Fear of Malaysia turning into another Afghanistan prompted open letter

by Eileen Ng
The Malaysian Insider
11 December 2014

A deep fear that her country would become another Pakistan and Afghanistan, where religious extremism is on the rise, prompted Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin to seek other like-minded Malays to sign an open letter asking for a rational dialogue on the position of Islam in Malaysia.

But she is also hopeful that the positive response the letter has garnered will be the start of “something big” to help restore moderation and rationality in Malaysia.

In an interview to explain her reasons for signing and disseminating the letter, the former ambassador said she was worried that groups politicising Islam would lead Malaysia down the path of violence if left unchecked.

“I do not want to see what happened in Pakistan and Afghanistan happen to us, where professionals and talented people are so scared of their own future and their families’ future because extremist religion is on the rise and they leave the country taking their money and skills with them.

“If this happens in Malaysia, it is going to affect adversely our economy and we will be left with non-talented people who will lead the country to ruins,” she told The Malaysian Insider.

Noor Farida also said she was heartened by the positive response since the letter was published in various media outlets, adding that she had hopes for the 25 signatories to organise themselves into something more formal.

She said she wanted to “keep the momentum going” as the signatories shared a common desire to promote tolerance and respect among the races.

They were still a loose grouping, she said and, as yet, had no fixed plans on their next move, but they would meet soon to discuss concrete steps.

What she knows, for certain, is that it will be strictly a non-political group.

“This is the start of something big, we have received a lot of goodwill and we have started something positive for the country so we want to keep the momentum going.

“It is not going to end here, this is a genesis of a movement of moderate Muslims,” said the former Malaysian ambassador to the Netherlands.

The letter, published two days ago, decried the “lack of clarity and understanding” on the place of Islam within Malaysia’s constitutional democracy, as well as a “serious breakdown of federal-state division of powers, both in the areas of civil and criminal jurisdictions”.

It also expressed concern at how religious authorities were “asserting authority beyond their jurisdiction”, and that fatwa issued had violated the Federal Constitution as well as the consultative process.

Besides Noor Farida, other signatories of the 19-paragraph letter comprised of former high-ranking civil servants, including directors-general, secretaries-general, ambassadors and prominent individuals, all of whom are Malays.

Noor Farida said she was especially disappointed that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had made “beautiful speeches abroad” about moderation and yet did nothing at home against Malay supremacist groups who made inflammatory speeches.

In singling out Malay rights groups Perkasa and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) which claimed that Malay rights were being threatened, Noor Farida said conversely, it was the rights of the non-Malays that had been trampled.

“Malay rights are entrenched in the constitution and every government agency is seen to promote Malay rights, from education to job opportunities, so why do they perceive that there are still threats to the rights of the Malays?

“It is all in their imagination,” she said.

She said no good would come out of a situation where moderate Muslims and non-Muslims, spooked by rising religious extremism, decided to leave the country.

“Whether we like it or not, we sink and swim together. Isn’t it better to foster good race relations, promote peace and live peacefully? To what purpose do we want to instigate violence?” she said.

This was why all extremist rhetoric had to stop, she said, as such organisations did not speak for the silent majority.

Describing the Malaysia that she grew up in as a country that celebrated differences and where people of all races and religious beliefs mixed together, she questioned why Malaysia of late had descended into such vitriol, and to what purpose.

“All the recent events are showing a face of Islam which is totally contrary to Islamic teachings. Islam is a religion of peace and the way these people are behaving is as though they are trying to instigate another May 13,” she said, referring to the race riots of 1969.

“Islam has got such a bad image abroad and what the extremists are doing is causing so much confusion and giving Islam such a bad name. Why should we allow these rat pack gangs to force us out of our own homes and country?” – December 11, 2014.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 11 December 2014 - 9:04 am

    Threats to Islam and Malays are not in the imagination of Perkasa and Isma, its in their HALLUCINATION.. and they want to keep hallucinating, hopped up on the political drug. Condemned addict with little chance of redemption and they are peddling the same drug where they can so they never have to live in reality..

  2. #2 by winstony on Thursday, 11 December 2014 - 10:23 am

    Well, well, well.
    The author of this article is rather behind time.
    Race & religion have been used as bogeymen in this country for years now.
    As for following the example of those in Afghanistan and Pakistan who were fleeing the country in droves, it has been happening here for ages as well.
    These are nothing new to this country.
    In fact, we may even have a head start in such matters with regard to those countries.
    Instead, she should spread the message that religion is a private covenant between a believer and his/her God.
    And is of no concern to others.
    And it also really doesn’t matter which religion has the most adherents.
    Race is something that we are born into.
    Is there any choice???
    It is very surprising that in this day and age, there are still people around who are so naive (stupid?) that they can be stirred up because of such issues.
    FYI, these were non issues during colonial times as well as our early years of Independence.
    Obviously those who harp on such issues have an evil agenda of their own.

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Thursday, 11 December 2014 - 11:37 am

    How DARE they smear d credibility of UmnoB, Perkosa, Isma, n other ultra-Malay rights grps dat defend d 4 Rs here, as well as insult Pakistan n Afghanistan
    Polis report will b made against them n they will face d Sedition Act musik
    Dis is d reality here – Sedition Act here n there, a veri useful instrument 2 zip mouths

  4. #4 by good coolie on Saturday, 13 December 2014 - 7:18 pm

    Is Malay culture consistent with the principles of Islam? This is the question which is asked by all, and answered in the affrimative by moderate Malays. The Taliban, ISIL, Boko Haram types would say “no” and seek to impose an austere way of life in direct conflict with the Malaysian Constitution and modern developments in human right laws. Thus is the battle-line drawn in the battle-field, Malaysia. Make no mistake about this:- the outcome will be known very soon, before the much vaunted 2020 even. I hope Moderation wins – despite the shizophrenic attitude of our top politicians with regard to moderation in the practice of religion.

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