Malaysia has changed, but not for the better
|The Malay agreed that Malaysia was making progress, but they felt this progress could not be sustained if Arab money continued to pour in for the Islamisa- tion of Malaysia|
Extracts from the diary of a recent visitor to Malaysia
“He is a fifth generation Malay Punjabi trader. At dinner, I met some more Malay Hindus, and a discussion started on the future of the Hindu community there. They spoke about how Hindus were feeling the heat of growing Muslim intolerance, which otherwise was never a part of Malay society.
“We feel isolated. One day they will ask us either to convert or to get out,” lamented an octogenarian Malay, who also worked as a priest at a local Kaliamman temple. A young engineer said that Hindus were looked at with disdain and it had become very difficult, if not impossible, for Hindu youths to get government jobs. But frankly, I didn’t take that seriously. Getting a government job is difficult anywhere. And I have believed it is only the less enterprising who complain the most. But then our conversation turned to the spectacular progress Malaysia was making.
I said, look at the IT super corridor, the highways, malls, modern and industrious women and above all Malaysia’s courage to stand up to American pressure.
They agreed that Malaysia was making progress, but they felt this progress could not be sustained if Arab money continued to pour in for the Islamisation of Malaysia. Wahabi influence was increasing in every walk of life. The Sharia courts and religious policing were terrorising non-Muslims, especially Hindus, as the neo-flagbearers of conservatism extended their control over power.
At another party, a Malay foreign ministry official presented me with a book written by Dr Mahathir , the former Prime Minister, Islam and the Muslim Ummah. At best it can be described as the stray thoughts of a modern Islamist who failed to reform his home turf. Apart from making speeches, he couldn’t garner support for his version of Islam, though a look at what is happening to Hindus in Malaysia would make many parts of Dr Mahathir’s book interesting.
He writes, “Today Islam has become different from the religion of peace and tolerance that was brought by the … Islam has become a rigid, intolerant and seemingly an unjust religion to the faithful and to others because of the fanaticism and misplaced orthodoxy of people with vested interest” ( and the Muslim Ummah, page 33).
Now put this in the context of Malaysia: Islam is the official religion, and Bhumiputra (sons of the soil) Malays must be Muslims. For Muslims, marriage, property and divorce are governed by Sharia courts. They are prohibited from converting.
Economic failures often create a one-way escape route through exhibitionist fundamentalism. Malaysia too saw this phase with Mahathir (derived from Sanskrit Maha-Sthir, meaning Vishnu), encouraging extremist positions and thus shocking Hindus who saw the worst chapter of their lives unfolding in his last days as Prime Minister.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is considered to be following in his footsteps. T he news that has been coming from Malaysia over the last few weeks is horrifying for Hindus.
Consider these headlines: “Malaysia’s Islamic officials seize baby from mother who sought a Hindu life”; “Hindu in Malaysia given Islamic burial amid protest by family”; “Don’t greet Hindus on Diwali: Malaysian Muslims told by the head of Sharia department”; “Hindus blame Islamisation for temple trashing”. These are not isolated incidents, nor are they a new phenomenon.
Hindus in Malaysia have waited too long to emerge from their shells. And then, when for the first time they tried to participate in a well organised demonstration, they were cruelly beaten and chemical-mixed-water cannons were used to disperse them. This year Diwali was not celebrated in Malaysia publicly.
Only small pujas were conducted when Hindus tried to express their anger against the demolition of the century-old Maha Mariamman temple.