Sharifah Munirah Alatas, New Age Islam
On Oct 2,
Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the minister in charge of Islamic affairs, announced that
the working paper on the “Rahmat ul lil Alamin” (mercy to all creations) policy
was ready to be presented to the Cabinet.
announced that this was the country’s new Islamic administration policy. This
sounds very promising and progressive, given that the policies of Muslim
leadership throughout much of the Muslim world are currently in a deplorable
recent development is the United Arab Emirate’s (UAE) hosting of the 2nd World
Tolerance Summit, which was held on Nov 13-14 in Dubai. This was in conjunction
with the UAE’s declaration of 2019 as the “Year of Tolerance” on Dec 15 last
year by its president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed.
in November 2017, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE
vice-president, named the pedestrian bridge over the Dubai Canal the Tolerance
Bridge. It was done symbolically on the 22nd anniversary of the International
Day of Tolerance.
pronouncements and activities were based on the Emirati desire to continue
welcoming over 200 nationalities, who live in the constitutional monarchy of
seven federated emirates.
population of about 9.2 million, only 1.4 million are Emirati citizens. The
other 7.8 million are expatriates, which explain the leadership’s concerted
efforts to project the aura of “harmony without racism, discrimination or
universal and blatantly open secret is the fact that the UAE has not been very
tolerant of fellow Muslims in many parts of the war-torn Middle East.
sense to latch Mujahid’s Rahmat ul lil Alamin policy to the UAE’s tolerance
manifesto. However, compassion towards religious minorities in Malaysia,
especially how Shia Muslims are perceived and treated, is still a
work-in-progress that our state and federal authorities persist in ignoring.
There is a
clear, fine thread of hypocrisy that connects the religious worldviews of both
UAE and Malaysian administrations.
continues to have diplomatic relations with Iran, there are none with Israel.
Yet, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that this past August, the US
had arranged secret talks between Israel and UAE over Iran.
The New Yorker revealed that such talks date back to the 1990s. It would have
been a profound show of global leadership for Malaysia if Prime Minister Dr
Mahathir Mohamad had critiqued this at the last United Nations General Assembly
continues to criticise the Jews and weep figuratively for the plight of the
Palestinians. It would have been more respectable if his 2019 Unga speech
included the duplicity game played by many Muslim nations of the Middle East.
at least, Malaysia would be considered less of a hypocrite.
Malaysian leadership is busy declaring how compassionate Islam is at home,
while taking no action against racist and bigoted remarks made by individuals
at the Malay Dignity Congress.
months of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, there is still a lack of a
united official voice to dispel the myth that Malays and Muslims are
change in narrative, we will continue to fall into an abyss of intolerance.
This is exactly what has happened in the Middle East.
countries in the Muslim world are not united in their perception of the
geopolitical imperialism facing Muslims. Many countries in the Middle East have
separate vested interests.
become tiresome to read the superficial rhetoric about Muslim compassion and
Islam as a tolerant religion emanating from the speeches of these leaders.
Mujahid himself, during a recent interview with BBC Hardtalk’s Zeinab Badawi,
tried to address the issue of worsening racial and religious tensions since PH
took over last year.
how serious the racial and religious divide is in Malaysia, Mujahid robotically
rattled off Articles 3 and 11 of the Federal Constitution. He reiterated that
other faiths are free to practise their religion, but that Islam is the only
religion that can be promoted.
pressed further, the all-too-familiar blame game surfaced: that this apparent
divisive racial and religious climate was inherited from the previous
was Mujahid unable to answer the question posed, he avoided addressing the
reality in Malaysia. The fact that a Turkish family of six had been recently
deported to Turkey, or that private Shia homes were raided by religious authorities
in Selangor during Ashura, was explained in the usual defeatist manner.
dry legalities of how Islam is administered in Malaysia, Mujahid explained that
religion is the responsibility of the individual states, under the purview of
the sultans. As a result, the PH government has no authority to handle these
If so, how
can Mujahid’s commitment to the Rahmatan lil Alamin policy be taken seriously?
Just as the
world should not take UAE’s World Tolerance Summit seriously, Malaysia’s commitment
to “mercy to all of God’s creatures” will be tossed into the dustbin of useless
a massive defeat in the just concluded Tanjung Piai by-election. Mujahid’s
internationally aired declaration that Malaysia upholds universal Islamic
values of tolerance and compassion has done more damage than good to ordinary
Malaysians. Tanjung Piai’s election results are proof of this.
has managed to anger a lot more Malaysians who cannot reconcile his talk of
compassion with the worsening economic conditions. Government-linked companies
and government-linked investment companies have been transferred to
PPBM-controlled ministries. They have not been reformed. Political appointees
continue to be made. After 18 months of PH administration, the B40 are still
waiting anxiously for relief from the rising cost of living.
consistent PH response has been to blame the previous government’s cronyism,
the 1MDB crimes and the huge debts the government inherited. Yet, not a single
criminal has been punished.
blaming the Barisan Nasional (BN) government for the current racial and
religious tensions is unacceptable. The public is no longer tolerant of these
excuses, yet Mujahid talks persistently of Rahmatan lil Alamin, of a tolerant
Islam in Malaysia.
under PH seems to have a lot in common with the rest of the intellectually
backward Muslim world. Let us not be fooled by the appearance of UAE’s wealth
and tremendous economic development. The reality is the concepts of tolerance
and compassion should only be applied to ethical and morally upright nations.
It is an
utter sin when a nation boisterously declares it is compassionate by invoking
Islam, and yet is blatantly oppressive to its own community.
As one of
Saudi Arabia’s allies interfering in the Yemen civil war, UAE has also been a
supporter of the US-led hostilities towards Iran. It is obvious that the
ulterior motive for the World Tolerance Summit was to attract foreign
investments which use UAE as a gateway for their export commodities throughout
economic reward above the sincere desire to solve humanitarian crises facing
fellow Muslims in the region is not representative of a compassionate Islam.
equally reprehensible that Malaysia’s leadership deliberately partakes in
domestic identity politics despite knowing that it is accelerating racial and
religious divisions our society.
There is no
more time to waste. The PH government must be serious if it is truly committed
to upholding Rahmat ul lil Alamin.
international stage, Malaysia is perceived as a laughing stock with our dual
approach to governance.
Malaysian Muslims tend to look up to the more developed nations of the Arab
world. We hail UAE, for instance, as a progressive, comfortable, economically
vibrant and successful country. It is about time though, that we see through
this veneer of wealth, and expose the hypocritical and sinful use of religion
to fool masses of Muslims.
It is about
time we realise our own leadership is doing the same thing.
Dr Sharifah Munirah Alatas is an academic
specialising in geopolitics with a special interest in socio-political issues
of developing nations.
Headline: Shackled by the rhetoric of ‘Rahmatan Lil Alamin’
Sharifah Munirah Alatas
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