Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nurul Izzah’s Personal Hurricane Sandy

Nurul Izzah’s Personal Hurricane Sandy

It’s only been a week since the Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI) conducted their talk on “Islamic State: Which Version? Whose Responsibility?” at the Full Gospel Tabernacle church in Subang, featuring PKR deputy president Nurul Izzah Anwar as one of the moderators.

A week in politics is a very long time, and as is widely known by now, Nurul stirred up a bigger storm than Hurricane Sandy when in response to a question from the floor, she said that the Malays have a right to choose their religion.

Since then she has been on a roller coaster ride, unable to get off and careening wildly towards a cliff. No less a personage than the Sultan of Selangor has rebuked her for her statement suggesting that there should be no compulsion on Malays to be Muslims.

To add to her woes, Lawyer Siti Zabedah Kasim, the person who posed the now infamous question to Nurul Izzah has herself expressed disappointment over Nurul’s hasty attempt at damage control over the issue.

Siti Zabedah has been quoted as saying that “I believe Nurul Izzah was just trying to impress the people. She didn’t think of the consequences.”

Nurul Izzah’s vehement denials this past week are testament that she has lost that panache and bravado she exhibited during the talk and woken up to the political reality of what she has done. She is savvy enough to know that she has to get herself out of the corner she has painted herself into.

Taking a cue from both her father and the parachute Chief Minister, Nurul has quickly and loudly blamed Utusan Malaysia for allegedly distorting and twisting her reply to Siti zabedah.

Being well known for its nationalist slant, Utusan Malaysia makes an easy scapegoat, but then pro-opposition online news portal Malaysiakini had also carried the same story on Nov 3. Perhaps Nurul overlooked that damning fact in her haste to deflect some of the heat now on her.

PKR component parties are also in damage control mode, with PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat saying that if Nurul Izzah had indeed made her controversial statement on religious freedom for muslims , “then something is not right” while PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang has summoned her to hear personally for himself if the media were accurate in their reporting of her statement .

The line-up of usual suspects jumping to defend PR include DAP’s tweet-in-mouth Ngeh Koo Ham who tweeted (what else?) in support of Nurul Izzah, quoting Article 11 of the Federal Constitution which states that every person has the right to profess and to practice his or her religion. Ngeh, who seems not to have learned his lesson on responsible tweeting, understandably did not qualify his tweet to say that it has to be read with other relevant applicable laws.

Speaking of laws, there are indeed laws restricting the propagation of other religions to Muslims. Article 160 of the Federal Constitution clearly states that all ethnic Malays are Muslims. Understandably the majority of Malays want this to remain not only as law but also as practice and convention.

Another victim of the fallout is the Full Gospel Tabernacle church in Subang which has swiftly found itself in the spotlight for hosting the forum. This is on top of another church which hosted a different forum on the elections that found its speakers and the media again disagreeing on the accuracy of reporting the event.

Recently the Catholic Church won the right to challenge the Education Ministry and Pahang state’s move to acquire a piece of prime land in Kuantan, Pahang where the St Thomas Church is located, in what opposition mouthpiece online portal Malaysian Insider calls “the latest legal dispute pitting non-Muslims against the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition” in its attempt to stir up yet another controversy pitting the Muslims against the Christians. 

In the silly season prior to the 13th general election, holding forums on political issues, even in churches, has sadly become fairly common. Granted that most churches would be cautious about allowing local politics into a house of worship, but there are always the gung ho maverick politicians masquerading as theologians and the converse theologians masquerading as politicians that are prepared to not only organize also play host to such events.

Pitting Muslims against Christians is a very dangerous game - thank God most of us are rational and reasonable adults who can see through such spiteful inciting. It seems nothing is sacred when it comes to furthering PR's political agendas.

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