Fighting Islamist violence while suppressing the rights of women and others is contradictory, says social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir about Islamisation in Malaysia.
“I agree that there is an Islamisation process… Some of us have been talking about it. We can’t define an Islamist just as a person who takes up arms. That person doesn’t just pop up overnight. There is a process that leads to that.
“You want to fight Islamist violence and but at the same time, you are not letting people talk and suppressing women’s rights, other people, Shia and whatever.
“It is exactly the same thing (that the Islamists are doing). You cannot have both. It is self-contradictory. We have to be aware of the whole process that leads to it,” she said during a question-and-answer after a talk titled “The Malay Dilemma” at the George Town Literary Festival yesterday.
It was also contradictory to reject liberalism, which included a process leading to greater understanding, compassion and justice, Marina said.
“They jump at liberals, saying that if liberalism is allowed, the next day, people will go naked in public. Why would anyone want to do that?”
The talk, also featuring Malaysian-born Australian author, rapper and poet Omar Musa; award-winning cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque (Zunar); and film maker Dain Iskandar Said, raised other issues like what is meant to be a Malay in Malaysia, whether the dilemma was more real now than before, and intra-ethnic inequality.
Dain, speaking on Arabisation and religion, said it was difficult to untangle Arab culture and what was Islamic.
He related how, growing up in Egypt, he took a trip across the desert to Alexandria on holiday with his family and witnessed a man performing ablution with sand, even though there were bags of water on the back of his camel.
The practice is usually performed using water, but Dain’s father said people who lived in deserts simply did not mess with water.
He also recalled that when he was a boy in Segamat, Dain once touched dog poo when playing and proceeded to “samak” (ritual cleansing).
His father asked what he was doing and simply gave him a bar of soap to wash.
“He gave me the soap and said ‘this works’. He then said ‘God prefers if you are intelligent’,’ Dain said, sending the audience into laughter.
The speakers were also asked whether in the current situation, Malaysian youth should pack up and move overseas.
Marina said these days she was inclined to advise youth to move overseas where the opportunities were for the exposure.
Staying may be quite stifling and claustrophobic when you don’t have the space to talk about so many things, she added.
“You need the exposure, but always remain engaged with Malaysia. You can be anywhere in the world, as long as you remain engaged, with your heart and mind still here,” she told the fresh graduate who asked the question.
Omar said the situation at home might be depressing and demoralising but asked whether it was right to just leave the country.
He said although many people were moving to Australia, many Australians, namely artists, were also moving out of the country in search of greener pastures.
“It doesn’t have to be that way. If you see social injustice or the art scene in your area needing enrichment, do you want to be the person who ran away and watch it all crumble from afar?
“Or do you want to be the person to do something to change it?” he said, adding that he chose to stay in Australia instead of moving to the United States for his career. – November 29, 2015.