Political correctness has revealed itself in the West to have been a liberal Trojan horse carrying a battalion of neo-Fascists in its belly, who emerge at the slightest perceived offence. They triumph at browbeating any and every differing opinion into silence.
Not surprisingly, this Trojan horse has begun to appear in Malaysia over the last few years, using many of the same tactics adopted in the West.
They promote “tolerance” for “alternative lifestyles” or for “marginalised people;” usually referring to homosexuals and transgender individuals.
But this “tolerance” means, in practice, compelled speech (forcing people to use particular gender neutral pronouns, etc), suspension of legitimate debate (over definitions of gender, for example) by classifying it as “hate speech,” and granting minorities supremacy over the majority under the pretext of “protecting” their civil and human rights against discrimination.
Atheism has also emerged recently as a new category in “Identity politics,” with liberals asserting the inherent right of non-believers to ridicule and lampoon religion; claiming that if they are not allowed to do so, it constitutes an unfair restriction on free speech.
Make no mistake about it; their agenda is divisive and is not driven by a sincere interest in the rights of the people. Strip them off their proud label of “freedom fighters,” and you will find a totalitarian.
In a recent opinion piece published in the Malay Mail Online (December 17, 2017), journalist Zurairi AR excoriated the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process (Macsa) for expressing concerns about how the Universal Periodic Review Process framed certain human rights issues; labeling Macsa’s views an “insidious attempt to rewrite reality.”
Zurairi focused on three issues raised by Macsa. Firstly, he declared that protecting religion from mockery and derision (as sought by Macsa) amounts to a curtailment of free speech. Secondly, he objected to Macsa’s refusal to accept the fashionable theory that gender is not connected to biology. And thirdly, he claimed that Macsa seeks to make Islam and Islamic Law the supreme arbiter of all matters in Malaysia.
So it is appropriate to look at reality here, to determine who exactly is seeking to rewrite it.
Laws against blasphemy and disrupting public order and social cohesion still exist in Malaysia, as they still do in many other countries. In Malaysia, no one is allowed to insult the religion of another; that is considered “hate speech” and is not protected under the rights of free speech. Just as one is not allowed to use racist language or ethnic slurs.
Macsa wants to keep it that way. Zurairi, menacingly, would like to see free speech extended to those who seek to slander and insult the sacred beliefs of his fellow Malaysians. This is a reality he would like rewritten.
Malaysia currently recognises biologically based categories of gender as determined by sex at birth. Macsa wants to keep it that way.
Zurairi, apparently, wants laws to be changed to accommodate claims by transgender activists that gender exists on a spectrum with no connection to biological sex; a claim for which no scientific evidence has yet been conclusively produced. Again, this is a reality Zurairi would like to rewrite.
The Malaysian Constitution states that Islam is the religion of the Federation pursuant to Article 3(1) and that the state, therefore, is responsible for maintaining, protecting, and promoting the Islamic culture and values of the country, which includes safeguarding other religious communities against discrimination and persecution.
Furthermore, the special position of Islam is fortified in the Herald’s Case  8 CLJ 890, which states that Article 3 is no mere declaration, but imposes a “positive obligation” on the Malaysian State to protect, defend and promote Islam and its injunctions by appropriate state action, which necessarily includes conferring already existing Syariah courts with the necessary jurisdiction to carry out the injunctions of Islam.
Macsa wants to keep it that way. Zurairi, it would seem yet again, wishes to rewrite this reality; to rewrite, in fact, the Constitution of the Federation.
Lastly, while Macsa members are committed to uphold the rights of women in this country within the more comprehensive framework of the Federal Constitution, Zurairi felt it’s only necessary to confine them to the limited and often controversial scope of feminism.
The ideological conflicts between Islam and feminism tend to undermine the sanctity of marriages and the universal family values. We regret that he had to resort to baseless allegations, among which is by accusing Macsa members of downplaying the contribution of others, only to conceal his poverty of arguments.
Zurairi’s dangerous thinking must not be allowed to dominate the current discourse of our human rights narrative. What Zurairi has done, and allow the others to do, is to champion severe restrictions on the rights and freedoms of the majority. This is a major threat to a moderate Malaysia.
* Azril Mohd Amin is chief executive of the Centre for Human Rights Research & Advocacy (Centhra) and chairperson of Macsa while associate professor Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar is president of International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (Wafiq) and co-chairperson of Macsa.
*First appeared in The Malay Mail Online on December 22, 2017.