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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What if Muslims wanted to end Muslim rule in Malaysia?​​​​​​​

“Every accommodation of Muslim demands leads to a sense of euphoria and a conviction that Allah is on their side. They see every act of appeasement as an invitation to make fresh demands.”
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali, ‘Infidel’
Maybe it is just me but sometimes I want the opposition to win the upcoming general elections not because of the corruption or systemic racism or bureaucratic incompetency but rather because I won’t have to read the dumbest most embarrassing comments coming out the ruling coalition, like the ones most often spewed by Umno information chief Annuar Musa.
In Muslim-led countries, Muslim politicians have this go-to strategy whenever they are in trouble. That is, blame Uncle Sam. When Muslim potentates’ stolen loot is intercepted by interested parties - blame Uncle Sam. When they have been caught with their pants around their ankles - blame Uncle Sam. When they mismanage their economies - blame Uncle Sam. When domestic insurgencies erupt because of tyrannical rule - blame Uncle Sam.
Why would the US, much less its Department of Justice (DOJ), want to destabilise a “moderate” Muslim country like Malaysia? When I say “moderate Muslim country”, I mean a country where there is no public beheadings, hands chopped off at the drop of a hat and women not allowed to do anything without the consent of men. They already have Saudi Arabia for that and are quite content not to have another despotic Islamic state to deal with.
Talking about the propensity of Muslim potentates to demonise groups in lieu of accepting responsibility for their failings, there is an extremely depressing passage (because it all sounds too familiar) in Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book ‘Infidel’ about how Jews are blamed for everything in Saudi Arabia -
“In Saudi Arabia, everything bad was the fault of the Jews. When the air conditioner broke or suddenly the tap stopped running, the Saudi women next door used to say the Jews did it. The children next door were taught to pray for the health of their parents and the destruction of the Jews. Later, when we went to school, our teachers lamented at length all the evil things Jews had done and planned to do against Muslims. When they were gossiping, the women next door used to say, ‘She's ugly, she's disobedient, she's a whore - she's sleeping with a Jew.’ Jews were like djinns, I decided. I had never met a Jew. (Neither had these Saudis.)”
As you can see whenever the manure hits the fan, so-called enlightened Muslim politicians are quick to look for scapegoats instead of tackling the bull by its horns. The real issue that is plaguing Umno is not that Muslim rule would be displaced here in Malaysia, but Umno/Muslim rule is in jeopardy.
As the defenders of “bangsa” and “agama”, they are finally waking up to the fact that their hegemony is in peril. In various articles I have written ever since writing for Malaysiakini, I have expressed two points in one form or another about the futility of ‘ketuanan’ politics that Umno friends of mine tell me is their weak points and a threat to the continued dominance of Umno in the Malay polity. Those are -
1) “Malays who for whatever reason are unwelcome on the Umno gravy train for years have been complaining that they have been marginalised under the Umno watch, much like their fellow non-Malay citizens, but the sad reality is that the discourse is constructed in such a way that racialists have a field day extending the Umnoputra stereotype to every Malay.”
2) “This is not a lesson for Muslim Malaysians but rather a lesson for Muslim Malaysian politicians. Arab regimes fall because they are mired in corruption propped up by corrupt Western interests and oppress their population through violence normally sanctioned by Islam.”
This regime understands that the ‘ketuanan’ way of doing business is in danger. The more they sabre rattle and ratchet up the rhetoric, the more obvious the hegemon is in trouble. While Umno may give the impression to the “useful idiots” that the US is attempting to undermine Muslim democracy here in Malaysia, they know that that they are in peril from a fast-changing great game between declining Western superpowers and a regional hegemon - China. As I wrote of the red shirts and the futility of Malay privilege -
“It is also important to note that these red-shirts are the dying embers caught up in a fast-changing geopolitical struggle that will ultimately undermine whatever notions of ‘ketuanan Melayu’ privilege they think is owed. The corrupt regime that they choose to defend, that colony of thieves and plunderers will soon pay homage to a regional or maybe regional powers whose influence will change the Malay community in ways that could never fathom.”
Umno fears two possibilities
So, what would happen if Muslims in Malaysia decided that they have had it with Umno ‘Muslim’ rule in Malaysia? Mind you, rejecting Umno/Muslim rule does not mean rejecting either racial politics (Malay majoritarian rule) or Islam (as defined in the Constitution) but rather rejecting Umno’s definition of Islam and the way how Umno promulgates Islam in this country.
What would happen if a majority of Muslims in this country decide that they have had enough with state religious authorities intruding in their lives? They have had enough with money going into religious organisations while essential services that benefit their community are underfunded and mired in bureaucratic corruption. What would happen if they grew tired of the hypocrisy of the state where Muslim elites were immune from the harsh glare of Islam but the rest of the polity were not?
Prime Minister Najib Razak does not want to talk about the 1MDB scandal because he realises how damaging it is to Umno's voting base. He probably realises that the Malay community in many ways is going through what the Indian community have gone through for many years before rejecting the MIC. The majority of Indians have given up on the MIC. As one Indian woman put it, “they have been rubbing our faces in their dirt for years”, and this is the same sentiment that Umno people tell me they are hearing in whispers from the vox populi.
Umno fears two possibilities. The first, that their rule would be rejected and a majority of Malays would vote for the opposition because they understand the end of Umno rule does not mean the end of Malay rule. They would rather vote for an unknown variable like Pakatan Harapan which seems more a throwback vote thanks to the participation of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, rather than the present regime which they believe cannot take care of their interest.
The second is that Umno would be crippled in the next election if they have to rely solely on Sabah and Sarawak to maintain power in the “mainland”. If this happens, it would not only be game over for Umno but also destabilises the country.
The terrain has changed for Umno. If they win this election, they would have done it by radicalising the Malay community. If they lose this election, it would be a sign that the majority of the Malay community rejects the Islam that Umno advocates and whoever is in charge would have to redefine Muslim rule in Malaysia.
In other words, Umno does not really fear that the US is conspiring to end Muslim rule here in Malaysia. What terrifies them if the Malay polity redefines Muslim rule by kicking Umno to the kerb.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.- Mkini

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