After plans to bolster Sedition Act, Isma launches ‘social contract’ campaign

A copy of the pamphlet concluded that non-Malays have no right to question four key points — Islam as the religion of the federation, special rights of the Malays, sovereignty of the Malay rulers, and Bahasa Melayu as the national language. — Reuters pic
A copy of the pamphlet concluded that non-Malays have no right to question four key points — Islam as the religion of the federation, special rights of the Malays, sovereignty of the Malay rulers, and Bahasa Melayu as the national language. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 2 — Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) has launched a political education campaign on the so-called “social contract” that emphasises on Malay rights and the position of Islam in Malaysia, days after Putrajaya said the Sedition Act will be retained.

The Muslim group launched the campaign last Friday, distributing pamphlets at mosques nationwide outlying their interpretation of the history behind as well as the definition of the “social contract”.

While the “social contract” generally refers to the relationship between the individual and the state, the term’s usage in Malaysia is often used to denote the special position and privileges of the Malays in exchange for the citizenship granted to non-Malays during the country’s formation.

A copy of the pamphlet, which was published along with a short article on the campaign on the group’s news portal, Ismaweb, concluded that non-Malays have no right to question four key points — Islam as the religion of the federation, special rights of the Malays, sovereignty of the Malay rulers, and Bahasa Melayu as the national language.

The four points incidentally mirror the justification given by Umno leaders in pushing against the initial plan to repeal the Sedition Act, claiming that the country would end up in turmoil without any safeguards for Malay rights and Islam.

The pamphlet also claimed that a non-Malay questioning these four points would be akin to questioning their own citizenship, while emphasising that Malaysia risks losing its peace and prosperity if these “foundations” are threatened by its own citizens.

Isma also claimed in the pamphlet that the Malays were “forced” to agree to demands by British colonialists to grant citizenship to the non-Malays if they wanted independence, despite staunch opposition to the formation of the Malayan Union by the Malays as the “Tuan Tanah” or landowners of Malaya.

The Malays only relented and agreed to the terms of independence after the four points were made pillars of the country’s formation, in recognition of the sacrifices made by the ethnic group, the pamphlet added.

Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced last Thursday that the federal government will not only retain the colonial-era Act, but also reinforce it with new clauses that specifically cover the “sanctity of Islam” and other religions from insult, and outlaw calls for Sabah and Sarawak to secede from the federation.

The announcement is an about-turn from Najib’s 2012 pledge — and two subsequent promises — to repeal the Sedition Act.

Putrajaya has in recent months increased its use of the law to previously unseen levels.

In just nine months this year, there were 12 cases prosecuted under the Sedition Act — the highest figure since 2009 — raising alarms about the government’s perceived clampdown on dissent.

Umno leaders and many self-styled Malay groups have been fighting hard to convince the Najib government to retain the Act, some even calling for more stringent provisions, specifically prohibiting individuals from insulting Islam, the Malay race and the rulers. 

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