KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 ― Malaysia is on a slippery slope towards authoritarian nationalism with “apartheid” tendencies, a professor from the National University of Singapore (NUS) said today.
Dr Syed Farid Alatas, a Malaysian who teaches at NUS, highlighted as examples the proposed supermarket trolleys for non-halal food, a school’s plan for separate classrooms for non-Muslim students, and a Bumiputera-only gadget mall that is set to open this month.
“The lack of a multicultural approach, whether it’s towards Shiites, Sufis, anti-Christianity...we’re on the slippery slope towards very strong authoritarian nationalism with, I would add, apartheid tendencies,” Syed Farid told a forum organised by G25, a group of retired Malay senior civil servants, here on Islam and democracy.
“Next thing that will come is ― some Muslims will say I feel offended seeing the non-halal section in supermarkets. ‘When I peep into the section, I can see pork and alcohol’. They’ll say, ‘let’s have separate supermarkets’,” the associate professor of sociology added.
Syed Farid claimed Islam is instead multiculturalistic and pluralistic, citing the agreements Prophet Muhammad had made with the Jews and Christians to protect their rights, and his covenant with the Saint Catherine’s Monastery.
In the covenant, Muhammad promised to preserve the monastery and to protect the right of Christians to travel to and from the place of worship.
“So certainly, if the Prophet was alive today and heard about the event that happened in Taman Medan, I think he’d probably fight for the right of the Christians to have the cross on the church,” he said.
Several Malay-Muslim residents at Taman Medan held a protest outside the Community of Praise Petaling Jaya Church last April, demanding that it remove the cross affixed on its facade as they considered the religious symbol a challenge to Islam.
Barisan Nasional component party MCA had also in August criticised the Bumiputera-only technology mall, saying that creating a venue exclusively for one race was akin to the practice of racial segregation during apartheid times in South Africa.
Interfaith group Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) also panned the proposal to mandate separate supermarket trolleys, saying that segregation will only further polarise Malaysian society.