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  • A country that backslides and upholds religious fundamentalism will never qualify as moderate state.

Sin Chew Daily

Beginning next June, Saudi Arabia will allow women to drive on its roads. This is a move in the right direction which should serve as a point of reference for Malaysia.

Indeed, a country that backslides and upholds religious fundamentalism will never qualify as moderate state.

Just as the controversy over a Muslims-only launderette in Muar came to a close, we heard of a similar Muslims-only laundry shop in the northern state of Perlis. This shows that radicalization has spread to more and more people.

Before the Sultan ordered an end to Muslims-only businesses in the state, menteri besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin had said the state government would not interfere in this kind of business model.

Obviously, for the sake of votes, political parties on both sides of the divide have opted to steer clear of this controversy, uttering some nonsense only after the Sultan had voiced up.

Our politicians have been eloquently bragging about the exceptional performance of the national economy and how successful we have become but have shied away from real threats of national harmony and other forms of crisis. I wonder where their leadership has gone.

With another shop running on a largely identical model in Perlis now, are these people going to pretend again that nothing is happening?

We can't pin our hopes on politicians to defend national harmony and unity. In its stead, these people will exploit such situation for their own good. They are more than willing to double up as religious cops or heroes as GE14 draws closer.

A Malay man was accused of belittling the Islamic laws for attending a football training session in knee-exposing shorts and for alighting from his car later to buy a burger for his wife. He was ordered by the Kelantan Islamic affairs department to attend a counseling course or be fined RM1,000.

The state religious department's unbending attitude in enforcing the law serves to proclaim to the Malay community that PAS is ardent to preserve the sanctity of Islam.

Playing the religious cop boosts PAS' religious credentials. Little wonder the Islamist party would rush to the forefront of resisting the beer festival, influencing the city authorities to reject the application of Better Beer Festival's organizers.

Party secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan even swore that his party would fight the beer festival to the end.

Reluctant to let PAS steal all the credit, Umno's mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia carried the frontpage headline "Selangor approves beer fest" and through a Malay NGO hit out at MB Azmin Ali who subsequently sent a lawyer's letter demanding withdrawal of the report, an apology and compensation.

Following MPK's conditional approval for a German F&B party at Centro Mall, Selangor Umno information chief Zein Isma said his party would team up with some NGOs to protest the party.

Hoping to cling on to power by engaging the Malays, PKR has been largely indecisive on this matter. If Azmin rejects the application for a German F&B party, he will be seen as succumbing to the pressure from Umno and PAS, and this will invariably dent its integrity. As for PAS, the party will have to pay a hefty price for treating Selangor like Kelantan.

Meanwhile, Chinese parties in BN remain loyal to Umno's decisions, as DAP talks dauntlessly of drinking and eating pork just to win the hearts of Chinese voters, giving Umno and PAS a good excuse to incite fears among the Muslims and instill the belief that Pakatan Harapan will never defend the Islamic faith.

Thanks to the continuous fanning by ill-intentioned politicians, we are not going to see an end to such religious issues anytime soon while new ones keep popping up.

Take the conversion issue for instance, the PM pledged to address the problems arising from the conversion of a spouse, but the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Amendment Bill 2017 was passed in the Parliament without the crucial Section 88A.

In addition, the Racial, Religious and Hate Crimes Act, the National Harmony and Reconciliation Act and the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Bill drawn up by the National Unity Consultative Council have all met with powerful resistance from the conservatives.

Against this self-restrictive political environment, conservatism is set to grow in strength and eventually kill our secular system.



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