COMMENTARY, Aug 14 — The vehement protests over the introduction of khat in national schools next year has put a mirror up to groups insisting it will lead to the Islamisation of non-Muslims.
I am not sure where those protesting the policy using such claims reside but here in Malaysia, Islam has been front and centre for as long as I remember.
In school, I had to sit in on Islamic Studies lessons because nobody bothered enough about Moral Education to assign us a teacher and we weren’t trusted enough to be left alone to our own devices.
I went through enough of these that I could recite basic Muslim prayers and greetings (if I were legally allowed to do so) yet I remain just as agnostic as ever.
In my previous work, most events I covered invariably began with some doa session in which some ustaz would lead Muslims in prayer while the rest of us wondered what refreshments would be on offer.
Where I live, I can tell what time of day it is by the azan as I have the good fortune to be situated in a building triangulated by three mosques.
Before there was such a thing as satellite television and streaming services, I had to listen to the same calls for prayer broadcast on national TV stations.
These are just some examples that I can remember and the point is I am still not a Muslim.
But it is impossible that I am alone in experiencing these overt Islamic influences in Malaysia.
Even those as paranoid about khat as Dong Zong must have experienced them at some point in their lives, so it begs the question of why they have not already been converted if they feel a few pages of Jawi calligraphy would do so.
There are many things wrong with the country — let’s get that right — but this deep distrust of one another is probably the worst and what will eventually do us in.
As far as paranoia goes, the fear of khat is about on par with previous claims of Christian proselytisation that we used to laugh off as ludicrous.
Claims such as how letting non-Muslims use the word “Allah” or the sight of large crosses would confuse Muslims and entice them into Christianity.
Or how a single drop of holy water would be enough to surreptitiously convert unsuspecting Muslims.
Or how a church forced to operate in a shoplot above a pizza outlet would somehow turn the bread below into sacrament.
No sane person except the loons who made the claims believed them and we considered them insulting. Are we going to start now?
This is not in support of the one-way street that is religious proselytisation in Malaysia but let’s not pretend a few pages of squiggly lines will do anything beyond bore the students who must sit through these lessons.