PETALING JAYA: The “I am #26” online petition which backs the call by 25 eminent Malays for the Government to start a rational dialogue on the position of Islamic laws wants to help bridge the gap in society over the issue.
Tariq Ismail, the grandson of the late Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman and co-founder of Aura Merdeka, which is a civil society group behind the petition, said the effort did not aim to aggravate differences of opinion.
“The intent of our petition is to send out a message of support for the initiative of the G25 (Group of 25).
“However, we hope this discussion does not merely harp on hudud and human rights without a proper appreciation of the feelings of Muslims, whose religion has been cast in a bad light by so many people.
“We want the peaceful nature of Islam brought to the forefront of this debate,” he said when contacted.
The online petition has garnered more than 4,000 signatures as of 7pm yesterday.
The group of 25, comprising mostly former top civil servants, ambassadors, academicians and civil rights activists, issued an open letter published in The Star on Dec 8 in which they expressed deep dismay over the continuing unresolved disputes on the position and application of Islamic laws in the country.
Tariq said his group was not calling for a separation of state and religion or turning Malaysia secular.
“We see, for example, how fatwa on the same subject issued by different states can sometimes differ, so we would like to ask why we can’t centralise the whole system nationwide so that we can be clearer about enforcement,” he said.
Asked how the petition came about, Tariq said one of his group members, Lyana Khairuddin, approached him with the idea of starting it as she was tired of the debate on race and religion which was going nowhere.
Tariq said he only promoted the poll on Aura Merdeka’s Facebook page but that it soon began attracting wide attention.
“Lyana said she was hoping for 1,000 signatures but I said we should try to aim for the jugular and get one million,” said Tariq.
Asked about the influence of his late grandfather in moulding his views about the country, the 37-year-old referred to the book The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time.
“My grandfather had a vision of what Malaysia should be, but I am reluctant to join politics because it can get very confusing, and as a result some people say I am the reluctant politician, part 2,” he said, laughing.
On the Aura Merdeka group, Tariq said it began as a Facebook group about a year ago as part of his study on sociology, as he wanted to find out more about the outlook of Malaysians.
The group now has about 400 members, including a pro tem committee made up of lawyers, scientists and Islamic scholars, and is open to all.
“We want to be a bridge between the Chinese, Malays and other communities; between Muslims, Christians and other faiths; and even between those supporting the ruling party and the opposition.
“We want to help everyone seek a way forward because on matters of religion and race, we seem to be going backwards,” said Tariq.