Welcome to Malaysia!!! The only country bold enough to deem people of the single largest faith in the country as those of weak faith. So much so, that it is the Government’s duty to make sure that they keep in line. Because these people are apparently easily corrupted and are prone to subversive elements. So to protect this fair nation and its people of course (though only the largest faith needs protecting because I guess the others are mature enough to protect themselves) we have this pretty strict system of moral policing. Though this only applies to members of the single largest faith in the country.
Disclaimer: I am not a member of the single largest faith in the country so if I do get something wrong, please let me know and I will correct right away. Well after some verification at least.
If you haven’t Googled it yet, the single largest faith in Malaysia is Islam. Though I am a kafir, I still feel for the community because I have a lot of close friends who are Muslims. So here it goes. I’ve got nothing against Islam. It’s a pretty cool religion. Really quite compassionate. Why else would the early kingdoms of the Malay Peninsula embrace Islam? (Oklah, maybe there were some economic benefits too but let’s not delve into that. )
Remember when we pulled the plug on Erykah Badu’s concert (after she landed in the country) because she had a temporary tattoo of the symbol for Allah on her in one of her album covers? Remember how she got on a flight and performed at the Java Jazz Festival in the country with the largest Muslim population on Earth? Even though Malaysia is a secular state, it has on some occasions taken a harder line on Islamic issues than many other Islamic states.
Recently, you may have seen the name Irshad Manji popping up. The Ugandan-born Canadian author has been in the spotlight in our neck of the woods after she got into a sticky situation down in Indonesia. See, for once our friendly neighbours beat us to it. In Irshad Manji’s case her Malaysian publisher, ZI Publications, had it’s offices raided and her books were seized. Heck, her publisher was even charged in court.
This brings with itself the issue of freedom of expression and censorship. We see it time and time again in this country. Walk into a movie rated “18SX” and you still won’t see any sex scenes.
The Government has been throwing around the word ‘transformation’ a lot these days too. ETP, GTP we’ve all seen it. It’s as though they hired one of those management consultants who throw around all those buzz words and stuff. Here’s my question: if you (Mr. Najib and your cabinet) want the country to transform, why do still treat us like kindergarteners? Cutting out cuss words from movies, banning books that you think we shouldn’t read, movies that we shouldn’t watch, music that we shouldn’t listen to. What gives? An advisory rating is a rating. Don’t go and say it’s for mature audiences but continue to censor it.
I got to see the trailer from the really bad sounding movie Piranha 3DD. The tagline: Double the action, double the terrors, double the Ds. Instead the trailer only had double the action and double the terrors. They completely cut out the slow-motion montage of voluptuous breasts. (I know this thanks to YouTube) They just took out the biggest part of the movie.
I know I have digressed from my main topic of moral and religious policing. The thing is, things like censorship effect all strata of society not just a particular group of people. I don’t normally get angry, but the idea that the someone has been put in a position to cut out information that is deemed unfit for me (even as I approach the age of majority) just sets me off. If someone came up to me and said let me hook you up with a girl, though I could use the help, I’d have to decline. What puts another person in the position to make a decision for me?
But it is at times like these when I tell myself that at least I have it better off. Because it is at this time that I remember my Malaysian Muslim friends. They are born into a religion that they cannot leave. They are told what they cannot drink and when they cannot eat. Who they can marry and who they can’t? And all this is enforced by a legal code that only applies to them.
I wouldn’t mind if religious policing applied to all religions. I mean sure I’d feel oppressed if my pastor sent uniformed men into my house on a Sunday morning to drag me to church but at least we’d all be equally oppressed. Unless you were an atheist, then I guess you’d be spared. Or maybe you could pull it off by going agnostic.
From my perspective, this paints a picture where the Muslim population of the country has to be protected from their own thinking. Forgive me, if it sounds harsh. It places the religious “authorities” as guardians and protectors of the faith, oh wait, that’s the Agong’s job isn’t it? I mean, come on, if someone picked up a Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Indonesia version of the Bible and saw the word “Allah” in it, there’s no way they would be confused or be lead to think that they’re reading the Quran.
But the incident around the book Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta is pushing things too far. At least with the “Allah in the Bible” incident you could claim proselytising but now the “authorities” have deemed that Irshad Manji’s views on Islam are not suitable for a country like Malaysia and should not be allowed to infiltrate the minds of Malaysians (Hitler’s views are perfectly fine though and I’m quite happy about that). They’ve effectively appointed themselves into a position to decide what version of their own religion should be allowed in the country. What I’m trying to say is, if I wanted to have a liberal outlook on my religion be it Islam or whatever, I should the right to. I should not be completely cut off to materials that could further develop my thinking. You have your beliefs and I have my beliefs.
I’ve had friends who have gone through a lot of grief and hard times just because they are forced to follow a belief system that they don’t understand. I’ve had friends who’ve gone through heartbreak because their religion says they can’t marry someone from outside their religion. Not only do they feel morally bound but they’re also legally bound. Now tell me if that’s fair. Of course it’s not fair. But it’s the truth. And face it you’ve heard worse. A little heartbreak is nothing.
*I apologize for any errors that I may done. I am not an expert in the subject but it was something that I’d been wanting to write for sometime. If there are aspects of Islam and local Syariah Laws that I may have misinterpreted, please alert me and I will rectify it.