Malaysia slipping down radicalism slope, pro-moderation group warns

Gan Ping Sieu speaks at the IDEAS Liberalism Conference in Kuala Lumpur September 24, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Gan Ping Sieu speaks at the IDEAS Liberalism Conference in Kuala Lumpur September 24, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — The Centre For A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) expressed concern today over the government’s commitment to moderation after the authorities’ “high-handed treatment” of Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol during a recent visit.

Cenbet co-president Gan Ping Sieu noted the US-based author of The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims had been stopped from leaving the country by immigration authorities on the order of the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi) for questioning over a planned public talk on his book.

“If anything, we seem to be sliding down the path of orthodox radicalism,” he said in a statement.

The former deputy minister added that Akyol’s treatment was the latest in a series of creeping radicalism in Malaysian society and its bureaucracy.

Akyol who had been invited for a talk on commonalities among the three Abrahamic faiths earlier this week later wrote in the New York Times about his detention and questioning by Malaysian authorities.

According to the Turk, Jawi did not like his topic and warned him against speaking “without proper authorisation.”

Gan listed the recent protest by conservative Muslim groups over the “Better Beer Festival 2017” that eventually caused the cancellation of the craft beer event, the “Muslim-only” launderettes in Johor and Perlis, the cup segregation policy at a public school in Hulu Langat and the crackdown on an planned atheist meeting here as signs of “deepening radicalisation in our midst.”

Gan who holds a diploma in Shariah from the International Islamic University said such attitudes was a “stark” departure from the inclusiveness shown by Prophet Muhammad during his time as well as his followers during Islamic civilisation’s peak.

“If we continue down this road of extremism, we will one day reach a point of no return, as exemplified like some countries,” he said, but did not give any examples.

He urged politicians from both sides of the divide to stop using communal and religious sentiments to gain points, saying the political one upmanship will only cause a wider social rift.

“Much damage has been inflicted. Now is the time everyone put the country first,” he ended.