Saturday 13 October 2012

Don't contaminate S'wak with religious extremism

  • Francis Paul Siah
  • 11:35AM Oct 13, 2012
COMMENT NASHARUDDIN Mat Isa is probably an unknown name in Sarawak. I doubt many people in the state know who he is, particularly now that he is no longer a PAS heavyweight but a party renegade.

But Nasharuddin has carved a name for himself in political and religious circles in the peninsula. He is the former deputy president of PAS and the serving Bachok MP.

By all accounts, Nasharuddin had a meteoric rise in PAS. He was said to be the prodigy of the late Fadzil Mohd Nor who was PAS president from 1989 until his death in 2002.

NONEFadzil was a known moderate in an Islamic party and he went on an ambitious drive to promote young professionals in the party. Nasharuddin (left) was one of them.

When Abdul Hadi Awang took over as PAS president in 2002, Nasharuddin's star continued to shine as the new boss also found him to be a capable and energetic lieutenant.

Nasharuddin was soon appointed secretary-general of PAS and by 2005, he was elected deputy president.

However, Nasharuddin's political career took a nosedive following the resurgence of Pakatan Rakyat after the 2008 general election.

He was said to be one of the few PAS leaders keen on unity talks with Umno. Naturally, this did not endear him to the wider spectrum of the opposition alliance and the Pakatan die-hards in PAS.

No, I wouldn't be focusing on an ‘irrelevant' personality like Nasharuddin Mat Isa here if he has not made a preposterous statement about Sarawak politics this week.

Like many Sarawakians, I am very disappointed that an Islamic scholar of his stature would stir up what could turn out to be another ugly bout of religious animosity between Christians and Muslims in the country.

Lies bedfellow of politics

Last Tuesday, Nasharuddin Mat Isa alleged that a group had prayed for the establishment of a Christian nation during a thanksgiving event after the Sarawak election last year.

"I want to say, to encourage (fellow Muslims) to unite, face the strategy that is being planned by Allah's enemies, particularly in Malaysia.

"After the election, to celebrate their victory, for example DAP, held a thanksgiving event.
"During this event, among the things that was mentioned and prayed for was for Malaysia to be a Christian state.

"Because they have won big, so they prayed for Malaysia to be a Christian state. Some denials were made and there was also support. The reality is, a lot of them won," he was quoted as saying.

Nasharuddin said this in his working paper that was read out during a National Islamic Missionary Movement Seminar at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

These are strong allegations indeed! Those who were offended immediately slammed Nasharuddin, describing his remarks as ‘gutter politics', rubbish and lies.

NONEOne reader, writing in a news portal, called the PAS ulamak a fanatic and a menace to peace and harmony in the country.

As a Christian in Sarawak and somewhat affected and targeted by Nasharuddin's hurtful outcry, I also have some concerns and would like to pose a few questions.

Is Nasharuddin that influential and powerful to start another round of heated discourse among Muslims and Christians in the country?

I don't think so but I am concerned that he was given such a prominent platform to make those uncalled for allegations.

Apart from being an ordinary MP, Nasharuddin is actually a nobody now in PAS or Pakatan Rakyat.

Could this be the reason why he suddenly became so controversial? You know, politicians are adept at making used of controversies to get noticed again.

I think it is Nasharuddin the politician and not the Islamic cleric who came up with the sweeping statements early this week.

A wise, knowledgeable religious scholar would not be using such crude and cold lingo in a public forum.

His biggest mistake was that he had antagonized Christians of Sarawak who also happen to form the majority in the state. Not that Nasharuddin cared at all. Even his colleagues in PAS have chastised and criticized him.

Hoisting religious harmony flag

I have proudly proclaimed this a million times in writing and in public forums - that there is genuine religious harmony in Sarawak and there is no religious extremism or fanaticism in the state. This is something we, Sarawakians, are very proud of.

Today, let me respectfully ask Nasharuddin not to try to export his religious extremism into Sarawak. Muslims and Christians in Sarawak are a different breed.

We have never experienced any difficulty among ourselves before and I don't think we ever will.

This is something uniquely Sarawakian and only we Sarawakians can comprehend. Please don't contaminate our beloved state with your religious extremism.

If it is true that Sarawak DAP had erred in the manner as alleged by Nasharuddin, Muslim leaders in Sarawak would be able to handle the ‘problem' if indeed there is one.

There is no need for the likes of Nasharuddin to poke his misplaced nose into a Sarawakian issue which he will never be able to understand.

In any event, Nasharuddin must be aware that there is also PAS in Sarawak and the state chapter should be able to handle any differences with DAP in the state if there is any.

DAP's roller coaster political ride

This is how Pakatan Rakyat should work. Is Nasharuddin still with Pakatan or is he contemplating seeking his political fortunes elsewhere?

Even without the Sarawak DAP's open denial of Nasharuddin's claims, those who know the DAP well in the state will realize the untruth in his words.

DAP is not known for its religious forte. It has never been a religious-based party.

The party's first attraction was socialism. Then the party flashed its hard hitting brand of democratic ideals which caught on with Malaysians, particularly the Chinese.

Along the way, racialism and chauvinism sadly but inevitably crept in.

But the party prevailed through all these decades primarily due to its political astuteness and consistencies coupled with strong leadership and staunch grassroots. These are the hallmarks of the DAP.

NONESince its entry in Sarawak in 1978, none of its key state leaders were known to have strong religious backgrounds.

Even if they did, they never revealed it. Although some are Christians, they have not used their faith as a vote-catching mechanism. Neither have they harped on religious rhetoric in electoral campaigns.

In a nutshell, it would not be wrong to say that Sarawak DAP never has had a Christian flavour or fervour.

Their leaders do not politicise religion. So Nasharuddin's allegations can be dispelled outright in a single swoop.

Let me say this again. Muslims and Christians in Sarawak have no problem with each other and indeed those of other faiths too. There are no religious bigots in Sarawak.

To those holier-than-thou radicals and extremists in West Malaysia who think they are the only true champions of God, Allah, Tuhan, Yahweh etc, please make an effort to learn from Sarawakians - the so-called backward Borneo people who practice their faith solemnly in quiet hope and peace, never uttering a single negative word against those of a different religion.

You'll be surprised that the Heavenly One loves Sarawakians just as much, if not more.

So Nasharuddin Mat Isa, the next time you have something negative to say about Christianity and Sarawak, please use your head - the one on your shoulders!

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