Mariam Mokhtar on the gulf between Muslims and non-Muslims, peasants and nobles

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How powerful are the Malaysian elite? Do they want change?

The following are the usual criticisms about my writing and videos.

“Where’s your tudung? As a Muslim, have you no shame?”

“You’re a lackey for Mahathir Mohamad,” for articles criticising opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Conversely, I get tagged with: “You’re Anwar’s poodle” when I write, criticising Mahathir.

Alternatively, there’s always, “You’re a stooge of the USA/DAP/CIA/Soros/Christians”.

The criticisms are highly amusing. However, three types of remarks stand out.

First: “You have no right to talk about Islam. You did not read Islamic studies at university.”

Second: “You have no right to talk about justice. You did not train as a lawyer. You know nothing about the law.”

Third: “You should consult clever and honest people like our ministers and judges who are graduates, especially those from the University of Oxford.”

These three comments were made by former high-ranking civil servants and educators.

Does their arrogance help to explain why Malaysia is in a mess? Are ordinary people not qualified to have an opinion?

Are all Oxford graduates honest and incorruptible? Does it require someone with a PhD or an Oxford degree to detect injustice, cruelty, or stupidity?

Two sets of laws

In the hysterical new Malaysia of the 21st century, ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) is destroying Malaysia, and Muslims can do no wrong.

In the new Malaysia, the Malay/Muslim is always protected. When he commits wrongdoing, the interpretation of the law allows him to escape justice.

The rights of the minorities are few and slowly being eroded. Take the Timah whiskey debacle, or the sale of 4D lottery tickets or alcohol in shops, and the emphasis on the dress code in government departments.

The latest news about Muslim marriage breakers going unpunished is outrageous. The Muslim who conducts an affair with a non-Muslim person knows that the law will not touch him (the Muslim).

The wronged non-Muslim party is punished twice. Firstly, by the infidelity of their non-Muslim partner. Secondly, by a court that does not acknowledge the role played by the Muslim marriage breaker.

This is a consequence of having two sets of laws, civil and syariah. Which law, civil or syariah, should take precedence to avoid this mess?

The non-Muslim aggrieved party in the non-Muslim relationship cannot use syariah law to punish the Muslim with whom his, or her partner had an affair because syariah law only applies to Muslims.

If syariah law had been possible for this particular divorce, does one have to produce four witnesses to catch the adulterous couple in action? Who is stupid enough to have onlookers admiring their bed gymnastics?

Is this why rape trials are tried by civil law, because of the impossibility of producing four witnesses as required by syariah law?

A doctor who treated the physical injuries and mental trauma of child victims of rape/incest/sexual assault once confided that Malay children who are raped are always tried under civil law.

So, do many Muslims wreck non-Muslim marriages? Think of the broken families, the children, and the cost of separation.

The danger of the latest judgment may encourage some immoral Muslims to have extramarital affairs with a married non-Muslim because the law will not apply to them. It’s not just about marriages. M Indira Gandhi, a Hindu mother, divorced her former husband, who then converted to Islam. She was given full custody of the children, but her husband illegally converted their children to Islam, then kidnapped their nine-month-old baby.

Twelve years later, the police claim ignorance of the kidnapper’s whereabouts. They are more fearful of Muslims being enraged if Indira’s youngest daughter is returned to her Hindu mother.

Change won’t come from the elite

Besides religion, the other gulf that has the potential to destroy us is the one between the peasants and the elite.

Ministers and celebrities like Neelofa are not penalised for breaking strict coronavirus lockdowns. Corrupt elite Umno-Baru ministers are not jailed, and their travel bans are rescinded.

On 25 November, we heard about the “resetting of Malaysia” by a group comprised mainly of the Malaysian elite. They are led by Nazir Abdul Razak, the brother of the convicted felon, Najib Abdul Razak.

Do we need “resetting” by the same people who were largely silent when the felon Najib was at the peak of his infamous tenure as PM?

One social observer said, “Most of the ‘resetters’ are people with honorifics. Did they speak out, in public, against Najib? They had the power and authority to act then. They could have made a positive difference, so why did they choose to keep silent?”

Another said, “Criticising Najib behind closed doors achieved nothing. Perhaps, they had to protect their periuk nasi (livelihood). Why should we trust them now?”

For many Malaysians, a more meaningful change, or “reset”, as Nazir puts it, may work only when we engage community leaders of marginalised communities, and we empower Orang Asli and East Malaysian activists and leaders. The change will not come from the elite.

In 2017, in our desperation to get rid of the criminal Najib, many of us reluctantly accepted the nonagenarian Mahathir to lead Harapan.

We assumed that he had seen the error of his ways and would put the country back on track. We were wrong. We were duped. We will not fall into the same trap again.

No one can stop you from supporting Nazir, but now is the time for the ordinary Malaysian to stand up and speak out against our overlords. – Rebuilding Malaysia