The evils of theocracy

JULY 12 ― What is a theocracy? A theocracy is a government in which God or a Higher Being is seen as the supreme ruler and government officials are regarded as divinely guided. In a theocracy, religion or faith plays the dominant role.

While I am perfectly aware that constitutionally, Malaysia is a secular country, it makes me uncomfortable to see the attempts certain elitists have made to slowly turn our beloved country into a theocracy. They started by demonising the terms “secularism” and “pluralism”; two ideas that promote the harmonious co-existence of different faiths and beliefs.

This is all an attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate while failing to realise that Islam has never provided a blueprint for what an Islamic state should be. Even when the Prophet was the leader of Medina, he never claimed that it was a divine rule. He ruled based on principles of justice and equity, and that was as Islamic as an Islamic state should be.

Perhaps theocracies can work in minor-scaled governances, but a country under theocratic rule is bound to fail and history has shown us that many times.

Since a theocracy sees no separation between government and religion, your religion becomes your government and your government becomes your religion. Political religion must die because people should be able to stand against their government without being seen as standing against religion.

I do not and will never support a theocratic government, not because I do not believe in Islam as a way of life, but because it has been proven time and time again that religion has been used as a pretext for conflict and oppression.

At the heart of every religion is the aim to cultivate spiritual well-being and inner values such as kindness, honesty, patience, and forgiveness; all values that promote unity. However, when religion becomes institutionalised and politicised, it becomes an ultimate evil.

Theocracy heavily excludes religious pluralism, something which is essential to a multi-cultural and multi-religious country like Malaysia. Where religion is supposed to promote the idea of humility, theocracies promote the idea of superiority whereby one religion is better than the rest.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in believing that your religion is the Divine Truth, but giving it precedence over all other faiths by law automatically creates a society filled with xenophobia, intolerance and hostility.

Religion is submission to a Higher Being. A theocracy, even though it claims to be religious, is submission to a government, no more no less. Especially in Malaysia, people should be allowed to point out foul politics without being seen as attacking Islam.

Religion being used in politics is nothing new, even in Islamic history, such as the Umayyads (the largest theocracy in history) prosecuting, and even executing, the Qadaris, who stood against their tyranny, by using the ideology of the Jabriyyah who justified their rule as divinely sanctioned.

Religion was used as a tool to silence anyone who was against the government or their plans. Some examples of that being done today would be when a JAKIM sermon says that anyone who defies the government will be damned by God, or when Pahang Mufti Datuk Seri Dr Abdul Rahman Osman called DAP kafir harbi for opposing hudud.

Ever since we were young, we were taught not to question religion, so when we grew up, we blindly accept the religious rulings and sayings made by the elites. What we were not allowed to question was not religion per se, but the version of the religion practised and propagated by the ruling party.

In a society that stigmatises rational thinking, a theocratic government is especially dangerous because they can very easily control its people.

Not only does a theocratic government give precedence to one religion, it gives precedence to only one version of that particular religion. In the case of Malaysia, that version would be mazhab Shafie of Sunni Islam. We end up not only discriminating against other religions but also our own brothers and sisters in faith who do not follow the same version of Islam. This is against the inclusive spirit of Islam itself.

The saddest thing about Malaysia is that our governance is at a constant tug-o-war between secular and theocracy, and we’re slowly losing to the latter.

I have always believed in using religious values in politics but do not politicise religion.

I salute and admire those who have fought long and hard to save Malaysia from ever going down the same road as the likes of Iran. This is a fight we should not be giving up anytime soon. So who’s with me?

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.