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Asian Opinions

Monday, Aug 4, 2014

Asian Opinions

Silly political charade in Malaysia

The Star/ANN | Monday, Aug 4, 2014

Students casting their votes electronically during campus election at UPM, Serdang.

It used to be fairly simple. As a student at National University of Malaysia in the early 1980s, when student politics were often as emotional as politics outside the campus, we simply had to choose between the liberal and the religious candidates.

The liberal ones were the pro-Umno (United Malays National Organisation) students, mostly from the west coast states of Selangor, Penang and Johor, while the religious candidates were those influenced by PAS (Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party) and came mainly from the east coast states of Kelantan and Terengganu.

The liberal student leaders wore jeans and spoke English well and were primarily from the arts faculties, while the PAS-types, with their goatees and headwear, were mainly from the Islamic faculty.

Fast forward to 2014. Today, Malaysians will never hear Umno leaders or, for that matter, any Malay politician declare themselves openly as liberals. Even if they are.

That's simply because the right-wingers, who call themselves nationalists, have repackaged and successfully convinced many Malaysians that liberals are equivalent to those who support LBGT - lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgenders.

Throw in same sex marriage and abortion and that is enough to kill off liberalism. That's how effective the anti-liberal agenda has been. It doesn't matter if many liberal-minded Malaysians do not support such causes, because these right-wingers will simply flash the "guilty by association" trump card.

The real definition of liberalism has been hijacked by these people to equate it with "decadence" and "Western" values. But if you go back to the dictionary, you will understand that liberalism is about ­tolerance, democracy, generosity and broadmindedness in all spheres of life.

These right-wingers, who are self-declared champions of their races, continue to seek opportunities to promote their narrow-minded views.

A few have gone to ridiculous lengths, the latest being an attempt to raise funds for a road bully, and suggesting that the video that went viral had been tampered with to put her in a bad light - implying some form of racial agenda.

Seriously, how low can this go? But, encouraged by generous coverage in some news portals, these "champions" will continue with their silly political charade and bask in their own glory.

That they can get away with seditious remarks has no doubt raised the question as to whether they have powerful backers.

But moderate Malaysia cannot allow such personalities to set the political tone, or agenda, in this country.

Another suddenly feared word is secularism. There seems to be some misguided notion that secularism means embracing Christianity. How this has come about has baffled me.

A secular state, as one commentator puts it, simply means that the state is neutral and no one would be able to use religion as a political tool.

The Islamic Renaissance Front, in a letter published in The Star on June 5, says there are different types of secularism in which Malaysia endorses the positive one in order to protect the variety of religions cohabiting on its territory.

"With that type of secular approach, the government does not deny the inherent right of its citizens to profess any religion, and equally supports them and protects their other rights including the right to participate in public life and civil service irrespective of their religious denomination," it says.

"This is an ideal construction, which was implemented in Malaysia with some asymmetries due to the special historical conditions."

The reality is that many Malaysians are not terribly interested in reading up on philosophical terms, let alone read, and the result is that they accept the gibberish that has been pushed down their throats.

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