Racist politics and religious fanaticism.
Instead of introducing reforms in schools such as empowering students and educators with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, Anwar’s government has introduced an even more religious syllabus. At the very least, the premier should fix the problem of Malay “unemployable” graduates by pushing for the teaching of science and mathematics in English.
The indecisive Anwar Ibrahim, despite screaming “Reformasi” for over 25 years before finally becoming the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia last November, is now caught in racist politics and religious fanaticism. Ironically, in the 1970s, he was the same radical Islamist who used Islam as a platform to achieve his political ambition, leading a radical movement called ABIM.
As the co-founder and president of ABIM (Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia) for eight years (1974-1982), the young Anwar claimed that his goal was to lead young Malays in opposition to the ruling UMNO (United Malays National Organization) government’s perceived neglect of Malay rights. He condemned corruption, yet he shockingly joined the corrupted UMNO in 1982.
Under Mahathir Mohamad’s 22 years of iron-fist rule (1981-2003), the country’s fourth prime minister happily welcomed ABIM’s Islamisation agenda to undermine support for the extremist Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS – Parti Islam Se-Malaysia) among Malay voters. Therefore, both Mahathir and Anwar were merely using each other for their political ambitions.
While Mahathir wanted to leverage on Anwar’s ABIM popularity to inject Islam into UMNO’s identity, which worked like a charm, the ambitious Anwar’s grand plan was to use UMNO to catapult him to become the youngest prime minister. In fact, Anwar’s introduction of various Islamization projects in UMNO was so glaring that the Malay nationalist party was described as an Islamist organization.
Thanks to Anwar, UMNO became the most powerful political party – seen as the protector of Malays and defender of Islam, enabling strategist grandmaster Mahathir to rule for more than two decades. However, Mahathir dumped Anwar like a soiled diaper after using him to strengthen UMNO. When Anwar became too powerful, he was sacked in 1998 and plunged into the wilderness.
It was after Anwar had lost power that he started the “Reformasi” movement, beginning his almost 25-year journey to eventually snatch the Iron Throne. He tried to befriend PAS again. By then, however, the Islamist party had lost control of the Islamist narrative. In order to re-assert its influence, PAS began shifting to become more radical and conservative to win over support among rural Malays.
Hence, it’s not an exaggeration to suggest that Anwar had started the ball rolling in the race of Islamization of the multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia. PAS “ulamas” began riding – even deliberately misinterpreting – Islam to hoodwink gullible Malays, including the creation of an Islamic State based on the dangerous model of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
The UMNO-PAS rivalry was like the hatred between Sunni and Shia Muslims – violently killing each other since the 7th century. PAS turned to “takfirism” – denouncing Muslim opponents such as UMNO-Muslims as “kafir (infidel)”. Not only PAS extremists divided Malay Muslims using dubious Islamic teachings, but they also used racial and religious cards to attack ethnic minorities.
The 2015 demise of Nik Abdul Aziz – PAS’ Spiritual Leader and a moderate figure – saw a huge jump in racism and extremism under the new leadership of Abdul Hadi Awang. Heck, the new PAS president has even openly disrespected and insulted Malay Sultans as he flexed muscles in radicalizing PAS ideology. Muslims were scammed into believing that non-Muslims would take over the country.
As social activists like Marina Mahathir (eldest child of Mahathir Mohamad) and Siti Kasim fiercely opposed Malaysia’s Islamization programme, condemning it as “Arab colonialism” and Arab Wahhabism that undermine the values of tolerance and respect practised by traditional Malay Muslims, Anwar has chosen to play safe – wait to see which way the wind blows.
After the November 2022 General Election and the recent six state elections, it doesn’t take a genius to see how PM Anwar quickly changes direction from left (liberal) to right (conservative). As former ABIM president, the chameleon could smell from miles away that he was losing the battle against the Malay supremacists and radical Islam. If you can’t beat them, join them – goes the saying.
Even before the six state elections, the premier had resorted to intimidation and bullying tactics. During a dialogue session at Kolej Matrikulasi Penang when a student of Indian ethnicity asked Anwar when the discriminative “quota system” would be abolished and replaced by a meritocracy system, the PM rudely interrupted the student before criticizing her for asking a sensitive question.
After the results of the six state elections showed the Unity Government continued to lose Malay votes, silly Anwar panicked and was more determined to prove he was more Malay than Bersatu and more Islamic than PAS. Fighting religion with religion, Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek hastily rolled out the “Imam Al-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith” module for national schools without proper consultation with stakeholders.
The new religious syllabus has spooked the non-Muslim community, who were concerned that it would be a matter of time before the government shoves the module down their throat. The Anwar-led unity government fails to explain why a new religious syllabus is introduced when Malay students are already overloaded with religious study – both in school and outside of school.
Former PM Mahathir once complained that too much time is allotted for religious education, at the expense of subjects like Science and Mathematics – “We believe schools should provide religious education, but it should not encroach on the teaching of other subjects.” More importantly, he revealed that students are being taught to perform rituals instead of the Islamic way of life.
It didn’t help that Fadhlina is the daughter of the late Dr Siddiq Fadzil, former president of ABIM. When appointed the education minister, she promised to listen to all stakeholders. Obviously, she did not find it important to clarify that the new religious syllabus is only for Muslim students. And it certainly didn’t help that Anwar openly converted a Hindu youth to Islam, sparking criticism among non-Muslims.
But PM Anwar, whose Malaysia Madani slogan has invited more confusion and headache than the people need in times of economic uncertainty, was just getting started. After the Education Ministry screwed up with its “Imam Al-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith” module, Higher Education Minister Khaled Nordin was bombarded with controversial new guidelines regarding concerts.
According to the Department of Higher Education, public and private colleges and universities wishing to organise concerts must strictly follow a 16-page guideline – including separate seating for male, female and family members. Essentially, students have to go through several stages of approval under the pretext of protecting the image of the higher education ministry.
The detailed regulations for the approval process, organizers, event times, invited artists, dance groups, music genres, audience seating, LED displays, instruments, posters, and whatnot say approval must be obtained from the student council or college association, followed by a risk assessment by the university’s management, and then formal notification to the Ministry of Higher Education.
Male performers are not allowed to wear necklaces, earrings, or bracelets, let alone wear shorts during performances or sound checks. Organizers must ensure that invited artists do not engage in any lewd behaviour, and they must not be controversial domestically or internationally. Additionally, male and female dancers cannot have physical contact, and the dance must not include “excessive” movements or any lewd dance actions.
Heck, even the instruments used in concerts are also regulated – do not bear symbols supporting groups not recognized by the country’s laws, symbols or obscene marks, or political symbols (such as stickers related to homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender groups). Concert organizers must also ensure that the music genre is appropriate and that the song lyrics do not touch on community sensitivities.
It appears that the Madani government is fast-tracking Malaysia into Afghanistan, or at least Kelantan, where all supermarkets and hypermarkets must have three separate checkout counters (single males, single women and families) or risk being fined. Perhaps Anwar’s government should also copy the hardline Islamist state government of Kelantan in closing all cinemas.
The ridiculous and laughable guidelines look more like rules for Islamic entertainment “nasyid” rather than a concert. Who in their right mind would want to go to such a concert when the audience is mostly Talibans? This is yet another example where Islamic rules or restrictions are being forced on non-Muslims, despite denials by authorities and politicians.
Interestingly, after backlash, Higher Education Minister Khaled has claimed ignorance over the entertainment guidelines – suggesting that a little Napoleon could be behind the moral policing. If indeed he was kept in the dark, he should sack the person behind the fiasco to prove that he was indeed innocent. Even during the previous Muhyiddin regime, such extreme restrictions did not happen.
At best, little Napoleon was trying to sabotage the unity government and the extremist “green wave” had infiltrated university campuses. At worst, Khaled knew about the guidelines and had given his approval to test the water whether the entertainment activities could be regulated based on Taliban regulations. Either way, someone must be fired to send a message.
At this stage, it doesn’t seem Anwar is interested in reforms which he had screamed for a quarter of a century. He huffed and puffed about anti-corruption, yet an internal memo was leaked that suggests crooked Najib Razak’s 1MDB case could be dropped. He condemned religious fanaticism, yet his useless Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution has no balls to arrest PAS extremists.
The PM blamed PAS for increased religious bigotry, yet his clueless Higher Education Minister Khaled Nordin refused to condemn Islamic radicalization in universities. He called on all Malaysians to join him in defending the rights of every Malaysian in the country, yet he had to bully a non-Muslim student who asked about the discriminative “quota system”. He naively thought he could outdo PAS in religious politics. – Finance Twitter