The Sultans and the Malays

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My good friend Mohd Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail must be congratulated for his action in trying to stop the Malaysian Taliban from pushing through Parliament an amendment to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 — an amendment that’s now popularly known as “Act 355”. (And by “Malaysian Taliban” I mean Malaysians who are fascinated with the Bedouin culture and traditions that existed in pre-Islamic Saudi Arabia.)

Tawfik has filed an application in court for a judicial review and has sent letters to Their Royal Highnesses seeking their intervention in this matter.

Tawfik has a solid constitutional basis for his actions but in this country, we now have many Taliban sympathisers amongst “revisionist” lawyers and judges who put forward their own self-serving interpretations of the Constitution in order to promote the Taliban agenda. In this regard, articulating and expressing support for constitutional supremacy may not be enough.

I have only two arguments that I want to put forward to the Malays Rulers in support of Tawfik. I don’t expect the Rulers to read my blog — but maybe their underlings might, and they might casually whisper to the Sultans, whilst having tea, the compelling reasons why the Talibanisation of the Malays (of which Act 355 is the first step) would endanger their own position.

The future of Their Royal Highnesses as constitutional monarchs can be guaranteed only if Malaysia is Taliban-free and remains a modern country with some democratic features (flawed though they might be right now).  

There is no country in the world that is peaceful when religious parties are allowed to impose religious laws. In this respect, Iran is more democratic than Saudi Arabia — the Iranians don’t have Taliban who amputate people’s hands for stealing, nor do they whip citizens found guilty of religious offences.

On the other hand, although Saudi Arabia appears peaceful, it’s so only because there are no political parties; and as long as America supports the House of Saud, they will rule — but for how long?

When the Malaysian Taliban grow strong and start pushing for religious laws such as those found in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the southern Philippines, then there will be civil war such as the one in Syria. Malaysia will be destroyed piece by piece.

Countries such as Indonesia (minus Aceh), Turkey, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria are generally more peaceful, and they do not have laws like our Act 355. Women in these countries are free to work and have rights as men do. Their education systems are better. They don’t have child-marriage, public whipping and they don’t send of Muslims to jail for not praying or fasting. To be fair, they have pockets of extremists, but these countries are generally safer than those influenced by the Taliban.

So it is in the interest of the Malay Rulers that Malays and other Muslim Malaysians are modern and progressive in their outlook and values. Only in this way can the country be prosperous and safe.

An impoverished and war-torn country will not be able to cater to the well-being of any one monarch, let alone nine of them. The Malay Rulers must thus be wary of the Taliban amongst their advisers and underlings. They must be wary of Malay political leaders who are good storytellers but who can offer nothing useful for the development of the people

My second point is this: the Sultans have a constitutional duty to protect the customs and traditions of the Malay people. This means that the general character of Malays, such as being a peaceful and easy-going people who love fun, music and culture, whilst evolving, must be protected.

The Sultans must ensure that Malays are, like them, wise to the ways of the world and able to live in comfort. They will be failing in their duties if Malays shun modern education, modern music, oppose vaccinations and start living in “communes”.

The Taliban, on the other hand, are like the Wahhabis—they want to remove all traces of history and culture from the people, and they want the traditions of the early Bedouins to replace Malay culture. This austere culture is being touted as “Islam” although its traditions and practices existed thousands of years before Prophet Muhammad.

That’s why the Taliban are fascinated with child marriage and keeping their women “under cover”. They don’t want their first wives to know when they marry a second or third wife. They don’t want women to have equal rights. They want to prohibit Malays from having fun (except Malay men having many wives) and they don’t have policies that empower the people. They only like to shame people and put them in jail for long periods.

Surely the Sultans will not sit idly by and watch the destruction of Malay culture and the character of their own people just because of a handful of Taliban in power claim they are implementing “God’s law”?

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  • Joe

    The House of Saud pioneered the ideas of partnership with religo-leaders to lead and rule and they have been the most successful at it. Muslim royalties and authoritharians all have tried various other forms of it.. Who are we kidding why the Malay Sultans adopted Islam in the first place because they saw it as control of their subject. By default, they believe they can control the religion and the religo-class and be on top always. How are you going to prove it otherwise so long as there are funds to underwrote all the failing of religo-rule?

    Fact of the matter is governance is mostly about what you know – secular, theocracy is about faith only what you think and feel. Governance may start with what you think and faith but 90% of it is about what you know.

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