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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

On Merdeka Day, Gaza gets ‘Malaysia Street’

 

After Malaysia named a road in Kuala Lumpur as Jalan Palestin, the Palestinian authorities have responded by naming a street in Gaza as Malaysia Street. (Twitter pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Gaza Municipality has named a road in the western district of Gaza city “Malaysia Street” in commemoration of the country’s independence day today.

Sharing the announcement in his posting on Twitter, Palestinian cultural organisation Malaysia (PCOM) chairman, Muslim Imran, stated that the road sign is located at Ansar roundabout, to the west of Gaza City.

He also posted a picture of the road sign installation which was written in Arabic and English.

The sign stated that Malaysia is a Southeast Asian country that gained its independence from Britain on Aug 31, 1957, and its capital is Kuala Lumpur.

“Malaysia has an important role in supporting the Palestinian cause. It always calls for an end to the Israeli occupation and granting the Palestinian people all their rights. It also rejects normalisation with the Israeli occupation,” inscribed on the road sign.

Meanwhile, Muslim said this is the first time a major place or venue in Palestine is named after Malaysia.

“This is an act of appreciation for Malaysia’s solidarity with Palestine. Palestinians, in Gaza in particular, have seen Malaysia’s contributions and commitment to uphold their struggle over the years,” he said.

Muslim pointed out that this act of gratitude and appreciation will certainly have positive impact on the bilateral relations between Malaysia and Palestine.

He said both nations have been friends for decades and continue to build bilateral friendships over the years.

“Malaysia’s decision to name one road in Kuala Lumpur as ‘Jalan Palestin’ and Palestine’s decision to name a road in Gaza as ‘Malaysia Street’, of course is a good step forward in cementing this friendship. Hopefully someday Malaysians will be able to visit a free and liberated Palestine,” he added.

Last year, Kuala Lumpur City Hall has renamed Jalan Raja Laut 1 as Jalan Palestin, which symbolised Malaysia’s support for the Palestinian people’s struggle. - FMT

36 hours before water supply returns, says Air Selangor

 

There is no more odour pollution at the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant but it will be 14 hours before it can resume operations, says Air Selangor. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: No more odour pollution is being detected at the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant but it will take around 36 hours before supply in affected areas resumes, says Air Selangor.

In a statement, its head of corporate communications Elina Baseri said the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant was ready to resume operations after reading zero TON (threshold odour number) three times in a row as of 8pm.

However, she said, the water treatment system must first go through a cleaning process before it may resume treating and distributing treated water to users.

“The cleaning process and water treatment at the plant will take around 14 hours. Therefore, Air Selangor will share the recovery plan for affected areas in a media release tomorrow morning at 7am.

“Following the shutdown of the plant, 463 areas in five Air Selangor districts, namely Petaling, Hulu Langat, Sepang, Putrajaya and Kuala Langat, will receive water supply within 36 hours,” she said.

To minimise the impact on users, she said alternative water supply has been channelled to some parts of Hulu Langat and Kuala Langat through the Langat 2 and Labohan Dagang water plants.

Users in Kajang Baru, Kajang, Semenyih and Beranang in Hulu Langat as well as Jenjarom, Teluk Panglima Garang and Pulau Carey in Kuala Langat will benefit from this.

Meanwhile, Air Selangor has mobilised emergency water supply to users and critical premises, with 94 water tankers mobilised to affected areas.

“Air Selangor understands that users need clean running water especially with the surge in Covid-19 cases.

“Hence, Air Selangor is working with the Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS) to identify the cause of the water pollution along Sungai Semenyih and other tributaries around it.”

The Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant was shut down at 11.10am after odour pollution was detected at the Jenderam Hilir raw water pump station.

Some 172 areas in Petaling, 194 in Sepang, 54 in Hulu Langat, 23 in Putrajaya and 20 in Kuala Langat have been affected by the water disruption on Merdeka Day.

Among the areas affected include Serdang Hospital and Universiti Putra Malaysia Hospital (HUPM) as well as the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) low-risk quarantine and treatment centre. - FMT

Umno Youth leader moots federal takeover of Kuala Langat forest reserve

 


Umno Youth deputy chief Shahril Hamdan said the federal government should force the Selangor government to hand over the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve in order to preserve it.

He said this can be done under Article 83 of the Federal Constitution, although the federal government would have to pay compensation to the state.

“This would represent an aggressive, last resort. Lawyers can advise every which way.

“But if the menteri besar and exco members don't even listen to their own state assemblypersons in the legislature and voters in public hearings; then as a matter of national interest, something equally outlandish should be considered to save (the forest).

“Yes, it will cost the federal government in compensation to the state, but it would be a big statement of intent. See it as an investment in both heritage and future, albeit a forced one.

“If the state is in it for the money, then take it and leave the forest reserve alone,” he said on Twitter today, after a visit to the area together with the Orang Asli folk from Busut Baru.

The Selangor government had de-gazetted 54 percent (536.7ha) of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve as a permanent reserve in May, but the matter had only come to light during a statement assembly sitting yesterday.

State exco member Hee Loy Sian said the government decided against de-gazetting the whole forest following public objections but maintained that the move was necessary to meet housing needs in the future.

He said the state will also ‘replace’ the reserve by gazetting other parcels of forest in Sungai Panjang, Ampang Pecah, and Broga as reserve areas.

Nevertheless, the explanation failed to appease Pakatan Harapan backbenchers, who urged the government to reverse its decision.

Environmental groups such as the Pertahankan Hutan Simpan Kuala Langat Utara (PHSKLU) coalition has also objected to the de-gazetting, saying that the move lacked transparency and accountability.

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim said he has asked Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari to explain the state’s move the degazette the forest reserve at a party meeting tomorrow. - Mkini

RACISM – The Cancer In Our Body Politic

 By Multatuli

Multatuli wants to know why we are so obsessed with race. Do you know? Have you any clue? What happened to Bangsa Malaysia?

In Malaysia everything is about RACE. You can talk about corruption, governance, economic disparity, religion, even sport; it always revolves on race.

Starting with Mahathir, successive governments since, have pushed the Malay Agenda and exerted the ‘inherent rights’ of the Malays as ‘owners’ of the land.

The narrative was put about that the Chinese and Indians are immigrants (hence guests) while the Malays are indigenes (hosts). The insinuation is that guests must behave and accept what is given them by the host.

Truth is, the only indigenes are the Orang Asli and the Natives of Sabah and Sarawak. And sadly, they are at the bottom of the barrel.

The Malays are immigrants from Nusantara; many very recently. Najib Razak admitted to as much in boasting about his Bugis Ancestry and Zahid his Javanese.

In any case indigenousness is not a basis for special privileges.  The universally accepted concept of citizenship is that once acquired, citizenship bestows the same rights and responsibilities on all citizens.

It is interesting to note the Koran holds very similar views. 

“The cornerstone of Islamic political thought, its concept of sovereignty which resides with God and God alone, excludes the right of any group to arrogate to itself the ownership of any land or country. At the same time it does not recognise any distinction between “indigenous” and “non-indigenous” in relation to rights and responsibilities to the community since mankind is of one single nation.”  – Chandra Muzaffar (The NEP – Development and Alternative Consciousness Pg 44).

Today we have an overtly Malay Government determined to further entrench Malay hegemony.

There is no Malaysian Agenda. Bangsar Malaysia promised in GE14 is forgotten.

Malay hegemony and racial exclusivity is nothing new. After Tunku (during which administration there was still meaningful participation by the non-Malays in government) successive administrations were more and more Malay centric to the exclusion of the other races whose representation is just tokenism with no real say in government policies.

Even during Hussein Onn’s prime ministership, racial discrimination was already evident.

An interesting account related by Robert Kuok told how he tried to convince Hussein Onn of the wisdom of a multi-racial Malaysia.

 “Please, Hussein, use the best brains, the people with their hearts in the right place, Malaysians of total integrity and strong ability, hardworking and persevering people. Use them regardless of race, colour or creed” (Robert Kuok – A Memoir Pg 270).

Hussein Onn would have none of it. He ignored his friend’s warning about the Malays ‘growing up spoiled, with an attitude of entitlement.’

 What is our obsession with race?

When America can accept a black man as president, Peru a Japanese  and Britain an Indian as Chancellor of the Exchequer (arguably the second most powerful position); when citizens irrespective of ethnicity, hold senior positions in government, industry and universities in those countries; but not ours. Why?

If many of the biggest Fortune 500 companies are run by ethnic Indians, why are our GLCs’ top jobs reserved only for Malays. Why not someone who can turn a profit whatever his race or religion. Why has not a single non-Malay been vice-chancellor of our public universities. Because none is smart enough?

I often wondered what has shaped the Malay mindset that they seem blind to the blatant racism in our country.

An article in the Asia Sentinel sheds some light on the matter – Malaysia: Permanent Ethnic Malay Polity (June 4).

Isn’t it ironic that while we do not have social racism (the Malays and non-Malays get along with each other) our government creates institutional racism.  Yet while social racism exists in many Western countries their governments are fighting it. Ours defend racism in the name of defending the Malay race and Islam. Against who they have never said. 

Thousands of Whites in America and many parts of the world have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Blacks to protest against racism.

How many Malays will even speak out for those racially discriminated against in our country?

The saddest part is the silence of the educated Malays who should know better. They seem to have discarded all sense of fairness and propriety to preserve their entitlements.

Where are the friends

You played with as a child

You sat next to in school

Your teammates

With whom you played football

Against another

Why are they not speaking up for you?

Protesting that they are Bumiputras

And you are not

Their silence is a kind of betrayal is it not?

A denial of the friendship

Struck in youth

Now forgotten

How do the ideals

Of our nation’s founding survive

When minds are closed

Usman, Sahabat ku

Kalau mereka tuli

Kepada permohonan anda

Siapa aku?

We condemn others for their racism

Yet blind and silent to our own

The world cries for George Floyd

Who cries for us?

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia or MMKtT.)

By Multatuli, Kampung Kencing Gajah

Three Malaysians – Malay, Chinese, Indian – in hot soup

-rebuilding malaysia

Agong joins SAR operation to look for missing soldier in Sg Pahang

 Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah today joined in the search and rescue (SAR) operation to look for a soldier who reportedly went missing in Sungai Pahang while undergoing the army’s PARA Predator Exercise on Sunday. -BERNAMA pic

BERA: Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah today joined in the search and rescue (SAR) operation to look for a soldier who reportedly went missing in Sungai Pahang while undergoing the army's PARA Predator Exercise on Sunday.

Al-Sultan Abdullah, who donned an army uniform, boarded a boat prepared by the Pahang Fire and Rescue Department at 4.40pm when it started to drizzle, before turning heavy about 10 minutes later.

Army chief General Tan Sri Zamrose Mohd Zain and Pahang Fire and Rescue Department director Wan Mohammad Zaidi Wan Isa also joined in the operation to look for Lance Corporal Mohamad Azrin Mohamad Isa, which lasted for about half an hour before it had to be postponed due to the weather conditions.

Also present were Pahang police chief Datuk Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf and state Public Works, Transport and Health Committee chairman Datuk Seri Norolazali Sulaiman.

Al-Sultan Abdullah had arrived at the SAR location at 3.45pm, where he was briefed by Wan Zaidi about the operation which had entered its third day today.

The king also spent some time in conversation with the victim's wife, Nur Aqila Syafiqa Safuan, 23, who arrived at the location around 5pm.

Azrin, 25, a member of the Pathfinder Company who hails from Sungai Petani, Kedah, was undergoing tactical training crossing Sungai Pahang from Kampung Batu Bor to Kampung Bohor Baru when he went missing at 4.40pm on Sunday.

The PARA Predator is a large-scale two-week military exercise that began on Aug 24, aiming to boost the army's competency, as well as to educate and share knowledge about the military's role in terms of security.

Meanwhile, Wan Zaidi said the SAR operation, which continued today, involved 116 members of various security forces, with the search area extended to 7km from the site the victim was last seen.

"Today's search also involved two Fire and Rescue Department tracking dogs brought in from Kuala Lumpur to assist the Water Rescue Team from Temerloh, Pekan and Kuantan. The unpredictable weather is a major challenge, apart from the fact that although the river looks calm, the current below is strong," he said. – Bernama

Heartbreak for Ziyad in Tokyo

 National Paralympic shot putter Ziyad Zokefli was disqualified for a call room violation in the men's shot put F20 (learning disabilities) final at the Tokyo Paralympics. - BERNAMA PIC

KUALA LUMPUR: It was heartbreak for para-athlete Ziyad Zolkefli, who was disqualified for a call room violation in the men's shot put F20 (learning disabilities) final at the Tokyo Paralympics on Tuesday.

Despite a massive 17.94m throw, the 2016 Rio Paralympics gold medallist could not defend his title following a protest by Ukraine.

As a result, Ukraine's Maksym Koval was awarded the gold with a new world record of 17.34m, while his compatriot, Oleksandr Yarovyi (17.30m) took the silver.

Greece's Efstratios Nikolaidis (15.93m) settled for the bronze.

It is understood the Malaysian secretariat are challenging the final decision, but it remains to be seen if there will be any changes to the official result.

Two other athletes, Equador's Jordi Patricio Congo Villalba and Australia's Todd Hodgetts were also disqualified for call room violation.

It was a huge letdown for the Smiling Giant who had wished to present Malaysia with the perfect Merdeka Day gift.

"I really don't know what is going on. I have done my best and I don't even know what to say right now," said Ziyad, who would have also set a new able-bodied national record, beating Adi Alifudin Hussin's 17.54m set at the 2011 Sea Games in Palembang he had won gold. - NST

Sabah, Sarawak need to work together on MA63, says analyst

 

Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar getting his instrument of office from the King as law minister. He can now help change laws to enforce the provisions of MA63, says James Chin. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Both Sabah and Sarawak need to work together to preserve the rights of their people, especially when it comes to dealing with Putrajaya on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), says an analyst.

James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute told a forum organised by the Sabah Action Body Advocating Rights (Sabar) that he noticed that the two states seemed to be at odds with one another.

This should not be the case, said the Sarawakian, as the two Bornean states had more similarities than differences.

Chin shared his own personal experience when he was announced as the main speaker for the forum, being told of queries from Sabahans asking why the organisers could not get a Sabahan to speak instead.

He said there was a need for a change in mindset and that Sabah and Sarawak must speak as a single voice, while launching a legal challenge on MA63 in the near future.

“The only authorities with locus standi to file a suit on the issue of MA63 are the Sabah or Sarawak state governments.

“This is because we don’t have a history of public interest litigation in Malaysia. But this doesn’t mean other groups won’t try to offer a legal argument and file a suit.

“However, I do want to see someone filing a suit over the matter to get the legal process off the ground,” he said.

Chin also said the time was ripe for the government to amend Articles 1(2) and 160(2) of the Federal Constitution, with Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar appointed as the new law minister under Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration.

He also said the two state governments should find a way to teach more of Sabah and Sarawak history in schools, suggesting they produce their own textbooks on this subject.

He said it would be difficult to get the federal government to teach Sabah and Sarawak history.

“If the next generation does not support the uniqueness of Sabah and Sarawak and their history, then the current efforts will be wasted.”

He also said the issue of MA63 has become more of a mantra among political parties who would position themselves as champions of the matter without being able to get to the nitty-gritty.

“MA63 is now like a code word. If you want to call yourself a nationalist, you use MA63. It’s used for anything under the sun,” he said. - FMT

KJ vows concerted bid to bring down Covid-19 deaths

 

Khairy Jamaluddin reporting for work at the health ministry. He has vowed to bring down the number of cases and deaths within the next 100 days. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: New health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has vowed to reduce the number of Covid-19 deaths and brought-in-dead (BID) cases.

The Rembau MP expressed confidence that the ministry would soon see progress in its battle against Covid-19.

“The first priority is to bring this pandemic under control,” he told ministry officials after clocking in yesterday.

“We want to reduce deaths, the BIDs. We even want to reduce the number of cases in the next 100 days, and we can do it.

“You’ve all been doing a great job and I know there are many views from the outside. So let’s sit down, see what we have done well and where we can do even better.”

The country has been experiencing a spike in cases since late June, with daily cases steadily rising from around the 6,000 mark to regularly breaching the 20,000 mark in recent months.

The health ministry today reported 20,897 Covid-19 cases and 282 deaths in the past 24 hours, with the total number of infections now standing at 1,746,254 and cumulative deaths at 16,664.

Announcing the new Cabinet line-up last week, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said he has given his ministers 100 days to prove themselves. - FMT

EMCO in four places in Sabah and Pahang

 

The enhanced movement control order will be effective from Sept 2-15 (AP pic)

PETALING JAYA: A total of four localities in two states will go under an enhanced movement control order (EMCO) from Sept 2-15, the National Security Council (MKN) said.

In a statement, MKN director-general Rodzi Md Saad said that Kampung Narawang and Kampung Mininsalu Baru (Pasir Putih) in Sabah’s Ranau district will be placed under a lockdown during the above dates.

In Pahang, the areas to be placed under a lockdown are Kampung Badong Dalam and Kampung Permatang Durian, both in Pekan.

Rodzi also said the EMCO in Taman Ria Height in Tawau, Sabah, would be extended from Sept 2 to Sept 15.

Meanwhile, the EMCOs in several areas in Sabah and Pahang will be lifted tomorrow.

The areas in Pahang are Felda Jenderak Utara in Kuala Krau, Temerloh, and the Selbourne farm in Lipis.

In Sabah, the areas are Kampung Payas-Payas in Kota Belud, Beverly Hills Phase 3 and Regency Park in Penampang, and Kampung Iburu and Kampung Meligan in Sipitang.

Complex Baiduri Ayu in Felda Sahabat 9, Lahad Datu, and the Moynod 1 farm workers’ housing in Beluran, are also set to conclude their lockdowns today.

Rounding off the list are Kampung Kulambai, Kampung Kulambai Kupang and Kampung Kulambai Dundau – all in Kota Belud. - FMT

Kelantan health dept confirms madrasah refused Covid-19 screening

 

The madrasah’s owner reportedly didn’t allow any screening when the health department went to the premises following the death of one of its residents.

KOTA BHARU: The Kelantan health department today confirmed receiving a report on 34 residents of a madrasah in Kampung Sungai Kenerong, Dabong, near Kuala Krai who refused to undergo Covid-19 screening tests recently.

Its director Dr Zaini Hussin said, however, the matter has been resolved with police assistance through a discussion with the principal of the madrasah and all residents have agreed to take the test.

“They refused to undergo the screening because they believe they had no connection with a Covid-19 case who died in Dabong on Aug 27,” he told Bernama via WhatsApp today.

Earlier, the media reported that 34 residents of the madrasah were refusing to take the Covid-19 test, with the owner not allowing any screening to take place when the state health department went to the premises following the death of one of its residents.

To avoid the incident from recurring, Zaini urged the people of Kelantan to cooperate with the authorities especially health department staff in order to curb the spread of the pandemic.

“A majority of Covid-19 cases are asymptomatic. So, a lab test can determine whether a person is infected or not.

“The Kelantan health department requires cooperation from the public in order to carry out a quick and accurate investigation,” he said while urging the people to comply with SOPs to break the pandemic chain. - FMT

Merdeka Day heartbreak for Ziyad

 

Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli failed in his bid to win his second straight gold medal at the Paralympics when he was disqualified. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: It was heartbreak for national paralympian Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games when he hurled the shot put to a world record-breaking distance, only to be disqualified on a technicality.

While the details are not clear, it was reported that Ziyad has been disqualified on a technical issue.

Earlier, Ziyad put in a sensational performance to break several records to rise above the competition for the gold medal.

Not only did he break his own world record twice in Tokyo today, he also smashed the national able-bodied record for the event with a throw of 17.94 metres.

However, his disqualification means he was unable to defend the gold medal he won at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The national shot put record stays with Adi Alifuddin Hussin, who managed 17.54 at the Palembang SEA Games in 2011.

Following his heroics in Rio where he broke the world record with a throw of 16.84m to win gold, Ziyad smashed his own record a year later with a throw of 17.29m at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London.

Today, in his five throws, Ziyad outdid himself first with a throw of 17.31m and later the stunning 17.94m.

Malaysia now has a gold and a silver from Tokyo.

Bonnie Bunyau Gustin won gold in the men’s 72kg powerlifting event while Jong Yee Khie bagged silver in the men’s 107kg powerlifting event - FMT

Sebab Apa Ahli Parlimen Tak Boleh Tukar Parti?

 

Ada cadangan untuk menggubal undang-undang yang akan mengharamkan ahli parlimen menukar parti. Bukan ke itu akan melanggar Perkara 10 di dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan Malaysia?

 

Malaysia at 58: A midlife crisis and national identity gone awry

 


Today, Malaysia is celebrating 58 years of independence as a federation. Yet overall, there is not much to celebrate given the raging pandemic and increasing voices questioning the very essence of the federation.

Nation-building and national identity, the essential programme in all the countries in Southeast Asia, appears to be stalled in Malaysia as more of its citizens are asking the most basic question: “What is a Malaysian identity and what is Malaysia?”

This may be an odd question to ask after six decades of nation-building, but it is a central query of contemporary Malaysia and it is rooted in the two most contentious issues related to nation-building and identity in contemporary Malaysia.

Malay-state or Malay-Islamic state

The first of these is the core connotation of Malaysia. For many in the Malay community, it’s a no-brainer – Malaysia is a Malay state. After all, before the federation of Malaysia, there was “Tanah Melayu”, or the “Land of the Malays”. Even the colonial overlords accepted that Malaya belonged to the indigenous Malays and largely recognised the sovereignty of the nine Malay sultans.

Non-Malays, basically the Indians and the Chinese, were only brought into Malaya in large numbers by the British in the 19th century for economic exploitation of the land. After World War II, it became impossible to send them back to India and China, so the British engineered an agreement with the Malay rulers to let them stay and obtain citizenship.

This is where the historical dispute starts. According to the Malay elite, Chinese and Indians were given citizenship on the condition that they recognised “Ketuanan Melayu” or Malay supremacy over Malaya. In other words, they recognised Malaysia as the “Land of the Malay”, meaning that Malays must always be first among equals.

In the political arena, the ideology of Malay Supremacy is the unspoken ‘social contract’. Many younger non-Malays who are born and raised in Malaysia think this is fundamentally and philosophically wrong. They cannot accept that they will be second-class citizens forever.

When the 1963 Constitution was adopted, Article 160 constitutionally defined an ethnic Malay as a Muslim as well. With the worldwide resurgence of Islam in the 1980s sweeping Muslim-majority countries, Malaysia has become more conservative in the past four decades as Islamisation of the country meant Islamic identity has slowly replaced the Malay identity.

These past two decades have seen the dramatic rise of political Islam as Malay politicians see religion as the most potent political weapon. This has led to a vocal Islamic minority calling for Malaysia to be declared an Islamic state and for the Constitution to explicitly declare Islam as the official religion.

At present, the wording in the Constitution is ambiguous: Article 3 (1) of the Malaysian Constitution provides: “Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions can be practised safely and peacefully in all parts of the Federation.”

However, non-Islamic religions already practice under a host of restrictions and proselytising to Muslims is actually an offence under Malaysian law.

The political tensions over the rise of political Islam have led many to conclude that the state is pushing to make Malaysia a Malay-Islamic state. The use of political Islam to further divide the population and to politically dominate non-Muslims has also led, ironically, to more regulations to control the personal behaviour of Muslims such as dress codes as the Islamists attempt to control non-Islamic religions in Malaysia.

In many instances, non-Muslim places of worship have been unnecessary burdened by bureaucratic red-tape and attempt to build non-Muslim places of worship were delayed or cancelled after politically motivated protests by Muslim groups.

In an infamous case, a judicial report in 2019 came to the conclusion that the Special Branch, the elite unit of the police force, was responsible for the disappearance of a Christian pastor Raymond Koh and a Syiah preacher Amri Che Mat. 

The pastor was suspected of trying to convert several Malays while Syiah beliefs are deemed a national security threat. The police simply ignored the findings and the government largely sided with the police.

Thus, many non-Muslims in Malaysia think that when it comes to political Islam, the state will always take the side of the Muslims regardless of the law.

Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63)

The arguments over whether Malaysia is a Malay state, or a Malay-Islamic state becomes even more convoluted when one considers the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), the international legal instrument that created the federation.

The original federation consisted of Singapore, Malaya, North Borneo (now called Sabah) and Sarawak, though Singapore left just two years into the project.

Under MA63, the Borneo states were accorded a high degree of autonomy from the federal government, a point rooted in the fact that Sabah and Sarawak are very different from Malaya in terms of history, demography, religion, language and culture. Ethnic Malays are minorities in both states, which are located on the island of Borneo, far from the Malay peninsula.

However, despite assurances of autonomy, the general feeling among Sabahans and Sarawakians is that the federal government broke this promise and the reverse happened; for the past six decades, federal authorities centralised all the powers and, even worse, took most of the oil and gas resources from the Borneo states to develop Malaya, leaving the island states under-developed.

The Kadazan-Dusun Murut (KDM) and the Dayaks are the majority indigenous peoples of Sabah and Sarawak, respectively. They are firm that their forefathers agreed to form the federation with Malaya (and Singapore) on the understanding the Borneo states will have maximum autonomy from the federal government, including religious freedom.

The overwhelming majority of the KDM and Dayaks are non-Muslims and are uncomfortable with state-supported programmes to convert them to Islam. There is fear that once they become Muslims, they will lose their identity and be classified as “Malays”.

This fear is supported by empirical evidence in that many of the tribal peoples in Malaya and some KDM and Dayaks, once converted, are assimilated into the Malay community. Their children will be officially counted as Malays in the census data.

But the thing that most annoyed the people of Sabah and Sarawak is the insistence by the federal government that its political framework of dominance by Malay/Islam identity is implemented in the Borneo states.

Communal relations in the Borneo states were good before Malaysia and now there are signs that Islam is being used as a political weapon to divide the people. This has led to a vocal minority calling on Sabah and Sarawak to secede from the federation.

‘Midlife crisis’

If Malaysia was a person, that individual would probably suffer from a midlife crisis caused by identity issues. In this case, the identity issues are caused by the rise of political Islam and the Malay-Islamic supremacy ideology.

For the past 60 years, there has been a great reluctance among the Malay establishment to recognise the reality that Malaysia is a multiracial and multireligious state. Will things change in the coming years? Probably not.

Due to demographic changes, in 2050, Muslims will account for 73 percent of the population, up from the current 63 percent. 

This will have unclear implications for a number of the questions that currently define Malaysian identity: Will this mean that Malaysia will be an Islamic state and no longer a Malay state? Will Islam replace the Malay identity? And then, what about the tension with Sabah and Sarawak?

There are no easy answers. What is clear is that Malaysia at 58 needs to have a national conversation about what it truly is. Forcing the population to accept a state-defined, ethnic-religious identity may not be the best way to bring about a united nation. - Mkini


JAMES CHIN is Professor of Asian Studies, University of Tasmania. 

The above article was first published in southeastasiaglobe.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.