What does ‘moderate’ mean?

By Hafidz Baharom
Free Malaysia Today
January 14, 2015


The writer disagrees with those who say that extremism is not a major Malaysian problem.

I would like to respond to the letter dated January 12 published in The Star entitled “Ethnic divide, not extremism is the problem” signed by 33 high-profile learned Malays from all walks of life . They argued that ethnic divide and not extremism is the major problem facing Malaysia.

I do not deny a growing ethnic divide. I take Shah Alam as an example. The citizenry of Shah Alam has always been majority Malay, yet in my time at primary and secondary school, we still had a large group of non-Malay friends in the classroom. Such is not the case these days.

However, this was not the issue highlighted by the open letter of the 25 retired civil servants to the Prime Minister. Instead, the letter focused on the internal struggle within the Malay community and, in particular, on those using religion as a mere tool to garner support.

In my definition, the fight against extremism is the struggle against those who insist on using the Malay community and Islam to call to behaviour that either is violent, instils fear, or is just plain ridiculous.

In other words, anything beyond moderate is “zalim” or extreme.

While the learned group of 33 has pointed out that we do have numerous houses of worship for all religions, is it not the Muslims who are stopping the building of new ones?

I take you back to Shah Alam, where such challenges have happened. A Hindu temple was proposed to be moved to a different location, and some saw it as a reason to rally Muslims to protest with the head of a cow not more than 500 feet from my house.

They stomped and spat on it, a symbolic insult to Hindus since they consider the cow a sacred animal. Is this not the work of extremists?

During the town hall discussion led by then Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim on this issue, some even threatened to hurl chairs while screaming expletives. Is this not extreme?

And Eric Paulsen has received death threats from Malay Muslims for wrongly quipping that Jakim was promoting extremism every Friday. I disagree with him, but I do not call for violence, because that would be an extremist response. Can those “moderates” you speak of in your letter say the same?

I see these acts of promoting violence as an abuse of Islam and as fitting my definition of extremism. The freedom to worship is guaranteed not only by the Federal Constitution, but by Islam itself. I would use the Emirate of Granada as an example. All were free to worship as they believed. Similarly, during Islamic Jerusalem, freedom to worship was allowed.

Agenda of vilification

Recently, Islam was used yet again to instil fear in the Malay Muslim community. The halal status of bottled water was questioned because a Hindu icon appeared on the label. I ask all 33 of you to consider; was there truly a threat to the halal status of water because of this? Would you not consider this extreme?

The learned group cannot deny that there is an agenda of vilifying Malaysians of other faiths using bogeyman tactics that have no standing in this country. For instance, suddenly a Korean pop band is not only considered as an agent to convert Muslims to Christianity, and at the same time also a Jewish agenda.

I do acknowledge the learned members’ point that moderation is relative to geographical location. But I am awed that the learned group considers Saudi practices as examples of moderation.

The question that the 25 retired civil servants raised was this: what truly defines a moderate in our own country’s borders? Where are the lines drawn between moderate, liberal and extreme as per our Federal Constitution?

The learned group does not address this point at all, but it is around this point that all other points raised by the G25 revolve. The group’s open letter to the Prime Minister was subsequently supported by the “I Am #26″ campaign.

I hold fast to the belief that a moderate and progressive Malay Malaysian community has somehow been left in the yesteryears, and pray that we all can get a proper platform to discuss how to reach that social equilibrium once more.

Until such a platform for intellectual discussion is in place, how can we know that your proposed solution to review the Federal Constitution is what every Malaysian wants?

I believe that coexistence within this multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation should be and must always be based on decisions made out of mutual respect. I note that this mutual respect is under threat by elements on both sides of the divide.

As such, let us all agree to have proper discourse on a proper platform, as the 25 retired civil servants have asked for. This will give the learned group and everyone else the opportunity to listen to the various viewpoints coming from Malaysians so that we can find a truly Malaysian definition of what it means to be a moderate. In other words, let us have a moderation of ourselves as Malaysians before we act.

  1. #1 by Justice Ipsofacto on Wednesday, 14 January 2015 - 2:40 pm

    Moderate means one who accepts the truth that umno is the supreme grand master of the universe, the creator of Time and the GOD of all gods.

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 14 January 2015 - 6:54 pm

    Perkosa n Isma kaki claimed 2 b role models of moderates

You must be logged in to post a comment.