Hornbill Unleashed

November 21, 2011

Insulting Muslims 101

The film Babe, about a little pig who wanted to be a sheepdog

Jacqueline Ann Surin 

HOW does one insult Islam in Malaysia? And how does one insult Muslims in Malaysia?

Over the past few years and increasingly over the past months, the state, politicians and pressure groups like Perkasa have demonstrated just how to do either one or both. For the most part, these incidents are an insult to Muslims in Malaysia, rather than to the world’s fastest growing religion per se.

Here’s my take on how these groups have been giving lessons to the nation, and to the world, on Insulting Muslims 101.

Step 1: Weak and wavering

Here’s how to portray Malaysian Muslims as weak and easily swayed by all manner of external influence:

The film Babe, about a little pig who wanted to be a sheepdog

Ban a movie about a pig because it may just convince Muslims to eat what their faith teaches them to be haram. Don’t stop there. Discipline a child for bringing to school the pork lunch his Christian mother prepared for him. Similarly, make sure alcoholcan’t be sold in Muslim-majority areas.

Tell Muslims that if they practise yoga, they might be tempted to worship Hindu gods. If there is a Hindu temple in their neighbourhood, their faith might be threatened.

Ban the use of “Allah”, and three other Arabic words, in non-Muslim worship. Send a message to Muslims in Malaysia and in other parts of the world, where incidentally “Allah” is used by non-Muslims in their worship, that Malaysian Muslims are easily confused.

Step 2: Intolerant and judgemental

This is oh-so-easy to execute especially post-Sept 11 when many fear Muslims to be violent and irrational terrorists. Within that global context, adding “intolerant” and “judgemental” to the cocktail of bad traits Muslims purportedly have doesn’t require very much effort.

Projecting an image of Malaysian Muslims as intolerant and judgemental can be done in several ways. For example, show them in an 8TV Ramadan ad as being affected by a non-Muslim Chinese Malaysian who wears a sleeveless top to a Ramadan bazaar. Let them be police and judge in these TV ads who can tell non-Muslims what good, moral behaviour is all about and how non-Muslims should dress.

Step 3: Constantly needing state intervention

If Step 1 is effectively executed, Step 3 is a logical next step. Because Malaysian Muslims are purportedly so weak and easily swayed, the state must step in to protect Muslim faith. And so apostasy is made a crime under syariah law in Malaysia. Not fasting duringRamadan is a punishable offence for Malaysian Muslims. Never mind that in Indonesia, in the most populous Muslim country in the world, no such regulation is needed.

Ostensibly, it’s also because Muslims are so weak in Malaysia that should a non-Muslim marry a Muslim, she or he must convert. No such legal requirement is imposed on non-Muslim couples of different faiths who marry each other. Neither is this legal requirement in place in Indonesia where Malays can even be Christians and yet this poses no threat to Indonesian Muslims.

Yes, and because Malaysian Muslims are weak, they need a Faith Rescue Unit in Selangor and at the federal level, they need an Islamic Affairs Ministry in an already over-bloated cabinet. Without the state watching over how Muslims live out their faith and intervening in both their public and private lives, woe is sure to follow the ummah.

Step 4: Afraid of Christians and Christianity

Are Malaysian Muslims so threatened by Christians and Christianity? Apparently, they are or even if they really aren’t, they need to be.

And that’s why Christian events should not be held during Ramadan. And of course, Muslimsmust be shown that that it would be disastrous for them to attend any event held on church premises. Muslims who do attend such events must go for counselling so their faith can be protected.

How is this insulting? Well, I’m reminded of my own experience living as a Catholic with other non-Muslims in Third College in Universiti Malaya where the boarders and administrators were predominantly Muslim. And where the loudspeaker for the azan was just outside the bedroom I shared with a Hindu senior. Even though we were bombarded with the call for Muslim prayer five times a day, every single day, and surrounded by Muslims and their practises, that didn’t stop us from going to church or the temple or from practising our faith. Somehow, we were not tempted to apostasise.

So, if even stepping onto church premises for a community dinner can so quickly turn their faith on its head, Muslims must be particularly vulnerable to Christian influence. We must remember though, that this vulnerability may not be applicable for Muslims, including Malaysian Muslims, in other countries where Muslims can visit cathedrals and temples and not feel compelled to apostasise.

It must be this special vulnerability to Christians in Malaysia that forms the reason for Perkasa wanting Christian teachers to be barred from teaching in national schools or at least, to have them monitored. Never mind that our prime minister and other notable Malaysian Muslims attended Christian missionary schools and today remain Muslims. Or that Datuk Seri Najib Razak was at the Vatican with the head of the Catholic Church and did not recant his faith. The prime minister must be in a league of his own compared to other Muslim mortals who don’t hold such high office.

NajibIs Najib’s faith in danger after meeting the pope? (source: insightsabah.gov.my)

The sting of the insult

Why are these insults really insulting?

Well, because Malaysian Muslims, at least most of them, are far more certain about their faith, and less susceptible to non-Muslim influence and lifestyles, then they are made out to be.

During Ramadan for example, I stayed in a Muslim household for a week to help a good friend with her new-born. Guess what happened when I had breakfast and lunch in front of the fasting Muslims? Was I chastised for tempting these Muslims and endangering their faith? Not at all. Even though they could not eat, they made sure food was available for me, even cooking for me.

On another occasion, a non-Muslim friend who was dressed in a spaghetti strap top didn’t receive stares or rebukes at the Ramadan bazaar we were at in Section 3, PJ. The Muslim vendors and customers weren’t interested in looking at her bare arms and shoulders, nor did they find it offensive. They were more interested in the food so that they could break fast.

So who are these people who would insult Malaysian Muslims and make them out to be so weak and so much in need of state support? And why would they want to do that?

The politics of fear

Do we really need saving?Super Straw Man: helping you solve the problems he made up?

One way to answer this question is to ask: Whose interest would it serve to have Malaysian Muslims believe they are weak and under threat from non-Muslims, and hence need constant rescuing?

Seems to me it would serve the interest of thepoliticians and state and non-state actors who insist that without them, Muslims in Malaysia would indeed be lost souls.

Who might these be? Well, Umno and PAS for certain, who demonstrate repeatedly just how much they would like to control the lives of Muslims — even to the point of disrupting the lives of non-Muslims — in Malaysia. That Utusan MalaysiaTV3and TV1 — all of which fall under Umno either through ownership or government control — have published and broadcast inaccurate reports about Christian proselytisation of Muslims is yet another sign of what is at stake. The possibility that the religious beliefs of the majority in Malaysia are being threatened by the minority is surely one of the easiest ways to fester disharmony and distrust in multi-racial Malaysia.

And of course, there’s Perkasa which, in the name of Islam, would emasculate all Malaysian Muslims with their politics of fear and animosity, and threat of violence against non-Muslims and non-Malays.

If Muslim and non-Muslim Malaysians were to believe everything that is done from Steps 1 to 4,  this country would have crumbled a while ago from the strain of having a fearful, besieged Muslim majority reacting to every external influence as a threat.

That we haven’t become a Humpty Dumpty nation suggests that we are all far more resilient and respectful of each other than what has been portrayed. And yes, that includes the Muslims who live among us. Question then is, what will we do to stop this campaign of insulting Muslims in Malaysia?

9 Comments »

  1. My 15 year old daughter said it nicely…. ‘The Government should just lock us (Muslims) in a box so that we cannot see, hear or read about what is going on in the outside world!’
    If I am NOt allowed to think for myself ……… why did ALLAH give me a brain? Who died and made the Malays … GOD?

    Comment by disgusted! — November 22, 2011 @ 1:04 PM | Reply

  2. APPLES vs ORANGES

    MALAYANS (aka “MALAYSIANS”) vs INDONESIANS
    _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Here are some differences between Indonesia & Malaya as observed by a retired German lecturer P. Feisenberg, who had worked in Penang during Tunku’s days and in Jakarta in Suharto’s time. ‘Malaya is used because the obsrevations relate to Malaya and not to the Sabah and Sarawak colonies.

    An interesting account of his observations & gloomy prediction of the future of a young nation….

    A big divide between the two countries yet they live next to each other and both are Muslim countries.

    I always tell my friend that Indonesia is not the best country in the world to work and live but since working in Indonesia for about 5 years, I don’t have the feeling that I am living in a Muslim country despite 93% of Indonesians are Muslim. 99.9% of my colleagues are Muslim and we go for lunch and dinner together and sometimes to a Chinese restaurant that served pork and there is no fuss about it. (For your information – the people who sell pork are Muslim bosses are Chinese and employ Indonesian Muslim to cut and sell pork in the wet markets).

    (Comment: Same here in Sarawak- no big deal – we all brothers regardkess of race or religion)

    All 5-star hotels served pork bacon and ham for breakfast and are prepared by Muslim.

    Alcohol is sold everywhere in the street.… and Indonesia No 1 selling beer is “Bintang” and is brewed locally and is consumed by all Muslim openly. No issue.

    During fasting month the Muslims are free to decide if they want to fast or eat as normal.… no issue at all and no one catches them.

    The president and vice president are elected by the people and so are the governors of the city (in Malaysia we call them Mentri Besar). No one is appointed by the President or in Malaysia by the PM.

    National holidays – Hari Raya Idul Fitri is 2 days and Chinese New Year is 1 day but Christian enjoy 3 days – Christmas, Ascension of Christ and Good Friday. The Hindu in Bali has 1 day for Hari Raya Nyepi celebrated only in Bali. Wesak day is also a public holiday.

    A Muslim can convert to be a Christian tomorrow and then to a Buddhist the next day…. and then back to a Muslim…. no issue at all.

    In supermarket pork is sold side by side with chicken and beef…. no issue at all.

    I can go on and on…. in short Indonesia is a very liberal Muslim country…. definitely not Malaysia. FYI our Malaysian senior government officer “suka Indonesia ”…. you know why!!!

    Why I left for our ‘poorer’ neighbour — Indonesia

    This writer is absolutely correct and gave a very fair view of Indonesia. I have been in and out of Indonesia for the past 10 years. Sometimes, my stay is up to one month per visit. I have worked with senior Indonesia managers as well as low level staff. I have also interacted with lots of direct sellers from all sorts of background. I have dealt with the Indonesian civil servants.

    They don’t talk about race. The mass media do not propagate racial or religious divides. They don’t spin story of Christian fighting the Muslim or Muslim fighting the Christian. Husband and wife can have different religious belief. There is not such fuss as Halal restaurant. Tony Roma in Indonesia serves the best pork rib. In all the Tony Roma restaurants Muslim and non Muslim sit and eat together on one table. I ate pork rib, my Muslim colleagues ate beef and lamb. There is no such thing as a Halal and non Halal section.

    Comparing the environment and the working culture in Indonesia between pre 1998 (Suharto’s era) and the year 2008, you can see the vast improvement in Indonesia civil services. During Suharto era, my visit to Tax office (Kantor Pajak) cannot be done without carrying cash for coffee money. The tax officer will always start with ” Pak dari Malaysia mahu chak kopi dulu”. And this small favor money must be given and openly counted on his desk before any discussion.

    My last visit in 2008 to the government office (Departmen Pentadbiran, you cannot use Jabatan Kerajaan. They hated the Raja), you cannot even mention anything about “Kopi”. See the vast difference. SYB sent his own brother-in-law to jail. Suharto’s youngest son, Tommy Suharto was jailed. Do you see this in Malaysia?

    Malaysia is rotting. And the writer is absolutely correct. If the situation is not changed, Malaysia will be the biggest exporter of maids to Indonesia, 10 years down the road. Padam muka orang orang kampong.

    Muslims in Indonesia have no problem with patronizing outlets that sell alcohol or non-halal food, even if they choose not to have any. In Malaysia, the Muslims make a big fuss over small things which they claim are not halal. You may argue that there are fanatics here in Indonesia, but the number is small relative to the population.

    Just look around Malaysia. Everywhere you look, you get fanatics (nuts)

    Comment by ANON — November 21, 2011 @ 7:10 PM | Reply

    • Anon

      So whats your point……… you want Msia to emulate Indonesia……. By copying & Pasting this article……. you are championing Islam ala Indonesia… and therefore you condemn Islam ala Malaysia………

      JANGAN

      Anon, who will pay you if BN goons are gone.

      Comment by Anon Anon — November 23, 2011 @ 2:12 PM | Reply

  3. SO ANIMAL FARM WOULD BE BANNED TOO- IT’S ABOUT PIGS LIKE UMNOCRATS WHO RULE WITH FEAR AND THUGGERY!

    Comment by PORKY — November 21, 2011 @ 6:37 PM | Reply

    • Careful about pork. It’s so bloody nutritious it gives Chua Sza Leg ankle problems ! 😉

      Comment by Kambing Batu — November 21, 2011 @ 9:47 PM | Reply

  4. Reapusow,

    You are very correct and right.

    Many things are created by man. Many people say, many more are things are created by God. Other than those things you very smartly list out trees, man and animals were created.

    And of course cows were created, too! The BN government, especially UMNO included have been influenced by cows.

    Influence, we agree, is very dangerous, especially if the cows got Mad Cow disease!

    Thank you for your very good advice.

    Comment by Cowculator — November 21, 2011 @ 2:19 PM | Reply

  5. Vote out the authoritarian and fascist gomen, this GE 13!

    Comment by Cowculator — November 21, 2011 @ 1:43 PM | Reply

  6. Your article is not comprehensive enough,but if you allow me,I will be happy to help to settle once and for all in order to prevent it from ever cropping up again.Alright ? Okay ! Things that were invented or produced by non-Muslims may influence Muslims.1) Planes(all types).2)Electrical and electronic appliances(TVs,Computers,Mobile phones,Loud-speaks and many,many more).3)Auto-mobiles (Two-wheels or up to many,many wheels). 4) Building materials(Anything that can go much,much higher than Petronas or underground or under the ocean in equivalent length). 5)Clothing materials(including Business suits).The rest you can figure it out,because I know it is very,very easy,unlike rocket science.

    Comment by Reapusow — November 21, 2011 @ 1:42 PM | Reply

    • And may I supplement your 5 suggestions. If these are the cases then “Malaysian Muslims” need to migrate to other planets or create their own planet. This earth is created by God for all peoples, religions and creeds. To be free from influences from things made and invented by non-muslims you need to live somewhere else other than this good God planet earth.

      Comment by Mandela — November 22, 2011 @ 11:22 AM | Reply


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