Re-stitching Malaysia’s social fabric

Source: The Star Online

Findings show that strategies and initiatives are needed to foster greater interaction between communities.

WHEN the protest of Malaysians for fair elections and against corruption is reframed as an attack by non-Malays against the dignity of Malays, we should be alarmed. Race seems to be the default narrative to explain everything one is unhappy about, from frustrations at school to dissatisfaction at work to altercations in the neighbourhood.

The fact that multi-cultural Malaysia has enjoyed decades of prosperity with little violent conflict does not necessarily equate to harmony. In recent years, with religion being politicised to reinforce communal barriers and more children being schooled separately, we intuitively know that Malaysia’s Malays, Chinese and Indians are growing further apart.

But what are the real facts? How do we measure growing apart? Do we really know what helps commu­­nal integration and what does not, and what simply fuels the divide? Read more

Diversifying perspectives in understanding religion — Mohd Izzuddin Ramli

Source: The Malay Mail Online


opinion-clipart-gg60666501FEBRUARY 10 — For most people, religion is the fundamental element in human life. It is perceived in many ways by the believers, either as an identity marker or something that is sacred and embraced as the pillars that they hold onto in their lives. Unsurprisingly, religion particularly Islam has increasingly become a hot topic in Malaysia. It is especially so when Islamisation creeps into every stratum of society.

Religion that is perceived as something personal is gradually becoming social and, worse, a state matter. But what is also worrying is that Islam as is practised in Malaysia is governed by religious institutions that have a monopoly over the interpretation of the religion. In other words, aspects of Islam receive singular, as opposed to diverse, interpretations prescribed by the state institutions. The inclination to be exclusive and monolithic is ostensible not only in intra-religious relations but also in inter-religious relations.

Sunni and Shia conflict that has been going on for decades in countries like Syria, Pakistan and Bahrain, has also reached the shores of Malaysia albeit the intensity of the split is not as high as we can visually perceive in those countries. Yet, we can still see the clash between the conservative and the progressive with all the erroneous labels such as Jews, liberal, Illuminati, traditional and so on that are thrown at each other.

There are such cases that can be seen at the inter-religious level. The relations between Muslims and Christians experiences a setback by cases such as the removal of the cross from a church that happened in Taman Medan, Selangor in 2015 as well as the use of loudspeakers for azan by Muslim. Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) has once again stirred up controversy by asserting that Malays should not wish Christians “Merry Christmas” and celebrate together with them. Read more

How Malaysia can reverse trend of increasing religious intolerance ― Maszlee Malik

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Maszlee Malik is Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS ― Yusof Ishak Institute. This is adapted from a longer piece in ISEAS Perspective.

Maszlee Malik is Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS ― Yusof Ishak Institute. This is adapted from a longer piece in ISEAS Perspective.

NOVEMBER 17 ― A series of incidents in recent years has been undermining the religious harmony that Malaysia has thus far enjoyed. This began with the infamous “cow-head protest” in Shah Alam in August 2009 against a proposed Hindu temple that displayed unveiled disrespect and hatred towards Hindu citizens; and continued with three churches being torched in the Klang Valley in early January 2010.

This was followed by apparent retaliatory arson attacks against two suraus (prayer rooms) in Muar in late January 2010. Then came the mind-numbing act of incitement in April 2015 by 50 residents in Taman Medan over the display of a cross on a newly minted church, followed by the unfortunate Low Yat fracas, which led to the Red Shirts demonstration that further stoked racial tensions.

The mood was further affected by the conundrum over the use of “Allah”, the proposal to make Islamic and Asian civilisation studies compulsory at private universities, and a parliamentary Bill being presented that sought to allow the conversion of minors to Islam based on only one parent’s approval. The government eventually withdrew this controversial Bill, which would have allowed this unilateral conversion throughout Malaysia.

Public statements and actions by national Muslim leaders and state religious authorities have further exacerbated racial and religious discord. Read more

Malaysia’s Hot-Dog Crisis, Increasing Fundamentalism — Yohan Theatre

Source: The Market Mogul


As one may have heard, the Malaysian government decided to tackle an apparently ramping yet somewhat unexpected local issue: hot-dog stands. Firms selling hot-dogs have been encouraged by the government to rename such products. As a matter of fact, this encouragement seems rather compulsory since the risk incurred by non-compliant entities are “being refused halal certification”, according to the BBC. Losing such certification might not be seen as such a big deal in many locations, but it is in Malaysia. In a country whose population is, for the most part, Muslim, losing halal certification pretty much means filing for bankruptcy.

In a country whose population is, for the most part, Muslim, losing halal certification pretty much means filing for bankruptcy.  tweet

One could wonder what concerns might have driven this governmental policy. The Malaysian Islamic Development Department explains having adopted such ruling following “complaints from Muslim tourists”. The director of halal certification at the institution mentioned above Sirajuddin Suhaimee justified that such name might bring “confusion” since “in Islam, dogs are considered unclean, and the name cannot be related to halal certification”. Read more