Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

A Malaysian Theocracy Can't Be Fair to All

Written by johnleemk on 9:57:47 pm May 6, 2007.
Categories: ,

Repeatedly, I see Muslims insisting that establishing Malaysia as an Islamic state will not jeopardise the welfare of non-Muslims. They point out the theoretical goodness and justice of Islam, noting that it does not distinguish between races (unlike the present government) and upholds fairness as an ideal.

This is all well and good, of course. The question is, how does this work out in practice? In an attempt to pacify the baying of Islamists for a theocracy, the ruling Barisan Nasional regime has stepped up its Islamisation; many government departments and state or local governments have individually made attempts to carry out moral policing, enforcing Muslim laws on Muslims.

Then, of course, we have seen the civil courts ceding more and more of their authority to the Syariah courts, citing a particular amendment to the Constitution which muddles up the jurisdiction of different courts, and providing an easy way out for such decisions.

None of these moves have been condemned by the Islamists, so the appropriate thing to do is to assume that they are endorsed by them; after all, greater Islamisation is what they have been demanding.

But please, let us look at the reality of things. All these moves — have they made things fairer for the non-Muslims? Are the non-Muslims treated as equals to the Muslims, and have their rights to practice their own religions and lead their own lifestyles not been infringed?

The answer is a pathetic "no", because this increased Islamisation has only seen increased arrogance and injustice amongst the enforcers of the law. After all, God is always right, and when you are acting in His name, you are always right — so what do you expect? With such a mindset, do you really believe things are fairer for the non-Muslims?

There have been many efforts to effect "moral policing", ensuring that Muslim couples are not doing anything haram. The result? Non-Muslims have also been snared, sometimes with devastating results for our country's image when the couples are tourists.

The enforcement officers being enforcers of God's law, they of course think they are always right, so what do they do when they are told they have busted a pair of non-Muslims? They insist they are right, and refuse to leave. How is this fair to the non-Muslims? (And we are not even talking about fairness to Muslims, whose own personal relationship — or lack of it — with God is their business, and not that of the government's.)

And then we have had several recent high-profile cases where due to possible paperwork errors, dead non-Muslims are forcefully taken from their families and buried as Muslims simply because they are Muslim in name. Again, how is this fair to the non-Muslim communities?

Or there was that issue with the Hindu convert to Islam who refused to have his marriage dissolved in the civil courts, and attempted to force his non-Muslim wife to submit to the authority of the Syariah courts. Islamic scholars said the Syariah courts would be fair to the mother, but are you telling me that they would give custody of the children to an infidel, and possibly consign them to a fate of burning in hell?

Who can forget the occasions when Islamists declared simple phrases like "Deeparaya" and "Kongsi Raya" verboten, or forbade Muslims from wishing non-Muslim friends and colleagues a happy Deepavali? How is this ban on amalgamation with very tenuous roots in logic and a less than sensible reading of the Quran fair to anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim?

And of course, the premier example of what an Islamic theocracy would be like can be found in Kelantan, the only Malaysian state governed by the Islamic party, PAS. What do we see? Cinemas where the lights are left on to prevent immoral behaviour, grocery stores and nightclubs segregated by sex. How is this fair to the non-Muslim patrons of such places?

All theocracies, and not just Islamic ones, are simply impractical. Much like communism, they rely on the goodwill of those who make and enforce the law. In a theocracy, the head of state is God — and thus the government is his representative. When you act in the name of God, the temptation to let it go to your head is immense.

For this reason, any theocracy implemented in Malaysia or any other country would be innately unjust and unfair, unless it had the fortune to have a good man at the helm. And even then, this would only last as long as the good man was there. Making matters worse is of course the fact that any implementation of Islamic law — especially as it is understood by the Islamists who want an Islamic state — creates terrible injustices for non-Muslims.

Forget the idea of an Islamic state in Malaysia. It's nice in theory, but just as in communism, will not work in practice.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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