Friday, August 7, 2009

Have You Heard of the Stoning of Soraya M.?

Have you heard of Soraya M.? If not, you owe it to yourself to learn more about what happened to this Iranian woman.

The recent buzz about a possible beer ban in primarily “Malay areas” in Selangor got me wondering. Are we too essentially on our way to creating a Malaysia where one segment of our fellow Malaysians will live under completely distinct laws and system of control - the kind that Soraya was subjected to?

I realise that there is vast difference from what happened to Soraya M in Iran and the kind of Syriah system already in place for Muslims here. But one thing is clear: Umno has done wonders to undermine the secular character of our government. In the final analysis, Umno’s legacy in this respect of course has all to do with the ever-present threat of losing power and losing the ‘Malay vote’ to PAS.

It seems as if the secular Malay voices in the government have either become non-existent or have essentially opted to do that which is politically expedient: self-censor. It is a telling commentary indeed on the state of secularism in the country that Umno has politicised religion to the extent it has. And each time PAS has an opportunity it seems to be itching to impose its own self-righteous moral agenda on Malays.

Some might say well what business is it of yours? But non-Malays can’t pretend and put on blinders like many secular Malays. Our lives have become undeniably intertwined. All the complications, heartaches, and controversy surrounding the conversion cases of recent years is but one obvious example of how we cannot pretend that we live in separate bubbles – even if our daily lives have been made increasingly segregated by the kinds of communal separatism and division which Umno has repeatedly fermented and brewed (pun intended).

It is long past the time for secular Malaysians realise what is in store if we allow political opportunists to continue to intimately mix public policy and religion. I’m not so foolish as to think we can turn back the clock completely.

But we owe it to those who gave their lives in the struggle for independence – and to the generations to come – not to turn the country into one where we allow religious zealots to ruin lives.

Soraya was stoned for death having become "an inconvenient wife."

We don’t need to produce our own tragedies like that of Soraya’s.

G. Krishnan