BN playing Islamic card ahead of vote: Anwar
Posted by chaanakyan on January 10, 2008
on Januari 8, 2008 oleh HermanSamsudeen
The ruling BN coalition is appealing to Muslim sentiment to reinforce its support in elections which could come in March, dissident opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim said today.
Commentators in multi-racial but Muslim-majority Malaysia have sounded alarm over the growing “Islamisation” of the country and the increasing polarisation of the three main ethnic communities. But Anwar, the once heir apparent to former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said Malaysia’s problem is not radicalism.
“The real issue is what I would describe as state-sponsored Muslim puritanism more by racist sentiments than religious principles,” he told the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies’ Regional Outlook Forum.
“For some reason it is the belief of the present administration in Kuala Lumpur that playing the puritanical card would be the best bet for the Umno-dominated ruling coalition to secure electoral success in the coming elections…,” Anwar said.
“By holding themselves out to be the staunchest defenders of Islam, Umno hope to garner greater support…”
The multi-racial coalition government is dominated by Malay Muslims and led by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s Umno.
Exclusivist religious doctrine
In Malaysia’s latest religious controversy, the editor of Catholic newspaper Herald said on Friday he will press ahead with a lawsuit to challenge a government order banning it from using the word ‘Allah’, or ‘God’, in its Malay language section.Last month a Hindu woman lost her bid to stop the conversion of her child to Islam after the country’s highest court ruled that her now-Muslim husband can convert their elder son.
There have also been controversies over the destruction of Hindu temples by local authorities.
“It is this kind of theology that leads to the rejection of constitutional freedom of other faiths to espouse and practise their religion in a manner they so wish,” Anwar said.
“It preaches the exclusivist doctrine that Muslims must constantly prevail over non-Muslims.”
He labelled it ridiculous nonsense that only Muslims can use the word ‘Allah’ and backed up his assertion by quoting from the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
“Respecting the constitutional rights of all citizens of all faiths is an Islamic imperative,” said Anwar.
March polls act of desperation
Abdullah has recently faced unprecedented street protests by thousands calling for electoral reform and alleging discrimination against ethnic Indians. There has also been a sex scandal involving a cabinet minister, and public anger over high fuel and food prices.
Anwar was sacked from the former government of Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1998 after being jailed for six years following sodomy and corruption charges.
The sodomy charge was later overturned and Anwar was released but he is barred from public office or holding any position with a political party until April because of the corruption conviction.
He told reporters that was one of the major reasons why the government could hold the vote in March.
Anwar added that in an act of desperation the government, beset by “one scandal after another”, is considering calling elections earlier than ever before. A vote must be held by March 2009.
“So I don’t preclude the possibility of Prime Minister Abdullah calling for elections in March of this year,” Anwar told a later press conference.