By Dr. Abdul Ruff
Indonesia and Malaysia in South East Asia are basically Muslim nations with majorities seeking to practise Islamic way of life and governments are are also duty bound to provide all facilities and opportunity for Muslims to practise Islam in true ways.
Islamic societies world over have been facing severe problems, especially after the Sept-11 hoax, meticulously executed in USA by anti-Islamic forces, as both Muslim nations and Muslims are under perpetual threat to their existence.
While in non-Muslim and anti-Islamic nations the plight of Muslims as minority groups living at the mercy of majority (like Muslims in India where Hindus decide everything in the name of secularism), position of Muslims even in Islamic world is not much better. In order to impress and appease the anti-Islamic world led by USA and Israel, even the Muslim rulers target Muslims who protest against misrule and put them in jail by calling them “terrorists”
Both Malaysia and Indonesia had been ruled by non-Muslims for some unknown reasons that gave importance to minorities enjoying freedom and equal status. In fact even today, minorities with economic and political prowess amassed over decades decide the fate of Malaysia along with Muslim leaders.
However, the non-Muslim nations like India deny Muslims their role and place in the country, even target them cruelly. Muslim leaders are used by Hindu parties as vote bank agents on payment basis who in turn mobilize votes for the political parties. Generally the Congress party which helps the Hindutva parties gain popularity and votes by targeting Muslims has been the beneficiary of such arrangement.
Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation with maximum Muslim population living there, has been trying to provide an Islamic facelift the nation and people. However, minorities backed by USA among others, protest any Islamic way of life in the country, denying Muslims opportunity o to live as Muslims.
In December 2014, Indonesia’s House of Representatives pushed through a law requiring halal labeling, or Islamic certification of food products and pharmaceuticals that had been hanging fire for eight years, primarily because of strong opposition and hectic international campaign against Islamic Indonesia. Also, a flock of contentious provisions that critics say will damage the interests of importers of foreign products and raise questions about fairness at the World Trade Organization.
Although Indonesia is nominally Muslim, with 87 percent of its 250 million people following the faith, it has been a largely tolerant society, but the tolerance has been fully exploited by organized anti-Islamic forces prevalent in the country with many drinking beer, eating pork and following other non-Muslim customs. However, as stricter rules have made their way out of the Middle East, Indonesia has increasingly been falling into line. The halal law, demanded by the Ulema Council, the country’s top religious body, is an example.
At the time of passage, much of the country’s business community, both domestic and foreign, wanted to stop halal food in Indonesia and warned that the law would be throwing up unnecessary and costly barriers to the import of food and other products.” Today the regulations are close to being implemented to govern the process.
The law stipulates jail time of up to five years and a maximum penalty of Rp 2 billion (US$150,000) for companies that violate the law and since these business people do not promote halal food anywhere in the world they are worried that they will have pay the punitive fines. , .
The law particularly hits foreign pharmaceuticals, primarily because the complex supply chain makes it extremely difficult to verify that the products are indeed halal. According to Islamic law, products must be taken from animals that are alive immediately before evisceration, that Muslims perform the slaughter, all flowing blood be drained completely from the carcass and any modern methods must be considered in line with Islamic principles. Pharmaceuticals are hardly alone, however. The regulations are to apply to goods that can be “worn, used, utilized, imported and circulated in Indonesia’s territory.” The law mandates the establishment of a new agency, the Halal Product Guarantee Agency, to be supervised by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The agency will be responsible for issuing halal certificates to producers. Companies must employ at least three inspectors, operate their own laboratories or use other certified parties that have laboratories to support the halal check for products.
Although the agency will issue the certificates, the verification process will be handed over to a third party called the Halal Inspection Institution, which is to make field checks on the processing of raw materials inside or outside of the manufacturing facilities. Yet another agency is to be set up to audit the halal certification process. Halal checking is to include manufacturing, packaging, distribution, sales and serving to make sure that halal products are not mixed with non-halal products during production and distribution. Non-halal products must be labeled “non-halal.”
The law could place unnecessary burdens on small and medium sized enterprises as well. The current cost of a halal certificate from the Ulema is roughly Rp2 million (US$150). In Indonesia like anywhere in the world, since the growth of a new agency to govern the import of anything is a license for bureaucrats and their political allies to make illicit money, government needs to be extra cautious in blocking such untoward corrupt activities under Islam as Muslim leaders are not known to be honest and most of them are corrupt. .
The Ulema isn’t backing away from any of the law’s provisions, no matter the cost, saying it would give protection and comfort to the Muslim community.
Malaysia, like Indonesia with a majority Muslim population, has been trying to implement strict Shariah law but since it is also a multiethnic nation, other religious leaders oppose the government to go ahead with Islamic law. Malaysia is a multi confessional country whose most professed religion is Islam. As of 2013, there were approximately 19.5 million Muslim adherents, or 61.3% of the population.
Islamic Malaysia has a longtime reputation for practicing a relatively moderate brand of Islam, but more conservative attitudes have gained ground in recent years owing to anti-Islamic terror wars targeting both Arab nations and Islam, with various Islamist political factions, including PAS, jockeying for support from religious voters. Muslims make up about 60 percent of the country’s 30 million citizens, which include significant Buddhist and Christian religious minority populations. While Islam is Malaysia’s official state religion, the country’s constitution allows for other religions to be freely practiced.
Malaysian Islamist party Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) in the northeastern state of Kelantan in Malaysia successfully passed measures that could see harsh criminal punishments as per Islamic system carried out in the state it governs. Critics have sounded the alarm over the push to implement strict Shariah law, arguing that though it would nominally apply only to Muslims, it could threaten the religious co-existence enshrined in Malaysia’s national constitution.
Critics see the eroding of fundamental freedoms and civil liberties, in the name of religion, as it might affects everyone. Most states in Malaysia already practice some form of Shariah law, but its scope is limited by federal law. It would also be unfeasible to implement the measures in a diverse, multi-religious country like Malaysia, according to Datuk Koo Chin Nam, a top official in the Malaysian Chinese Association, a political party that supports the rights of the country’s Chinese minority. “The moderates must rally to reject this new brand of political Islam and be pragmatic, taking into consideration the multiracial and multi-religious facet of Malaysia.
The biggest casualty of the move will not be Malaysia’s multi-religious character but the three-party opposition coalition, of which PAS is a member. The coalition, known as the People’s Alliance, has been the most viable force challenging the country’s ruling party, even winning the popular vote for the first time in Malaysia’s history during the 2013 elections. Following PAS’ hudud move, more-progressive members of the coalition have rebuked the Islamist party and threatened to leave the alliance.
Malaysian government, led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been eager to bolster its Islamic credentials in order to appeal to conservative supporters and has shied away from criticizing Islamist initiatives, something that has contributed to their growing influence. While Razak and his allies have not stood in the way of Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS)’ hudud push thus far, it remains to be seen whether the party will back the controversial proposals at a federal level.
Islam in Malaysia is represented by the Shafi’i version of Sunni theology and jurisprudence. Islam was introduced by traders arriving from Arabia, China and India. It became firmly established in the 15th century. The constitution grants freedom of religion and makes Malaysia an officially secular state, while establishing Islam as the “religion of the Federation” to symbolize its importance to Malaysian society. The king is generally seen as the defender of the faith in the country.
The draft Constitution of Malaysia did not specify an official religion. This move was supported by the rulers of the nine Malay states, who felt that it was sufficient that Islam was the official religion of each of their individual states. However, Justice Hakim Abdul Hamid of the Reid Commission which drafted the Constitution came out strongly in favour of making Islam the official religion, and as a result the final Constitution named Islam as the official religion of Malaysia. All ethnic Malays are Muslim, as defined by Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia
There is also an Islamic university in Malaysia called the International Islamic University Malaysia, and a government institution in charge of organizing pilgrimages to Mecca called Tabung Haji (Pilgrim Fund Board of Malaysia). In addition, the government also funds the construction of mosques and suraus.
Despite the federal government’s denial that Malaysia is an Islamic state; the previous administration under Abdullah Badawi has gradually furthered the agenda of Islamic supremacy at the expense of other religions. The spread of Christianity is a particular sore point for the Muslim majority as that is attempting to proselytize to Muslim audiences.
Individual Arab traders, including Sahabas, preached in the Malay Archipelago, Indo-China, and China in the early seventh century. The Islamic Cham people of Cambodia trace their origin to Jahsh (Geys), the father of Zainab and thus one of the fathers-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Islam was introduced to the Sumatran coast by Arabs in 674 CE.
Islam was also brought to Malaysia by Indian Muslim traders in the 12th century AD. It is commonly held that Islam first arrived in Malay peninsular since Sultan Mudzafar Shah I (12th century) of Kedah, the first ruler to be known to convert to Islam after being introduced to it by Indian traders who themselves were recent converts. In the 13th century
Government bodies and banking institutions are closed for two hours every Friday so Muslim workers can conduct Friday prayer in mosques. However, in certain states such as Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Johor, the weekends fall on Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday. It has been introduced to several states, notably Kelantan and Terengganu, all businesses closes for 2 hours on every Friday for prayers. Failure to comply would result in fines.
All public places including shopping malls, hotels, condominiums, usually have allocated spaces, called “Surau”, for performing the Muslim prayers.
Islam is central to and dominant in Malay culture. A significant number of words in the Malay vocabulary can trace their origins to Arabic which is the chosen language of Islam. This is, however, not exclusive and words from other cultures such as Portuguese, Chinese, Dutch,, Tamil, English, and French can also be found in the Malay language. Islam is so ingrained in Malay life that Islamic rituals are practiced as Malay culture. Muslim and Malays are interchangeable in many daily contexts. Muslim women generally wear the tudung (hijab or headscarf) over their heads. However, Malay women not wearing any headgear are not reprimanded or penalized.
Malaysia’s top Islamic body, the National Fatwa Council, ruled against Muslims practicing yoga, saying it had elements of other religions that could corrupt Muslims. The same body has ruled against ghosts and other supernatural beings
Malaysians will go to the polls on June 18 in twin by-elections regarded as a referendum on the leadership of the scandal-ridden United Malays National Organization and its leader, Prime Minister Najib Razak. With both PAS and UMNO fielding candidates, the likelihood that Amanah could pull off victories in the two races is slim. Najib has played a canny game, allowing PAS leader Hadi Awang to fast-track a measure that would impose age-old punishments for certain classes of crimes under Shariah law including theft, sex out of wedlock, consumption of liquor and drugs and apostasy for Kelantan. The amendments, which would only apply to Kelantan, may or may not be debated in October.
In the meantime, backed by the 190-odd UMNO division chiefs, Najib has managed to turn back all attempts to bring him to bay over the 1MDB scandal, which is arguably the biggest in the country’s history. He has refused to answer questions over U$681 million that found its way into his own bank account in March of 2013 and as mysteriously disappeared a few months later. He has fired his attorney general and replaced him with a lapdog, blocked all parliamentary and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission investigations into his activities and defied a request to probe his own bank accounts by Bank Negara, the country’s central bank.
There appears little to stop Najib from continuing in power domestically. His allies have characterized the international investigations as somehow instigated by dark powers attempting to bring down parliamentary democracy in Malaysia. The June 18 elections are likely to validate his leadership.
Terrorization and persecution of Muslims in non-Muslim nations must stop.
Meanwhile, Indians who live in Malaysia and Indonesia should influence Indian government to fulfill its promise given to the world that the historic Babri Mosque that was demolished on December 06 in 1992 by Hindu criminals on the strength of backing by the governments, the state, police, corporate media lords and military. Babri Mosque belongs to Indian Muslims as a part of global Islamic heritage. It is really ugly the Majority Hindus take cover under the Hindutva moorings and threaten to pull down all mosques in the country just because, they argue Indian belongs to Hindus only..
Also, the Chinese people who live in Malaysia and Indonesia, should ask the Chinese government to let Muslims worship God, undertake fasting during the Holy Ramadan Month. Chinese may not believe in Allah or any other gods but Muslims do and so they are entitled to free worshiping. So-called communist regime does not let Muslims pray and persecution of Muslims continues unabated. Even super power USA which question human rights violations in Arab world does not question the Chinese authoritarianism in this regard. China hardly allows Muslims out to undertake Holy Hajj pilgrimage.