Be firm on Islamophobia in Malaysia

Lukman Sheriff Alias

12 Apr 2019, 6:35 pagi

Updated 2 years ago


LETTER | We were all distraught with what happened in New Zealand. There were 50 unnecessary deaths including an innocent Malaysian teenager.

This outrageous massacre at a place of worship was the work of a terrorist who does not deserve to be named here, out of his hatred of Islam and Muslims. To families of those who departed, we take this opportunity to offer our heartfelt commiseration.

It is imperative that moving forward Islamophobia must cease.

Islamophobia is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as the “dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force” and it is actually a form of racism. It, unfortunately, has become pervasive worldwide and the hatred it creates has not only prejudiced the ordinary life of the mass majority of peace-loving Muslims, but has now brought a deadly consequence.

It is against this backdrop we, peace-loving Malaysians, wish to voice out and raise our concern on the rise of Islamophobia in Malaysia itself. This must be arrested and opposed before it gets out of hand.

It is highly regrettable that for the past few months, Islamophobia has raised its ugly head prominently here.

There were a series of postings insulting prophet Muhammad SAW that led to numerous police reports and at least one conviction thus far. These postings mimic the hate narrative for Islam widely available on social media. Some postings despicably called the Prophet a “paedophile”. The meme used was clearly intended to denigrate Islam and Muslims.

This is not dissimilar to the case in Europe, where judges in the European Court of Human Rights unanimously upheld that calling prophet Muhammad SAW by such a label is an “abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam” which could “stir up prejudice and threaten religious peace,”.

The Court added that the “disparagement of religious doctrines such as insulting the Prophet Muhammad isn’t protected by freedom of expression and can be prosecuted.”

If the European Court can recognise the above Islamophobic statement as hate speech, what more here in a Muslim-majority country. The penalty must be much stiffer than in Europe as it stirs the prejudice and threatens the religious peace of a more substantial portion of the public.

It is unfortunate however that certain media tends to repress such stories. Notwithstanding that it became viral, this issue was only highlighted by some when it’s brought up to the courts. And worse, instead of focusing on the perpetrator of the hate speech, the media then put the blame on Muslims for being too sensitive. This is unbelievably wrong.

This Muslim-blaming is actually an Islamophobic style of news reporting and yet these media unashamedly adopted such unethical method to ease the perpetrators.

Amidst the insult of prophet Muhammad SAW court cases, another series of grave instances of Islamophobia arose. As a reaction to a move of uniting Muslim political interests under a common political platform, one prominent leader initially declared the collaboration as an act of war against all who are not Malay Muslims while another invoked a Taliban (religious regime) comparison.

Both of them appallingly used extreme race and religious scaremongering to invoke religious and/ or racial hatred and trepidation. A number of media even refused to carry such stories and one in particular later on unethically amended the original reporting to alleviate criticism on the perpetrator.

Another instance is when dealing with objections from the public to a certain policy. Most of the time the objection has nothing to do with race and religion. Certain parties are too consumed with race and religion-baiting. Some media columnists are on a runaway track to quickly blame Muslim and Malay and fail to argue intelligently with sound facts and reasoning. This is a classic instance of Islamophobia.

We Malaysians are appalled by the heightened Islamophobia incidents in our country. We call for an end of its propagation and that swift action be taken under our laws. 

No more Islamophobia.

Lukman Sheriff Alias is a member of the Malaysian Lawyers Circle.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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