There is no doubt that Malaysia has made a lot of progress, especially in her economy, if one were to compare the early days of newly acquired independence from the British to present day situation. It would not be an exaggeration to assume that almost every Malaysian does not have to worry where is the money for his next meal is going to come from. Because life has a certain degree of contentment, a new trend in politics has emerged where instead of paying more attention to the development of the country, arguments between opposing political parties on whether Malaysia is an Islamic country or not become the highlight of the day.
The irony in the issue of Malaysia’s rapid development is that it is not parallel to the intellectual development of some individuals. This group of people only pay attention to their religion and claim themselves to be holy men just because they possess degrees, masters or higher qualifications in the religion concerned. They are representatives of God on earth and whatever they say becomes the laws of the Almighty. People should not question them but to follow such laws or face the consequences of punishment in the afterlife.
The existence of such so-called holy men and their unquestioning loyal followers or supporters resulted in the latest controversy where women are banned from public performance. To be fair, such a move would only be deemed logical if it is enforced on exotic performances or those with sexual overtones. However, the ban covers all kind of performances including decent participation of women in cultural shows, dramas, traditional dances and singing. Their insistence in enforcing this ban despite receiving so many oppositions only shows the kind of inconsiderate bullies they really are in nature.
According to them, they are doing God’s work therefore such oppositions are irrelevant and they do not have to answer to anyone. The source of this “God’s work” is the result of their version of interpretation of their holy scripture. The whole process of interpretation is a subjective one and different individuals can end up with different understandings.
Obviously, this so-called holy men only studied and interpretated the holy scriptures to their satisfaction without carrying out a thorough study in other areas. Such a ban will affect the likelihood of many individuals especially single mothers or widows who work as professional cultural dancers or performers. Their whole families depend on them for survival as they are the sole breadwinners. Change career? Is it that simple? Or alternately, such holy men are prepared to provide them welfare since they are now unable to work? In enforcing this ban, does this also mean that women cannot be celebrities or they are not entitled to get involved in any event relating to entertainment? This would also mean that senior female citizens who love to sing and act in opera styled performances are no longer allowed to perform publicly. Can someone explain how a sixty year old or even older grandmother performing in public is a sin or a temptation to the men?
Preceding this “holy ruling” was the need of four Muslim men to be produced as witnesses to prove that a woman has been raped. If she fails to do so, she would be accused of making false accusation and be whipped. Adulterers or couples who are not married caught engaging in illicit sex would be sentenced to death by stoning in public places. Men and women should not be allowed to co-mingle and that was the reason behind separate counters of payment in supermarkets. Women are deemed as temptresses and should cover themselves otherwise men will not be able to control their sexual urges leading to dire consequences.
In essence, politics and religion should not be mixed especially in a country such as Malaysia which is multi-racial with her people practising various religious beliefs. If religion takes over the management of a country, it is bound to fail and a good example is the Taliban government. Things are not only in black and white, halal or haram or practitioners of a particular religion or non-practitioners. All religions advocate positive and good values while abhorring negative behaviours. All religions should progress with time and move forward with their followers engaging logic in matters related to worshipping and maintaining their faith.
Any religion for that matter should not be interpreted in accordance to the time when it was first written. When this happens, a religion is a dogma and its followers will always be stagnant and blind followers. God has provided humans with brain and this can be viewed as an indirect message to them to make good use of it – their ability to think and judge.
Imagine a developing country like Malaysia being run by such religion extremists. For now, it may be women are banned from public performance but there is no guarantee that they will be totally banned from working in the future. What would happen then? Half of this country’s population is made up of the female sex and by disallowing them to work, this will deprive the labour force a huge source of workers. This will definitely paralyse
the Malaysian economy.
will be the view of foreign investors regarding the potential of
Malaysia? The answer is obvious and they will never invest in a
country that views them as non-followers of their religion or
perceived to be potential enemies or threat to their belief. The
consequences from the tragedy of September 11 have resulted in
labeling Americans or Westerners as enemies to the religious
welfare of such ardent worshippers.
question yet to be answered is whether Malaysia wants to move
forward to achieve the status of a developed country with a better
future for her people or be run by religion extremists and regress
back to the mediaeval times? When the latter happens, will it
guarantee that each and everyone who are loyal followers of this
particular religion end up in heaven or paradise when they passed
meaningful life is the objective of every human regardless of
their religious belief. In order to lead such a life, it is
imperative that every individual sets himself a goal to achieve
and not just paying his attention only to religious practices. An
individual who successfully achieves his goal will attain a sense
of achievement and lead a fulfilling meaningful life. After all,
the old saying is true, “God only help those who help themselves.”