Cock-eyed view of what constitutes non-Muslim rights

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Too bad, Nazri resorted to stereo-typed notions of ‘non-Muslims’ and cock-eyed ideas of what constitutes their rights, observes Francis Loh. No wonder there’s no 1Malaysia!

“You must remember that the country does not belong to the Muslims. There are things that sometimes non-Muslims do, for example, gambling. It is their culture, their way of life and we have to respect their rights.”  Apparently, the minister in the prime minister’s department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, expressed these words which grabbed the headlines on 20 June.

Minister Nazri  is absolutely right that the country does not belong to the Muslims.

He is also correct to insist that Muslims have to respect non-Muslim rights, and he should have added ‘and vice versa’.

But he is absolutely wrong to suggest that gambling is a non-Muslim “way of life” that ought to be respected. This is a cock-eyed view of what constitutes non-Muslim culture, even less that it is a non-Muslim right that must be respected.

First, gambling is a world-wide phenomenon and gamblers come from all continents, countries and religions. If one doubts this, recall how there have been some big-time Muslim state-exco and dignitary gamblers who have hit the headlines about their debts ever so often. The point is that gambling has nothing to do with any religion. In the event, all religions discourage their followers from gambling. And only some  non-Muslims and Muslims  gamble. Most do not.

Second, the BN government has consistently argued that certain civil liberties and rights must be curbed for the greater common good. This is why they argue we have the ISA, the Societies Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, Trade Unions Act, Sedition Act, etc.  Time-and-time again, we have argued against these unnecessary curbs imposed upon the rakyat via the introduction of additional acts of parliament.  Yet, suddenly, when it comes to gambling, the BN government takes the stand that gambling is an absolute right and we should respect that right. Whatever happened to those other more fundamental liberties to express ourselves, to gather and to associate, among others?

READ MORE:  In search of bullies in Muslim-majority Malaysia

Third, it is most regrettable that the BN government and the minister chose to portray gambling as such an integral part of non-Muslim rights. Where was the minister and what is the stance of the BN government when it comes to having access to land to build a church or temple in general, or in a specific area, say in a part of Shah Alam, where the majority of the population is Muslim? Or to use particular Bahasa Malaysia words in non-Muslim worship and in their religious publications? For that matter, do we have absolute rights when it comes to choosing our religions? And converting from one religion to another?  Cakap tak serupa bikin?

Finally, the minister needs reminding that all religions share many values in common. It is not just a common abhorrence towards gambling. All religions also teach their followers to be compassionate to all, indeed regardless of the religion the other professes. All religions also teach us to respect women, to live in harmony with Nature which is part of God’s creation, and to extend a helping hand especially to the needy and the  downtrodden.

Too bad, the minister resorted to stereo-typed notions of ‘non-Muslims’ and cock-eyed ideas of what constitutes their rights. No wonder there’s no 1Malaysia!

Dr Francis Loh is secretary of Aliran  

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