By The Malaysian Insider
8 November 2014
It is no longer a question of what else will certain groups of Malay Muslims take offence to in Malaysia.
Anything from a) places of worship of other religions must not be built in Malay-majority areas and b) alcohol cannot be sold in shops in Malay-majority areas, and even pictures of idols cannot be placed alongside Halal signs – has raised hackles among Muslim groups.
For them, it is not ridiculous to say that such things can shake their faith or affect their image. No detail is too small or trivial for them to assert their dominance or flex their muscles to get their way.
But the so-called guardians are also the same guys who won't think twice of about plundering the nation or visiting an entertainment outlet and then insisting on a Halal meal.
You don't see them protesting leakage and excesses highlighted in the annual Auditor-General's Reports. You don't seem them questioning projects that produce white elephants or buildings that crumble easily.
No, they only come out to make noise over houses of worships or anything that would impinge on their image as sole guardians of the Malay Muslim community.
When did this puritanical thinking start? Sometime after election 2008 when Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) lost its traditional two-thirds super majority in the federal parliament.
In some ways, this insiduous Talibanisation of Malaysia is being pushed forward by Umno and its acolytes, who are using race and religion to overcome their loss of political power.
So, churches and temples that were once approved under BN rule in Selangor are now the subject of protests. Alcohol that was sold freely throughout the country is now questioned.
Items that require Halal signs cannot be associated with anything else even if it is just a tourism campaign of Malaysia, Truly Asia. Of course, it begs the question why water requires a Halal certification.
But one doesn't have to wonder any more why these things are the way they are.
Just like what happened in Afghanistan after the fight to rid of Soviet occupiers, those without political power used religion and race to win over and control the population. It happened there and it appears to be an emerging tactic here.
The English essayist Samuel Johnson once declared that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" but these days, it can cover anything from race to religion. Anything for and to keep power, really.