Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Feeling Tipsy Are We, PAS?

Let me first dispense with the argument that I frequently hear from many Muslims and non-Muslims alike: since some of the restrictions such as on alcohol use by Muslims do not affect non-Muslims, we should not make it our business. You see, there is at least one very basic flaw with this argument. (Please note I said “at least” one flaw; I’m sure some of you can think of other ones too.)

I supposedly live in a secular nation. Policies that contradict the spirit (pun intended) of that secular identity of the nation threaten the rights of all citizens – irrespective of one’s religion. This should not be too complicated and confusing to comprehend. But it seems to go right over most of the politicians like Hassan Ali and his brigade of self-appointed moral purist who want to dictate to other citizens how they should live their lives. This is not too far from having the morality police peep into peoples bedrooms to see if they’re not doing anything that these apparent perfect people thing others should not be doing.

And any policy that diminishes the rights of our fellow citizens diminishes all our rights. If we accept anything else, then we enable politicians to create different class and categories of citizens with different types of rights and privileges. And we have had enough of that, haven’t we?

According to the likes of Hassan Ali, for example, religious authorities should be able to impose restriction on alcohol sales in convenience stores in Malay majority areas. Isn’t this a clear example of how such bizarre measures violate all our civil liberties? Aren’t the proprietary rights of the business establishment being compromised by restrictions associated with one religious group? Aren’t others not of the same religious persuasion being deprived reasonable access to otherwise legal goods and services when convenience stores in some areas are prohibited from selling such goods? The point is, such policies do affect all of us – whatever our religion or whether or not we even have one.

And by the way, why stop with convenience stores? What about on airlines and restaurants? Will we now be having Imma-Air Marshals in disguise on airplanes to arrest Muslim cabin crew members who serve alcohol to passengers? And will the day come, when a non-Muslim sales person will he held accountable and be punished for selling a beer to a Muslim?

Suffice it to say that we don’t have to wait until that day to realize that the kind of restrictions that Hassan Ali and his fanatics are already proposing contradict the basic principles of a secular society; unless of course we’re no longer a secular nation anymore.

And the last time I checked, none of us elected many of these so-called religious authorities who will possess the power to limit and control us and our fellow citizens; irrespective of our religion.

It seems to me the problem – time and again – in our society is not the so-called vices that these self-righteous and self-appointed moralist seem to target but rather how these people become intoxicated with the abuse of power – that is, intoxicated with the urge to control other people’s lives.

G. Krishnan