Saturday, December 27, 2014

Malaysia's Moderate Muslims Call For Sharia Law Reform

Extremist Muslims have been taking center stage in what's supposed to be a secular democratic Malaysia, and the moderates are finally taking a stand.

[snip] An open letter urging a rational discussion on religion signed by 25 former senior servants and addressed to Prime Minister Najib Razak has gained popular support. The group, which came to be known as the “prominent 25,” is petitioning Najib to lead a peaceful dialogue about the application of Islamic laws in Malaysia.

The letter raised several issues concerning what they think is the excessive and unfair implementation of the shariah law in many aspects of governance. They questioned why some religious bodies are “asserting authority beyond their jurisdiction,” such as in the issuance of various fatwa that violate the Federal Constitution. They also cited the indifference of authorities over the “rise of supremacist NGOs accusing dissenting voices of being anti-Islam, anti-monarchy and anti-Malay.” And they pointed out how the Sedition Act “hangs as a constant threat to silence anyone with a contrary opinion.”

“These developments undermine Malaysia’s commitment to democratic principles and rule of law, breed intolerance and bigotry, and have heightened anxieties over national peace and stability,” they added in the letter.

They wanted Najib to “assert his personal leadership” in reviewing the implementation of Islamic laws in the country: “Those who act in the name of Islam through the administration of Islamic law must bear the responsibility of demonstrating that justice is done, and is seen to be done.”

In recent years, some hardcore Islamic and nationalist Malay leaders inside Malaysia’s ruling coalition have successfully lobbied the government to act against perceived threats to Islam and the dominance of the Malays in the affairs of the country. Those who opposed or criticized their views are often accused of conspiring to undermine either Islam or the state.
They have support from activists and academics who were ignored or chastised in the past for their criticism of religious intolerance. And support from others who were too fearful to speak out.

After the letter went viral in the cyberspace, other moderate voices were encouraged to speak out against religious and racial discrimination. Ninety-three NGOs declared support for the letter signers. They were joined by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism, which praised the group for drafting the letter. Internet users circulated online petitions using the Twitter hashtags #KamiJuga25 (We are also 25) and “I am #26” to show support for the stand taken by the group of 25, “by standing together in solidarity as #26.”

No response from the government. Yet. But as expected some of the radical elements have piped in.

I wish them luck, because the hardcore Islamists aren't going to give up their fight for supremacy that easily.

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