The demands are escalating

THE decision by the authorities to ban the proposed beer festival for security reasons has left some unconvinced.

The Inspector-General of Police has cited fear of possible attacks, after the police received intelligence that a militant group was planning to sabotage the event.

But some wonder whether the whole thing only became a big deal when some PAS chap made it a big deal. In other words, some see the root cause of the ban as religious intolerance.

This episode, as irritating as it is, is not by any stretch of the imagination the first of its kind.

We have already had issues like opposition to the building of non-Muslim houses of worship; the imposing of dress codes in public buildings; the ban on the use of the word “Allah” for non-Muslims.

Now we even have self-appointed guardians of the Muslim community demanding that public consumption of alcohol in their neighbourhood be stopped.

The list goes on.

And all this is done because of so-called Muslim sensitivities.

I just want to make a few observations.

Firstly, it appears to me that the authorities are giving way to those making the threats.

This beer festival thing for example; if there are threats being made towards people who are merely having a frothy beverage, then surely it is those who threaten who should be stopped. Not the other way around.

It would appear that in Malaysia, thuggery (especially when clothed in religiosity) will always win and victims are told to shut up and go home and not cause trouble.

This is very weird. It is like saying to a person who gets carjacked, “Well, who asked you to drive a fancy car?”

Secondly, my country is becoming a pit of intolerance and it appears that the imposition of one community’s so-called values and so-called morals is to be imposed on everyone, regardless of whether they share those same values and morals or not, is a norm.

This is oppression.

Thirdly, we are heading towards being a ghetto nation. Where because of the intolerance that abounds, there will be a Muslim ghetto and a non-Muslim ghetto.

We are heading towards a system where the two communities are separated. Is this far-fetched? Not if you live in a country where a school segregates cups, and laundries refuse to accept the clothes of non-Muslims.

Fourthly, all this talk by some politicians that Muslim laws and policies are only for Muslims is nonsense.

The conservative elements of this country want to impose their views and their way of life on everyone.

To say otherwise would be simply lying.

Finally, I would like to point out that there does not appear to be any strong political stand against what is happening in this country.

I understand why you won’t hear such a stand from Umno and PAS: PAS digs imposing its moral values and Umno is the newfound defender of Islam so it will not go against PAS on such matters.

However, what about the opposition parties? Especially those with a strong Malay/Muslim membership?

Is the lack of fight against this state of affairs which disrespects individual rights, plurality and secularism merely political expediency? After all, it is so easy to be demonised in this country by the so-called moral guardians.

Well, perhaps it is then time to make a stand based on principle. Everyone in this country has a right to live their lives according to their own belief systems.

No one has the right to impose their own belief systems on others. Is this too dangerous a political position to take?

If that is so, then the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

My country, which used to be a place of diversity and plurality, will slowly but surely become a monocultural, monoreligious behemoth with no space for those who do not fit in the mould of the oppressors.

Azmi Sharom ( is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.


Opinion , Azmi Sharom , columnist


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