataturk was ultimate proven right after all, 75 years after his death. He knew that if religion being mixed into administrative affairs it will hamper the society’s progress in facing with the rest of the world. He would rather let the religion be elevated by itself; it should not be a political instrument that can be wield by any party ruling or otherwise. The 1928 amendment, one of the first since the republic’s foundation removes the clause of “Islam as the official religion” was part of the goal of establishing a more real democratic Turkish front. As for religion, the stance as specified in their constitution was put at neutrality.

It is more or less being left up and giving to the people to believe and decide for themselves, while having a special department administering. In his Kastamonu speech in he did say the following:

In the face of knowledge, science, and of the whole extent of radiant civilization, I cannot accept the presence in Turkey's civilized community of people primitive enough to seek material and spiritual benefits in the guidance of sheiks. The Turkish republic cannot be a country of sheiks, dervishes, and disciples. The best, the truest order is the order of civilization. To be a man it is enough to carry out the requirements of civilization. The leaders of dervish orders will understand the truth of my words, and will themselves close down their lodges [tekke] and admit that their disciplines have grown up.[56]

The bottom line is that young people already have enough of what religious authorities are trying to tell them to do. Many are still in the time warp, particularly the older generation. Many inherited the response and the inferiority complex from the British mindset 60 years ago. Today, the English mindset has totally changed. It is no longer the same as was before Merdeka. The Malaysian society has to rely more on knowledge and science, and not material and spiritual benefits from the clergymen. 

Part of the way to achieve that is also via what you dress as well, although not to the extent of making it a by-law but to provide encouragement and the clear reason of professionalism and an identity in facing the futuristic age (in fact the age we’re living is still considered at the infancy of advanced tech age). Since we’re in a world where order is based on the “survival to the fittest” mantra, Malaysians, not just Malays must get out of the need for protectionist. There’s still the complacency thing being underlined from news reports that are designed to elicit manufacturing consent from the public.

No wonder some of the other articles written by other a few other writers cited here are exactly what I am trying to say. It’s time for politicking religion to take a backseat permanently, while giving women more chances to stand up in their skills as well rather than making them mundane.

Reference reading material:

Malaysia Today – RPK’s No Holds Barred
a1   It’sA Man’s World (11 November 2013)
b2   Can I Know Your Stand? (14 November 2011)

The Nut Graph:
a1     HumanRights: What’s Stopping Malaysia (10 December 2008)

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