Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Batik Talibanism

The following appeared in Malaysiakini

Batik Talibanism
G Krishnan | Apr 8, 08 4:25pm
I refer to the Malaysiakini report: 'Focus on corruption, not khalwat.'

As disturbing as this might seem to many of the sensibilities of most reasonable people, I am especially struck by the sheer arrogance of these folks at Ikim and their ilk. Further, to go beyond the above suggestion by raising the spectre of punishments for offenders which are reminiscent of what the Taliban does, provides another reminder to all Malaysians – of any faith - who truly and deeply care about the pluralism, that we shouldn't take anything for granted, even at a time when BN and Umno might never have looked weaker.

Not a month has passed since the so-called political tsunami that devastated Umno and BN at the polls, and the usual suspects are at it again. I shudder at the thought of what Ikim and Shariah Judiciary Department would have been up to by now had Umno retained or expanded on its control of parliament that it enjoyed prior to these latest elections.

Can you imagine the posturing and attitude, not to mention contempt for religious freedom, we might be encountering under those circumstances? These Taliban-like religious zealots are precisely that – no matter if they're not touting an automatic rifle, banning education for girls or popular music and may instead seem harmless dressed in their batik.

I, for one, am not impressed about all the claims from BN-affiliated parties about supposedly having heard the message voters sent in the recent elections. Are you? If this is the way in which such Umno-created bodies are seemingly responding to public expressions of frustration, I truly wonder if Umno has any ability to rein in some of these, to put it mildly, bureaucratic excesses of their brainchildren.

The plausible explanations for such continued arrogance on the part of such Umno/BN perpetuated agencies are quite obvious. First, it is possible that Umno truly has not heeded the lessons of the elections or heard the voice of reason about the rakyat's rejection of creeping state encroachment in religious freedoms and matters of personal conscience.

Second, it is possible, albeit unlikely, that agencies such as Ikim and the Shariah Judiciary Department have become so arrogant that they feel themselves beyond reproach, such as to be able to act in direct defiance of their political masters.

Of course, some combination of the above two scenarios is also plausible. Either way, this does not bode well for the bigger picture regarding the kind of encroaching moral policing by the state that has been unleashed on the general population or for the cause of religious freedoms in the country.

Oh, and don't even get me started on the culpability of the MCA, MIC, Gerakan and other such patsies and pawns of Umno on this matter. It sickens me to listen to the usual characters from these parties, be it their presidents, vice-presidents, deputy-presidents, secretary-generals, and other such meaningless, spineless cast of characters trying to reposition themselves and claiming to amend their ways.

If these supposed leaders in the BN want to redeem themselves at all, they can start now, first and foremost, by showing some backbone in reining in the Batik Taliban.