Disband religious authorities before it's too late

APRIL 8 — Shocked and horrified was what I felt when I first watched this video. After a few seconds, rage crept in as well.

I simply could not believe that any institution which claims to be “Islamic” could treat other human beings in this wretched and undignified manner.

Then I remembered it was Jawi (Islamic Department of the Federal Territories, Malaysia). The shock element went away just then.

Last Sunday night, Jawi raided an event at an upscale hotel. The event was a fundraiser which featured a show involving transgenders (Mak Nyahs, in Malay parlance).

The very fact of the raid was already questionable. How dare Jawi simply make presumptions and enter private premises?

It gets worse, the manner in which they orchestrated the raid was nothing short of insidious. They came without any police supervision yet had the foresight to bring some representatives of the media along!

They covered every exit and locked all doors. This caused a panic, especially for the transgender participants.

My friend and comrade, the lawyer and activist Siti Kasim, was there at the event. She protested Jawi’s presence and declared that, contrary to the Jawi officer’s allegation, the event was not a beauty pageant (which has been declared forbidden to Muslims).

Rather it was a dinner and a show involving transgenders. This was not against the law at all. A Jawi officer, no doubt used to his authority being humbly obeyed by the masses, arrogantly told her she was obstructing Jawi’s work as public officers.

Siti then called the police who came and let everyone out, much to Jawi’s consternation. However, the organiser of the event was taken into custody and will now be charged. The charge is “promotion of immorality” (menggalakan maksiat) when all they were doing was enjoying dinner and a show.

God knows how Jawi and their ilk don’t often break into our houses and smash up our TVs and internet devices!

How did we come to this sorry state of affairs? This did not come overnight. It was a gradual creeping Islamofascism which slithered in like a snake in the grass, catching us unaware until it bit us with a poisonous bite.

Malaysia has a whole family of Islamic departments who have caused great problems. This includes a range of seemingly innocuous issues like only paying zakat (obligatory charity) to their offices (which are bloated institutions) to the extrapolation of the halal brand.

Now we even have products like halal water! A few years ago, even elevators had to be sanitised by not allowing non-halal products in them. Non-halal products had to be ferried up the stairs!

The implications of this elevator apartheid was insidious. It insinuated that in multi-racial, multi-religious Malaysia, only products approved by these authorities have the privilege. All other products are underprivileged by default.

Then of course, they brought their farcical activities into the cyber age. Have a search on YouTube for tangkap khalwat (catching out those in close proximity) and you will see how these sadistic officers prey upon young couples merely sitting together in parks.

One can hear them relishing the moment when they give “salam” (an ironic one at that) before shoving their authority down their victims' throats. Some victims have even been forced to marry.

Can we rely on the government to rein in these Islamofacists? No, we cannot. Here is why: The Umno-led Malaysian government is afraid of the Islamofascist religious authorities. Very, very afraid. The reason is simple: if the Islamofascists are spurned or maligned, they would simply play the victim card and a large section of the Malay-Muslim population would be won over and thus turn against Umno.

On the contrary, Umno actually gave Jakim a one billion ringgit budget despite the non-halal revenue from taxation. One billion dollars for which proper accounts have still not been furnished. Let's hope it was not used to take high ranking officers on “training trips” to Europe whilst having some golfing time.

Another sub species of Islamofascists, PAS, has been playing this game for decades on the northern and east coast Malay-Muslims, using religious chicanery to make up the lack of good governance. It is indeed a fool proof trick ― if one buys into their fundamental premise: that they are in fact the guardians of faith.

No we cannot rely on the government but we can, as always, rely on ourselves. The focus should be on the Malay-Muslims as the other sections of the demographic are already convinced.

We need to understand that Jawi, like any other economic entity, needs to show themselves relevant to national affairs. The only way out of this is to disband them or at the very least, drastically reduce their remit. Retrain them for other activities. Like Mawi who was formerly a muezzin at a local mosque but who made a successful transition into pop culture, I am sure our Islamofascists can too.

Start now by writing to your representatives in Pakatan Harapan. Tell them to make it an election mandate to disband these authorities should they come into power. Now that PAS is no longer part of the opposition coalition, there is little to stand in the way of this move. If Pakatan Harapan plans to upkeep these Islamofascists, then they will bring little change to the nation.

Act now before it’s too late.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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