MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Friday, December 6, 2019

What in God’s name is a hyper-liberal?

“To 'choose' dogma and faith over doubt and experience is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid.”
― Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
Most people are interested in the fiasco which is the various PKR shindigs happening now but I am interested in Amanah's fourth national convention. I think it’s safe to say that Amanah is the “Islamist” party in the coalition.
Pakatan Harapan’s religious czar Mujahid Yusof Rawa is in charge of the vast Islamic bureaucracy which has its tendrils in every aspect of Malaysian life. That’s power and influence that most other ministries do not have and, coupled with the subservient nature of Harapan's political operatives to Bersatu, the most dangerous of hegemonic tools.

The always affable Mohamad 'Mat' Sabu – I still cannot wrap my mind around the fact that he is our defence minister – claimed in his speech that Amanah had to deal with two opposing ideological forces facing Malaysia. The hyper-liberal on the one hand and the “ultra-ethno nationalist” on the other.
I have no idea what a hyper-liberal is? I would ask Mat Sabu but he seems like someone who sees a word, thinks it is an important word and uses it without realising what it means. How else would you explain his use of the term “neo-conservative”? Has any of his aides or friends explained to him what neo-conservatism actually means? But I digress.
When Umno was in power, my Malay-speaking activist friends were always worried that the state labelled them as deviant and that meant they were liberal. As one young activist said (in Malay no less), how could he be liberal when he couldn't even speak English that well.
I suppose to Mat Sabu, it is perfectly acceptable to be an “ethno-nationalist – it has to be right because Bersatu is the pied piper of Harapan’s slip into BN lunacy – but we cannot have “ultra-ethno" nationalism because that would be a bad thing for Malaysia.
He continued on about the biggest challenge facing this country today “is a clash between these two groups (with opposing views) that can drag the country into a state of uncertainty”. He argued that the hyper-liberals were ”bringing ideas that erode traditional elements which form the core values of nation-building".
First off, we were a progressive secular democracy before the ethno-nationalists - not the ultra-nationalists, but the ethno-nationalists - used race and religion to turn this country into a so-called “moderate” Islamic state. Those nascent values of secularism and egalitarianism which meant something to nation-building were ditched by the ethno-nationalists to create political and religious hegemony.
So this idea that “liberalism” is something new in this country is complete horse manure. Mat Sabu is merely parroting the false equivalency narrative of the religious czar of this country when he warns of a showdown between the hyper-liberals and the ultra-ethno nationalists. It is, in essence, a variation of the 'don’t spook the Malays' narrative.
Harapan’s religious czar Mujahid has claimed that he doesn’t consider "liberals" less dangerous than "extremists". So how can DAP – which has been aligned with Amanah since its inception – talk about the middle ground when neither it nor its coalition partners make any attempt to define the middle ground, beyond making false equivalencies among those opposed to religious extremism?
Free speech
When Malaysiakini columnist Zan Azlee argues of the need to separate religion from the state – “I feel that we need to separate religion from the state. We can still have an official religion of the majority but a separation is the way to go." – by using his free speech, is he a hyper-liberal who is using his free speech “only for the benefit of their own group”? Which group would that be?
I suppose Zan’s group does not want the state to interfere in what are personal religious convictions so he becomes the target of a political party like Amanah with political operatives like Mujahid who would stifle such expressions because it does not conform to the hegemonic religious and political agendas of Harapan.
If Malaysians speak up about what they find distressing about racial and religious issues in this country, Amanah and the rest of the Harapan crypto-fascists would claim that the coalition is a victim of its hard-won success. Meaning because people were dumb enough to believe that Harapan was a progressive coalition in this country when in reality they are not, and people should be sanctioned for speaking out.
While Amanah should be the platform for groups like Sisters In Islam and even for activists like Siti Kassim and building a base of progressive Muslims, it instead just another government appendage which insists on maintaining religious hegemony to serve political ends.
I keep on asking what is this nonsensical idea of moderation we keep talking about? The far-right does not fear “moderation.” What they fear is going up against progressive policies because they have worked in the past. 
Look at how colonial policies and then post-colonial polices turned into shackles by gradual religious processes brought upon by political chicanery. Look at the majority culture before and after the nefarious agendas of the political elite, which includes the non-Malay political class.
What really troubles me is the fact that the defence minister does not understand that religious extremism is the existential threat facing this region and country.
And that his party is part of the problem.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan. - Mkini

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