The political heat is rising, combusting on racial and religious fuel to such an alarming level that is bad enough for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to order the security forces to be on alert.
This came as a result of the build-up of recent controversies such as Tan Sri Hadi Awang’s statement relating to the supposed “rights” to plan the toppling of the government, the outdated Mentega Terbang issue (why now?), the “Jom Ziarah” program involving the visit of places of worship by the youth to promote better awareness on the nation’s diverse society and the ban of religious talks in mosques in several states, which was seemingly ignored.
Let’s not forget past issues such as the Bon Odori festival, which was vastly improperly handled and other politicized events, all stemming from a similar disease.
We fear that these are but surface symptoms of bigger underlying issues, just as hot lava flows out from a build-up of geothermal energy, waiting to erupt in a violent explosion.
Adding fuel to the already volatile mix, the super elites may also capitalize on this racial and religious rhetoric to boost the victim narrative, such as the so-called selective prosecution relating to corruption charges against opposition leaders—as if these are unjust actions attacking Malay-Muslims.
It’s a conveniently lazy yet powerful narrative for the corrupt to escape prosecution and go back to plundering the nation’s coffers.
We can also observe the blatantly obvious multi-pronged strategies to incite racial and religious hatred among the people even further when the ethnoreligious victim narrative was boosted through the toxic combination of the fake narrative that the recent Women’s March (that was seemingly hijacked by the LGBT+ agenda) was somehow proof of how the current government was endorsing non-Islamic/non-traditional values.
Hence, Malaysia is facing a triple threat of super elites, hardcore racial bigots and extreme religious zealots and the unprecedented collusion thereof, between the three prime evils.
As mentioned in the EMIR Research article titled “No place for disruptive ethno-centric politics” dated April 2, 2021, capitalizing identity insecurities and demographic nature at the expense of others and using race and religion to push for personal interest and political gains is ethically, morally, legally and even religious wrong!
Given the nature of the matter at hand, the article draws mostly on the latter, as a firm reminder to those who are causing the discord.
In the face of dispute, go back to Qur’an and sunnah
The basis of the brewing unrest appears to be some sort of dispute. Whatever that may be, there is a clear guideline on how disputes should be handled, especially in the context of a disagreement with a justly appointed leader. Instability and unrest are certainly not the way.
In the Holy Qur’an, God the Almighty says: “O you who have believed, obey Allah (God) and obey the Messenger (Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him; PBUH) and those in authority among you.
And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger PBUH, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best way and best in result.” (Qur’an, 4:59)
Islam is against racism, chauvinisms or religious extremism
Let’s look deeper into what God and The Prophet (peace be upon him) say about these issues.
The Almighty declares in the Holy Quran: “O mankind, we have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, so that you may know one another. Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most God-fearing of you (49:13).”
Recall the last sermon of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as reported in an authentic Hadith (narration): “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”
These undisputed sources also provide clear confirmation of racial equality, and that the true measure of one’s superiority over another is one’s spiritual and moral standing.
As for the relationship between Muslims, the Prophet (peace be upon him) reminded us of the following: “Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly.”
So, if there is a dispute among Muslim leaders, what is the right behavior?
For example, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “It is obligatory for one to listen to and obey (the ruler’s orders) unless these orders involve one disobedience (to Allah); but if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed, he should not listen to or obey it.” (Sahih Muslim 1848a)
Additionally, the Prophet PBUH said: “…If you then find anything detestable in them (according to God’s commands and the Sunnah), you should hate their administration, but do not withdraw yourselves from their obedience…” (Sahih Muslim 1855a)
Thus, as noted by various scholars and as mentioned by EMIR Research prior publications, so long as the leader has been put in place justly and is carrying out justice, enjoining all that is good and beneficial according to God’s commands, then it is not permissible to dispute with those in authority or to rebel against them unless there is clear evidence of Kufr (disbelief) for which there must be concrete evidence according to Islamic Law as outlined in the Qur’an and authentic Hadiths.
Relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims
We refer to the following Qur’anic verse: “Allah does not forbid you from dealing kindly and fairly with those who have neither fought nor driven you out of your homes. Surely Allah loves those who are fair. Allah only forbids you from befriending those who have fought you for your faith, driven you out of your homes, or supported others in doing so. And whoever takes them as friends, then it is they who are the true wrongdoers” (Qur’an 60:8-9)
We can extend this relationship as neighborly interactions and many authentic narrations do not concern only Muslim neighbors.
For example, from Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6014, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2624, A’isha (May God be pleased with her) reported: “I heard the words of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “Jibrail (archangel Gabriel) strongly advised me (to treat) my neighbors with kindness, so I thought that he will even persuade me to give them (the right to) an inheritance.”
Inciting unrest and rebellion benefits no one
As mentioned in the EMIR Research article titled “Brewing Internal Threats to Malaysia?” dated March 3, 2023, unjustified scheming, envy and power struggles beget corruption and tyranny, promoting insecurity and instability.
The consequence of instability (if not anarchy!) is that it will permanently harm the livelihood of the many, for the fleeting profits of the very few.
Malaysians are just coming out of the harsh pandemic and into a world filled with an economic crisis, geopolitical conflicts, and natural disasters.
The triple whammy during the pandemic is now amplified by the growing ethnic-religious-elites triple threat. Have they lost their senses and shame? Have they lost the fear of the inevitable accountability on the Day of Judgment?
Malaysia needs stability more than ever and politicians need to be responsible for the well-being of the people instead of their political interests or parochial narrow political interests!
As Anwar correctly said, issues of racial and religious sensitivities must be resolved through negotiations and discussions.
Anyone who resorts to inciting social and political instability despite the always-open doors of peaceful discussion clearly doesn’t want peace to begin with!
Maybe we are just dealing with hypocrites
Perhaps, these issues aren’t really driven by authentic intellectual, political or even theological disputes, but rather, merely as means to mask these actions in pursuit of their true objectives—wealth, power, and status—idolizing these above the true teachings of Islam, therefore, above God, which in turn is a form of shirk and that it corrupts one’s faith, as alluded to by the late Prof Emeritus Tan Sri M. Kamal Hassan’s in his book “Corruption and Hypocrisy in Malay-Muslim Politics” published by EMIR Research.
Prof Kamal was spot-on when he mentioned the following:
“Therefore, the party behaves in public as if it has acquired religious legitimacy strong enough to justify or compensate for whatever morally-compromising political behavior, decisions or strategies it has to make in order to gain popularity and garner political support.”
And most importantly, we should heed one of the key takeaways from the following passage from Prof Kamal’s book:
“As Muslim politicians are also Believers, they have to make sure that their love or devotion for the party, their party’s goals, their leaders, their constituencies or their wealth, power and status are placed below that of their love and devotion to Allah SWT, the Noble Messenger (peace be upon him) and striving for Allah’s causes.”
In conclusion, if we (the Malaysian society, particularly the Malays and Muslims) hold on to the true teachings and even basic (common sense) morality and ethics our society would not succumb to the fear-mongering.
This underscores the importance of knowledge and education, as mentioned in the EMIR Research article titled “Sow Long-Term Seeds of Unity and Growth Now” dated May 12, 2022, whereby it was highlighted that the education system holds the key to unity and is the moral and intellectual bedrock of a nation.
Such fear tactics work, because apparently, only in Malaysia does the majority behave like an oppressed minority with a self-imposed besieged mentality, thus capitalized and worsened by politicians to divide and rule using the identity of politics of race and religion—shamelessly, for the mere sake of very narrow, shallow and parochial political interests.
(Dr. Rais Hussin is the president and chief executive officer of EMIR Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.)