17/09/2021
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Where is the Federation of Malaysia heading?

By K.K.Tan

Happy Malaysia Day!

Based on feedback, it would appear that the movement for independence for Sarawak and Sabah is gathering momentum. It will need to be nipped in the bud soon.

Some analysts may see Malaysia heading for a break-up in future if certain core issues are not addressed properly.

A major reason is the perception, rightly or wrongly, that Semenanjung has been unfairly exploiting Sarawak and Sabah, especially their natural resources, for the last 58 years.

Another important reason may be the perceived greater Islamization pushed by some Muslim leaders from Semenanjung party PAS (which is part of the federal government now), which Sarawak and Sabah may not feel comfortable with, whatever the assurances given by some federal ministers.

In the light of the feelings of uneasiness, injustice and perhaps even anger of being betrayed in Sarawak and Sabah, political leaders from Semenanjung will need to be more sensitive and do more. They will need to be more proactive in order to protect the integrity of our beloved nation. They should not wait for negative events to happen and then only act.

The federal government will need to give whatever that is due to Sarawak and Sabah as agreed under MA63 and any subsequent agreements, on the management of their natural resources, especially oil and gas.

Before I continue on the sensitive subject of Islamization, please allow me to state that I am a friend of Islam, especially the oppressed Muslims, having fought for the cause of the Palestinians for the last 35 years since my student days in UK.

When our former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad spoke at the 10th Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in October 2003 about the disproportionate and negative influence and control of the Zionists in the West, he was severely condemned by the Western media of being an anti-Semitic. No one came to his defense maybe because he was just about to retire then.

I wrote two big press articles which were published in a local paper and foreign press (Asian Wall Street Journal) to defend his stand, explaining what anti-Semitism and Zionism were all about and why Dr Mahathir was not being anti-Semitic at all in his speech.

I was also perhaps the only Malaysian who wrote at least four full-page press articles in the English and Malay press in 2016 and 2017 to defend Islam and expose and condemn then US president Donald Trump for his rabidly anti-Muslim policies and actions.

I also explained about the origins and root causes of Islamophobia and how Muslim and non-Muslim leaders should deal with it.

Sarawak and Sabah, which have been rightly seen by many observers to be models for multiracial harmony, appear to be acting as a kind of “checks and balances” against any form of religious extremism from Semenanjung.

Therefore, some overzealous Muslim leaders may not even mind Sabah and Sarawak breaking off later because they may think that without Sarawak and Sabah as “obstacles” to their plans, they would be able to turn Semenanjung into a full Islamic state with the implementation of strict Sharia law, including Hudud.

If this were to happen, it may turn Semenanjung into a failed state with no or little economic development, based on what has happened to other Muslim-majority countries that have taken such a road.

As an independent Malaysian analyst who has studied the development of other Muslim countries and who has a locus standi to comment on the direction where our multireligious country may be heading, I would like to advise my Muslim compatriots to take the moderate road of Progressive Islam rather than the more conservative Islam, which was good and suitable at the time of Prophet Muhammad and for much of the period after him, but may not be so suitable today.

This is due to the current realities of the world that we live in, such as regional competition, growth of multiculturalism, globalization, geopolitics and the need for all races to be and to feel united and work together in our multireligious country to face the internal and more importantly external challenges.

We sink or swim together as a nation with no help from others. So we had better learn how to live peacefully and harmoniously with one another.

Greater Islamization such as the implementation of Hudud in our multicultural country can be very divisive and may be perceived to impinge on the rights and liberties of the other religions, if not handled carefully.

It may make non-Muslims in Sarawak and Sabah feel threatened despite the assurances given by some federal politicians from Semenanjung.

It will be a “lose-lose” situation for both Muslims and non-Muslims in Semenanjung if Sabah and Sarawak were to break off, even legally and peacefully later on, like what Singapore did in 1965.

Some of the more conservative Muslims whom I respect even if I disagree with them, may say that it is fine to have a failed state with little economic development, as their emphasis is on the Thereafter, so whatever suffering the Muslims may have to endure in the Hereafter is less important.

Expressing objectively with good will, I would like to advise my Muslim compatriots, for the sake of their own well-being, to take the road of Progressive Islam and recognize the importance of material economic development and eradicating poverty in the Hereafter, together with the continuation of religious education and the promotion of moral values and ethics as well.

It will be a win-win for all Muslims and other religious practitioners.

Our first three Muslim prime ministers were practicing much of Progressive Islam and Malaysian Muslims should follow the path set by our founding fathers.

(A corporate, social, political and geo-political analyst for more than 30 years, K.K.Tan passionately believes in sustainable peace and religious harmony for Malaysia and the world.)

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