THE fallout from Brexit is causing turmoil in British politics and hurting their economy. With the unity of the country itself at stake, there is much despair and anxiety among the people.
There were warnings about the economic consequences of leaving the EU but the Leave campaigners ignored them, saying the economy was not important.
Many are now blaming those who used hate sentiments to influence public opinion as they watch their economy falling to its lowest depths. But it’s too late; the damage has been done by the extremists.
All this should be a lesson for Malaysia. Like the British anti-EU extremists who have brought so much pain to their country, our local racial and religious extremists are causing a similar big risk to the economy if they are allowed free reign to spread their language of hate without any effort being made by the authorities to stop them from causing more harm.
There is a noticeable tendency in our country for the authorities to appear like they have not seen or heard anything when the hate speeches come from the religious establishment, like the recent statement from the mufti of Pahang.
The mufti’s speech is extremely dangerous because, by calling the DAP kafir harbi and implying that its leaders are anti-Islam, he is echoing a similar message from the Islamic State that it is the religious duty of Muslims to treat others as enemies of God.
Whether we agree or disagree with the DAP is a different matter, but the fact is this political party is neither an enemy of God nor of the state.
It has a constitutional right to exist and function as a political party like other parties. It can only be banned if it has broken the law.
It’s a fundamental principle of democracy that political parties have the right of expression, and that diversity of views is a virtue rather than a sin.
Thus, while the mufti believes in the hudud, it is not a sin for others to oppose it because of the constitutional issues surrounding it. Muslim scholars are among the biggest critics of the hudud because they can see the larger picture of the risks to the rule of law and, consequently, to the society and the economy.
I am glad that other religious leaders realise the importance of tolerance for other views and have come forward to condemn the Pahang mufti for his irresponsible statement. But the Government, and the police in particular, are keeping quiet as if condoning his hate message. The silence from the Government is as alarming as the mufti’s statement.
In Malaysia, our multiracial and multi-religious society is held together by a thriving economy which is the most important factor uniting the various races as a nation.
We cannot afford to let the economy go down as a result of dangerous extremism because if it falls, society will have no leg to stand on. When the country becomes a failed state, that’s when militants like the IS will step in to exploit the people’s misery and turn Malaysia into the kind of nightmare seen in other parts of the Muslim world.
Religious officials, with their daily contact with the grassroots, have a special responsibility to assist in creating the feel-good factor for our economy to grow and bring happiness and hope for all Malaysians. I believe their contribution to unite the country will be blessed by God both in this world and the hereafter for there is no greater service that a religious leader can do than to work for the peace and prosperity of the country.
TAN SRI MOHD SHERIFF MOHD KASSIM
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