KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 — The constant fear Malaysian Muslims have of Islam being attacked in the country where they are the majority is a legitimate fear, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
The still influential former prime minister also accused the Malaysian Christian community of deliberately testing the tolerance of their Muslim countrymen by insisting on using “Allah” to call their God.
“It is a legitimate fear; if we lose our influence on the country, obviously lots of things which are offensive to Muslims will be found here,” he told reporters after officiating the Global Peace Foundation Chair for Global Peace at the International Islamic University Malaysia here.
Dr Mahathir said the respect Malaysians have for traditional values and customs will disappear should Malays lose political power and backed calls by certain Malay and Muslim rights groups here to rally to defend Islam.
“All this while, during the British time and after independence, it was agreed that the word ‘Allah’ should not be used in the Christian text. But now you purposely bring it up and make all kinds of claims so as to agitate people and the reaction to that is for them to object,
“This is a reaction to the way people treat Islam in this country today. They have no more respect for Islam, they do things that would be objectionable to Islam and suddenly they come up with this idea that they should call their god ‘Allah’ as well, which is very confusing,” he said.
To illustrate his point, he cited neighbouring Singapore, where he claimed non-Muslims there are less sensitive and considerate to Muslims.
“We see in Singapore for example, while it is not forbidden for us to sit and eat when others are eating pork, but traditionally we don’t allow that.
“But in Singapore, they say so long as you don’t eat, you can put a roast suckling pig in front, but for Malays, this is something they cannot accept,” Dr Mahathir said.
Last week, Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) urged Muslims nationwide to be aggressive in defending Islam, which it claimed is under attack from certain bands of non-Muslims.
In a video posted on its YouTube page, the group urged Muslims to emulate the Prophet Muhammad in all his aspects, including waging war, instead of just offering the prophet’s message of peace.
Isma vice-president Muhammad Fauzi Asmuni said unnamed anti-Muslim groups were baiting the country’s Muslim majority and causing the current racial and religious tensions in the country.
He also slammed Muslims who tried to deal with anti-Muslim groups through diplomacy and dialogue, saying the former had misinterpreted Islam by only reading stories about the Prophet Muhammad’s kindness.
According to Fauzi, when faced with a massive enemy, like the Coalition of Human Rights NGOs (Comango), it is not enough to rely on just Friday sermons and articles printed in Malay dailies Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian.
Isma also warned last month that Muslims in Malaysia are facing real conspiracies coming from Christians and “chauvinists”.