Sunday, 6 September 2009

Singapore's Secularism - Regional Dangers Abound

Only women who are not pretty (kurang rupawan) should be employed by the State government as these women would not be able to get rich husbands who can support them financially.
(Kelantan Chief Minister Nik Aziz Nik Mat (PAS) as reported by The New Straits Times, July 20, 1999)
That was Malaysia in 1999 when the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) was an extreme party and Nik Aziz a maverick politician.
Fast forward to 2009 and you have the beginnings of a religious police in Selangor state.
Despite decades of modernization, Islam remains a potent political force in Malaysia
Serious intellectual debates centres on whether Muslim citizens are eligible to attend concerts sponsored by alcohol brewers. If that subject doesn't catch your fancy, then one can discuss the pros and cons of caning a Muslim woman as punishment for the blasphemous act of drinking beer in public.
Despite his controversial remarks, Nik Aziz remains the Chief Minister of Kelantan state. PAS has controlled Kelantan state for almost 20 years, having first won the highest state office in 1990.
Nik Aziz is now a High Priest of Malaysian politics.
Singapore's former Prime Minister and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew met with Nik Aziz in Kelantan's capital, Kota Bharu, in June 2009. The meeting underlines Aziz's importance in today's Malaysian political landscape.
It is telling that MM Lee specifically enquired how PAS will view Singapore in case it formed the next Malaysian federal government. Unfortunately, it is not just me who worries about tomorrow's Islamic Republic of Malaysia.
Wearing a headscarf is not enough to avoid arousing men. Even a very modestly dressed woman can stir up desires in the opposite sex by applying glossy lipstick or perfume. This could lead to molestation and rape.
(Kelantan Chief Minister Nik Aziz Nik Mat (PAS) as reported by Mingguan Malaysia, August 30, 2003)
While the Kelantan Chief Minister has not yet followed the calls of some Saudi clerics by suggesting that women should only wear one eyed veils (eye shadow can be pretty sexy too!) we may not be too far away from such a day.
Women's rights are most at risk if conservative Islam further consolidates its hold on Malaysia
The impact of a shift to the (religious) right by Malaysia's politicians may filter through into Singapore in the coming years. Singapore must not deviate from its chosen path of secularism.
A ‘pseudo-parallel’ judicial system for Muslims already exists. Certain aspects of Muslim family and inheritance law are specifically regulated under the Administration of Muslim Law Act.

There may be pressure from some sections of Singapore’s Malay-Muslim community to further advance this parallel legal system. Such demands must be resisted.

Short term political expediency will only damage the legitimacy of the Singapore state by undermining the secular credentials of the Republic.

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