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Friday, January 13, 2017

How Malaysian liberals use Rukunegara vehicle as their left-hand drive

DANIAL ARIFF SHAARI’s second installment of his multi-part series discusses the liberals piggybacking on Rukunegara to try and dilute religious orthodoxy

Liberal leftists are seeking to tweak our constitutional framework in order to provide legitimate grounds for introducing liberalism, such as the ideology is understood and practiced in Western countries.
This course of action may eventually succeed in undermining the position of Islam unless we, as Malaysian citizens, show our strength and defend Article 3 as stipulated in the supreme law of the land.
Writing in liberal paper The Star a few days ago, Dr Chandra Muzaffar wants the Rukunegara to be legally binding — see his letter ‘Empower the Rukunegara‘ (6 Jan 2017).
Dr Chandra, who is chairman of the Yayasan 1Malaysia board of trustees, had earlier proposed that Rukunegara be incorporated as preamble to the federal constitution — see Free Malaysia Today (28 Sept 2016) article ‘Rukunegara as preamble to the Constitution‘.
He is convinced that now is the time for the Rukunegara to “be endowed with the force of law”.
The proposal by Dr Chandra was lauded by the “group of eminent Malaysians” G25 — see their statement ‘G25 supports Chandra Muzaffar’s proposal on Rukunegara‘ in Malaysiakini (4 Oct 2016).
It is no surprise that the G25 liberals should very much welcome the suggestion by Dr Chandra.
G25 is led by retired diplomat Noor Farida Ariffin

Sneak attack to overshadow Islam?

The reasons our national philosophy Rukunegara finds favour among Malaysian liberals can be discerned in the text of the declaration, the introduction of which is reproduced below.
BAHAWASANYA negara kita Malaysia mendukung cita-cita hendak:
• mencapai perpaduan yang lebih erat di kalangan seluruh masyarakatnya;
• memelihara satu cara hidup demokratik;
• mencipta satu masyarakat adil di mana kemakmuran negara akan dapat dinikmati bersama secara adil dan salsa a;
• menjamin satu cara liberal terhadap tradisi-tradisi kebudayaannya yang kaya dan berbagai corak;
• dan membina satu masyarakat progresif yang akan menggunakan sains dan teknologi moden.
MAKA kami, rakyat Malaysia, berikrar akan menumpukan seluruh tenaga dan usaha kami untuk mencapai cita-cita  tersebut berdasarkan atas prinsip-prinsip yang berikut [… the five well known precepts then follow].
From the above, it is crystal clear why the words of Rukunegara are music to liberal ears.
The key notions most pleasing to them is contained in the following extract which appears to affirm multiculturism, diversity and liberal traditions.
“…menjamin satu cara liberal terhadap tradisi-tradisi kebudayaannya yang kaya dan berbagai corak…”  (emphasis added)
“…a liberal approach towards our rich and varied cultural traditions…”
Inserting the ‘liberal’ ideal disguised as a noble aspiration to uphold Rukunegara may quite possibly throw open the doors for treachery.
There is no guarantee that the liberals will not attempt to eradicate the influence of Islam currently spread over an extensive scope of governance and societal values in our country.
Such attempts to implement a new understanding of the constitution (or rather bring changes to its provisions and insert alien and ‘LIBERAL’ elements) have become a leverage for the leftists within the political parties, liberal groups or public individuals to manipulate and fortify their Islamophobic agenda.

Reading Rukunegara in conjunction with constitution

The supposed five pillars – refer graphic above – upon which our country should be built are already carried by the existing provisions prescribed in our federal constitution.
For example, the first precept of the Rukunegara, i.e. “Belief in God” is honoured in the constitution’s Articles 3 and 11.
“Loyalty to king and country” are required by innumerable provisions including Articles 32-38.
“Supremacy of the constitution” is provided for in Article 4.
“Rule of law” is implied in provisions for judicial review of governmental action in Articles 4 and 128.
“Morality” is safeguarded by empowering Parliament in Articles 10 and 11 to enact laws to safeguard morality.
For that matter, even the Rukunegara’s call to preserve our “rich and varied cultural traditions” is already protected by constitutional provisions for freedom of religion, right to learning native language and practising traditions, customary rights, freedom of speech, assembly and association, and the special rights of Sabah and Sarawak in our federal set-up.
At the same time, the Rukunegara’s emphasis on “supremacy of the constitution” implies acceptance of the constitution as a whole, including the implied social contract.

The problem with Dr Chandra’s idea

In his article, Dr Chandra explained how the objectives and principles of the Rukunegara are inclusive and conducive to promoting national integration.
He wrote, “They transcend gender, ethnicity, religion and region. This is what makes the Rukunegara, potentially, a force for unity in a diverse society”.
Dr Chandra’s “compelling reason” to make Rukunegara the introduction to our constitution, and thus itself becoming law, is the very same mantra pronounced by proponents of liberalism in upholding Western liberal values.
He lamented however that “we have not been able to hold on to the Rukunegara as a set of unchangeable goals and principles that would always guide the nation”.
According to Dr Chandra, “since it is ethnicity and ethnic politics that define our society, an ideology like the Rukunegara with its universal goals and inclusive principles has not been able to withstand the onslaught of the former”.
He is articulating the ‘liberal’ ideal that purportedly compels us to ‘transcend ethnic and religious boundaries’ but which would materially undermine provisions in our federal constitution – such as Articles 3 and 153 – that are incompatible with the transcendent rhetoric.

Can one reconciled gay rights with Rukunegara?

Embodying Rukunegara in legal terms might be construed as an attempt to undermine the sanctity and essence of Article 3 provisions when they are read together with other constitutional provisions.
From this will spring several inter-related perspectives, to wit, how would Rukunegara as a preamble to our constitution be considered in the following issues:
First, the right of LGBT to choose their sexual orientation;
Second, the right of a Muslim to convert to another religion;
Third, the right of Syiah believers to practice and spread their religion;
Fourth, the right of Christians to use the word ‘Allah’ in their Bibles or publish a Bible in bahasa Melayu, and
Fifth, the right of preachers of religions other than Islam to spread their faith to Muslims.
These liberals are not only imposing their liberal narratives but apparently want to ride on the Rukunegara to legitimize the liberalism that is missing in our constitution.

Marina Mahathir — a Star columnist known for her “liberal doses”
The Star — champions of liberalism
The word ‘liberal’ is emphatically nowhere to be found in our constitution.
Hence one needs to question whether the status quo would not be prejudiced by Dr Chandra’s desire to install Rukunegara as preamble to the constitution.
And do we really wish to emphasize the Rukunegara’s purported liberalism as defended by Star Media Group CEO Wong Chun Wai?
In any case, Dr Chandra believes that the increasing Muslim fundamentalism has already served to water down liberal values in Malaysia.
He went on to say “the Rukunegara has also been undermined especially in the last two decades by the spread of ideas and attitudes supposedly rooted in Islam which convey a view of society that is the antithesis of the values underlining the Rukunegara”.
“These ideas and attitudes which reinforce exclusivity, unthinking adherence to dogma and prioritize form over substance are now espoused by generations of Muslims at all levels of society”, he added.
His statement is uncalled for and only meant to shift the blame when in fact our constitution should be preserved and respected by all citizens irrespective of race and religion.
The opposite meaning to the word ‘inclusive’ is exclusive. Claims by liberals about Islam’s “exclusivity” or Muslims prioritizing “form over substance” is the very mantra used by them to send a signal of dissent.
It is as if Islam, its institutions and Muslims are a draconion, intolerant, extremist bunch seeking to discriminate, intimidate or persecute the other races and religions.
On the other hand, their demand of openness and inclusivity would surely allow wider acceptance and public agitation for greater freedom of religion, and more liberty in the expression of religions other than Islam.
This will certainly undermine the special position of Islam and not to mention render the ‘social contract’ no longer applicable nor relevant.
Ironically, when Muslims attempt to regulate our own affairs and preserve correct Islamic teachings (without jeopardizing the rights of non-Muslims to practise their religions in peace and harmony), it is actually the non-Muslims who are the ones interfering and meddling unnecessarily.
Some of them cannot even refrain from ridiculing matters pertaining to Islam such as khalwat raids by religious departments and halal certification by Jakim.
Jeff Ooi, flanked by his party bosses Lim Jr and Lim Sr

Peace and harmony starts at home in DAP

The latest cooperative agreement between the new opposition pact Pakatan Harapan and the newly born Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which was signed last Dec 13, is proof that such attempts at sneaking in various new ‘freedoms’ are far from imaginary.
There is no doubt that upon such legal embodiment of the Rukunegara, one particular ‘liberal’ element contained in our preamble, God forbid, will be used as leverage to vigorously fight for liberalism in our country. Consequently, it will undermine and overshadow provisions which protect and preserve the importance and sovereignty of Islam, Islamic institutions, Muslims and their (our) affairs.
If the ‘liberal’ element is given a constitutional place in a proposed preamble, it can only complicate the continuous and heated debate about the ways we apply our constitution contextually.
And now we would want to add a preamble just because the so-called Rukunegara ideals, goals and values are not perfectly applied and need to be achieved?
Dr Chandra appeared to suggest that by having such preamble, the politicians, activists and citizens – rather than being obliged – will rather then be forced into accepting the ideals (but without having any deep-rooted appreciation of what it means).
Nonetheless, doing so will only repeat the mistake already done by the purportedly many politicians and activists who, at present, fail to appreciate the essence of the constitution which has already envisioned the ideals of Rukunegara.

Hew Kuan Yau, a top echelon DAP leader when this photo was taken

Finger-pointing blame at Malays and Muslims

The truth is there exists in our society some people, such as DAP Yang Berhormat Jeff Ooi and the evangelical party’s former election publicity director Hew Kuan Yau (nicknamed ‘Superman’ pictured above) who are intoxicated with plain rudeness and know nothing about sensitivity.
Yet they and their ilk are still given sanctuary by their political party that should be instead aspiring to ensure harmonious coexistence in a multiracial and multi-religious country like ours.
The way out – taken by liberals and insensitive non-Muslim political leaders – is to, in the end, regretfully account for our presently polarized society through shifting the blame towards Islam and Muslims, and to try and officially introduce a ‘liberal’ ideal.
Such an approach is nothing short of Islamophobia, launched by a segment of the liberals to paint an undesirable perception of Islam, its institutions or even Muslim political leaders. It is as if Malaysia is turning into a theocratic state or deviating from its alleged ‘secular’ nature when none of these perceptions are true at all.

Danial Ariff Shaari is a lawyer and activist

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