PETALING JAYA: A group of 25 influential Malays in society created a milestone of sorts when they published an open letter asking for a rational dialogue on the position of Islam and Islamic law in a constitutional democracy.
The letter on Dec 8 last year created ripples in society and generated strong support, including from non-governmental organisations, and the public at large.
Now the group has expanded from its initial 25 to 53, with prominent educationist, Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairperson Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim being one of the recent additions.
Surprisingly though, Noor Azimah tells Theantdaily that she was initially hesitant about joining when she was asked as she did not consider herself “prominent” or “eminent” to be a member of the group.
“I was very hesitant as I don’t consider myself eminent or prominent. I sat on it for a very long time. The other concern was that I would dilute the eminence and prominence of the group.
“I accepted it at the end because it was such a great honour to be asked to join. It is also a cause that I can relate to, particularly with what has been happening in the recent past,” she said.
Recalling her reaction when she first heard of the group, Noor Azimah said: “The first time they announced themselves, I thought, ‘Wow! what a fantastic group. For such eminent and prominent persons to come out and uphold the federal Constitution as a cause is indeed noble’.
“The focus on Islamic extremism and Islamophobia, not just within the country but globally, is becoming so rampant. It was to the extent that our own religion was being ridiculed by Muslims ourselves.
“This group then decided to put its foot down and counter as well as neutralise this perception of extremism.”
When asked how she was roped in to be part of this organisation, Noor Azimah laughingly said: “I invited Noor Faridah (G25 spokesperson former diplomat Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin) to lunch to discuss matters of English and she roped me in.
“I didn’t get what I wanted but she got what she wanted.”
For Noor Azimah, her purpose of joining the group is about providing support to the group and its cause.
In addition to Noor Azimah, the new additions to the group include former High Court judge Syed Ahmad Idid, former education director-general Dr Asiah Abu Samah, former mayor of Kuala Lumpur and former director general of Public Services Mazlan Ahmad, former Universiti Malaysia Sabah vice-chancellor Professor Kamarulzaman Ampon, International Islamic University Associate Professor Dr Normala Obid and Universiti Teknologi Mara Faculty of Medicine former dean Professor Khalid Yusoff.
Despite criticisms against them by many Malay-Muslims for questioning Syariah laws in the country, the group seems to be growing from strength to strength with many praising their efforts in bringing back the voice of moderation to the country.
The group has also reportedly recommended the formation of a constitutional court in the country to enable the people to challenge unconstitutional decisions by the government.
Will this group actually be able to make a difference?
Noor Azimah certainly thinks so.
“Definitely, because they are a strong group and they are very focused on what they want to achieve, which is for a better Malaysia,” she said.