“Those who use religion for their own benefit are detestable. We are against such a situation and will not allow it. Those who use religion in such a manner have fooled our people; it is against just such people that we have fought and will continue to fight.”
― Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

DAP has made two announcements recently which probably signals the collapse of the progressive movement here in Malaysia. The first is DAP’s decision to contest in Sungai Siput which may remove PSM from mainstream politics.

While DAP’s decision to contest in Sungai Siput is not unexpected – PSM did set themselves against DAP with their resolve to break out from their ghetto – the reality is that DAP has always been hostile to PSM, with their online supporters hurling the most racist and ignorant statements against the socialist party and their grassroots-level activism.

While DAP has had no problem embracing the party and the man who for years they claimed brought this country to ruin, and have had no problem introducing an Islamic sect to mainstream politics and then embracing the splinter group of said sect causing overt divisions in political Islam here in Malaysia, they have never accepted PSM for a variety of justifications, none of which stands up to any scrutiny.

I sincerely hope that PSM is successful in its endeavours and hopefully the long view strategy they embrace and grassroots-level work they do will change Malaysia (eventually) unlike the failing strategy of the mainstream opposition. Talking about failing strategy, DAP’s strategy to support “Islamisation” based on the constitution is the most cynical exploitation of religion I have witnessed in some time.

I have often pointed to the “true Muslim” meme that oppositional types babble on about as one of the major hypocrisies of the alternative coalition. The true Muslim meme is those Muslims who conform to the secular agenda of the opposition – read the DAP – which means they are the gentler face of Islam and thus acceptable to mainstream urban politics.

I have argued that the opposition – again let face facts, the DAP with all its problems should be on the front line in the defence of secularism – should not engage in the dialectic of Muslims with the exception of promoting secularism as a means of governing. Furthermore, if there is to be engagement, secularism should be the counter narrative to all religious dogma that are flash points in this country.

Instead, what DAP’s Lim Kit Siang has done is continue the Islamic state narratives in this country by embracing the concept that “Islamisation” has a place in the Malaysian experience when there is enough empirical evidence that the Islamisation process has been a detriment to this country and its citizens.

Attempting to claim that DAP supports Islamisation based on the constitution is nonsensical since the Islamists claim the very same in their quest for religious supremacy. The reality is that the constitution, like Islam, is open to interpretation hence any attempt to impose an ideological or religious agenda when framing policy “based on the constitution” is an exercise in sophistry.

How exactly does “Islamisation based on the constitution” that DAP supports different from what Umno has been doing? I figure that with partisans who are hooked on the true Muslim meme, this would mean those so-called “Islamic” values which are acceptable to them.

As I have said numerous times, those are not true religious values; those are true humanist secular values, and it does nobody any good to place religion in a position of power and hope that the majority of its adherents believe in what you – a non-believer – believes in.

Rigged political games

Why hasn’t DAP learnt from the mistakes it made with PAS? I wrote about this a couple of months ago when I said that politicians should not play the rigged political game – “What do you think was happening when all these political operatives from DAP were schmoozing in mosques while promulgating the gospel that all religions are essentially the same and have “universal” values when Islam in this country has a special position, tied with race?

“I will tell you what was happening. The kind of Islam that is advocated by the hegemon was becoming mainstream in the opposition. And now there are Muslim opposition supporters who will support PAS even though it means siding with Umno because they think Islam is under threat.”

You cannot claim that you want Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, to be “Malaysian” first and at the same time promote the religious agenda of Muslim political cabals. These religious cabals, whether the friendly faces of Amanah, the race-based realpolitik of Bersatu or the Umno-PAS sub rosa union, have one thing in common – they all claim ownership in one way or another of Islam in this country. You cannot hitch your wagon to any one of these cabals and at the same time claim to be a secular political entity.

Think about this for a moment. The claim that Umno uses Islam to divide the country is exactly what pro-establishment Islamists say about the opposition. When you favour one narrative, one experience over the other, you are by definition making a stand, choosing a side and playing to the Islamic divisions in this country. It really does not matter if you think the side you have chosen is “correct” in their interpretation of Islam.

There is no such thing as a “moderate” Islamisation process, despite what some moderate Muslims claim. Any attempts to make such claims should rightly be viewed with suspicion by any rational thinking Malaysians. Non-Muslim politicians should not take sides in Muslims divisions and if they have to align with Muslim cabals, they should make their stand clear as to their secular agendas, and their belief that all Malaysians are equal, despite what some religious trendsetters claim.

Anything else is unacceptable.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

– M’kini