Malaysia is at a crossroads with Islam at the center of the issue.
Will Malaysia go down the Taliban road or will it go the road of a progressive and inclusive nation?
One road will lead to a priesthood of Islam where all thoughts, words and deed are governed by ustaz with a narrow educational background who thinks just because they know Arabic, it is enough for them to be interpreters of God’s words.
This theocratic governance will usurp our parliamentary democracy in place of an ulamak based central power that will determine what we eat, wear and which direction to shit.
Or will Malaysia reclaim its pre-Reformist Islam direction of moderation, progressive thought, freedom of expression, artistic creativity, community heritage and a membership of a global coexistence instead of a group of frogs under the tempurung?
The Islamic Reform effort was started by groups of professionals in multi-disciplinary fields of science, arts, medicine, engineering and others along with a few ustaz of Islamic education to form the many entities that we have today that served an ‘Islamic Movement.
The Angkatan Belia Islam or ABIM was the first known Reformist group that ushered in a new wave of Islam that even affected the politics of Umno.
Then came the less known and secretive IKRAM which before that was said to be some radical student group from UK called IRC which later on was renamed as JIM.
I began my Islamic Reformist supporter since the days of my education in the US where the Malay students who called themselves the Malaysian Islamic Study Group opened a new world of Islam as part of a social, political and economic life.
From the work of Professor Dr. Ismail Raj Al-Faruqi, I was introduced to the Islamization of Science and other Knowledge.
I still have in my possession the first publication of the IIIT or the International Institute of Islamic Thoughts.
The work by Faruqi was soon to be supported by Anwar Ibrahim at the head of the strongest political party and International Islamic University of Malaysia was born to spear head Islam into the modern world as a progressive, inclusive and dynamic force.
Not to be outdone, money was poured into the setting up of the Institute of Islamic Thoughts or and Civilization or ISTAC headed by the Al-Attas family members with their patronage in Anwar.
When ISTAC waned after the departure of the Al-Attas family, UTM set up the Center for the Advanced Studies of Islam or CASIS. PAS was the political arm that worked together with these Islamic entities towards an Islamic political agenda for Malaysia.
I had thought that one party of these Islamist was more moderate and would allow the arts, heritage, culture and many of the practices of a civilized and modern life to occur while the other was a more conservative one that disagreed even with Mak Yong or Wayang Kulit.
Now, I am not so sure as all of these parties are silent on the Bon Odori issue that PAS is championing in order to kick start their election baiting strategy.
My question is where are the Professors from the International Islamic University who is being paid by the tax payers who are mostly non-Muslims and moderate Muslims?
Where were the ISTAC Professors and CASIS academics when all the issues of Islam were being debated hotly in the public realm?
Still talking to Seminar Walls on campus? Still talking down and showing off your knowledge to post graduate students hanging on to your every word?
Where were you when the nation that pays your salaries needed you the most to put many of the issues in perspective?
Are you afraid of the Akta Universiti or are you afraid that your contract will be terminated? Have you forgotten your own words quoting the Hadith of the Prophet of what Allah will ask the ulama or the scholars in the Akhirat?
Where were you?
Now, my question turns to the ABIM and IKRAM members who have prospered with their schools and Islamic tarbiyah programs.
Where are your activists and pejuang-pejuang Islam? Are you part of the conservatism of PAS that you are silent? Or are you biding your time so that Anwar wins the election and all of you will get cushy jobs in the government and then turn Malaysia into a theocratic state?
Where do you stand sir? Sit up please and speak up! The country is burning and you are watching on the side line.
Finally, where is Amanah with all their pejuang-pejuang Islam like Mujahid, Sallehuddin, Dzulkifli and Mat Sabu?
Where are you guys in this debate? Come on man speak up! We can’t hear you! Are you there?
If you are not then we Malaysians would not bother to vote for you because either you are cowards or part of the conservatism that is destroying Malaysia.
Speak up now or remain buried forever. Give all your seats to MUDA and Warisan please. We do not need you anymore.
The issue of Islam must be debated and addressed by the Islamic scholars from the universities and the institutes in a language that all Malaysians can understand.
The debate must be Islam versus Islam and not Islam versus development or trade money from Japan.
The latter debate will score many points for PAS and they want it that way.
Even the authority of the Sultan will win PAS their day. It is only the scholars and reformist that can save Malaysia from a certain doom of a failed nation.
At the moment, only Ismail Sabri in his recent speech said that Muslims must practice ‘tasamuh’ or the concept of tolerance.
I have checked the literature studies on this concept of tasamuh and there are many journal papers on the subject that advocate the aspect of tolerance, acceptance and respect for each other cultures in a pluralistic and multicultural society.
Why are these concepts not tabled to the public? Why are the experts in the public universities paid by the rakyat membisu seribu bahasa?
We need this kind of discourse to reeducate the Malay middle class that are being turned into conservative Muslims that would destroy our fundamental principles of living alongside one another with mutual respect and togetherness.
So far Ismail Sabri has scored positive political points as opposed to PKR and Amanah or even ABIM and IKRAM.
Malaysia is in more trouble than just losing trade incentives with Japan.
Believe me, this is just crumbs to the conservative Islamic forces in this country.
Our constitution will soon be no better than the paper it is printed on because extremists will insist their version of God will rule over all that we hold dear.
The Malay middle class educated in the universities and overseas are being taught by a narrative of conservatism that will place Malaysia in a pariah state which it will never recover unless drastic measures are taken to stem this narrative.
Who is out there to help change this damning narrative of Islam and theocracy?
I fear for my Malaysia as it will be no more…very soon.
(Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor of Architecture at a local university and his writing reflects his own personal opinion entirely.)