The statement by Umno supreme council member Nur Jazlan Mohamed that new ally the DAP should amend its party constitution in order for the federal government coalition to gain support from Malay voters appears to be simplistic and lacking in substance.
Nur Jazlan was quoted as saying that Umno is expected to convince its grassroots of the alliance but is having difficulty doing so due to the perception of the DAP’s purported “extreme” views on a secular state and “Malaysian Malaysia”.
“If DAP is really hoping for the support of Malays through its cooperation with Umno this time, then they should also be brave in making a major change to succeed in the 16th general election,” he said in a statement.
The fact is that among the Malaysian political actors, there is a lack of understanding of what constitutes secular and divine, or the progressive understanding that both concepts can complement each other. There is a tendency to interpret secularism from a black-and-white perspective.
According to the simple definition of secularism, it is the belief that religion and religious considerations should be ignored.
If one interprets this definition reasonably, it is obvious that one would need to transcend rigid religious considerations or sectarianism in issues related to justice and equality.
The tendency to make secularism extreme and devoid of religious considerations, or to make religion the only source of inspiration in governing a country, is devoid of reason. In reality, the governance of human affairs is a mixture of decisions that come from religious values and practical realities that require common sense and reason.
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For example, if poverty is to be eradicated in the country, reason would imply that it cannot merely focus on the majority who are from a particular religion but also the minorities who are living in poverty.
The issue of poverty would be seen from a broader class structure or even a global context, and it has nothing to do with whether the community that is in poverty is from a particular religion.
In fact, the sense of justice that is derived from religious-spiritual awareness can transcend the thinking that comes from religious sectarianism or tribal politics in issues like poverty eradication.
There is no such thing as a bumiputra, ethnic Chinese or Indian agenda when one has a true sense of justice that transforms.
Besides this, if one looks at Muslims living in countries like India or in the West, the majority tend to support secular-based parties whom they believe will be able to resolve problems without the rigid religious consideration of the majority.
One can see a majority of Muslims supporting the secular Congress party in India and the highly secular Labour party in Britain. Muslims in these countries believe that secularism protects their rights.
This clearly shows that the ideology of Umno and Pas has no universal appeal, which would make its argument compelling.
In fact, the DAP has always stood for good governance, which is a critical value that stretches its “Malaysian Malaysia” secular ideology towards the common good that would benefit the people of Malaysia as a whole.
It is true that the DAP, which derived its ideology from Singapore’s People’s Action Party (PAP), may have lacked sensitivity towards the plight of the majority poor ethnic Malay community or failed to empathise with the identity politics of the community in its political rhetoric in the post-independence period. But the fact that Malaysia has evolved from a Malay Muslim-only nation to a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation – taking into consideration the diversity in Sabah and Sarawak – demands that the rights of all communities be respected.
The DAP stands on these principles. It has also taken into consideration the political realities and sensitivities this entails with regards to the Malay-majority community and has repeatedly stated it adheres to the Federal Constitution.
The issue here is not the necessity for the DAP to abandon its core ideology, but the imperative for parties like Umno, Pas and the DAP to come up with common ground on what constitutes good governance that does away with rigid and narrow ideologies.
Ultimately, it is good governance – based on authentic religious values that synthesise with secular inclusivity – that will transform Malaysia into a highly developed nation – not the simplistic Islamic state ideology or “Malaysian Malaysia”. – Malaysia Now