MAN WITHOUT A CORE: Najib betrays his own Moderates Movement with Sunni Islam call

Written by Zairil Khir Johari

MAN WITHOUT A CORE: Najib betrays his own Moderates Movement with Sunni Islam call

Amongst the more ridiculous propositions to emerge from the recently concluded Umno General Assembly was the suggestion that Article 3 of the Federal Constitution should be amended to stipulate that Islam in Malaysia refers to the practice of the Sunnah Wal Jamaah, or Sunni denomination.

Such a move, according to various Umno leaders including party Vice-President and Home Minister Dato’ Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, was necessary in order to “protect the sanctity of the teaching of Sunnah wal Jamaah and to stop the spread of other teachings in the country.”

This suggestion comes hot on the heels of the Home Minister’s vilification of the Shia sect as a deviant ideology, while attempting to link Pas leaders, in particular party Deputy President Mat Sabu, as Shia followers.

Most incredibly, this call was met favourably by Umno President Dato’ Sri Najib Razak who, in his closing speech, promised that the party constitution would be amended to define Islam as that of the Sunni denomination. Although the Prime Minister did not go so far as to agree to amend the Federal Constitution, he certainly did not rule it out when asked.

A voice of sanity (but for how long?)

Thankfully, a voice of sanity has emerged in the form of former Umno Supreme Council member and now Chief Executive Officer of the Global Movement of Moderates, Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, who appears to have broken ranks with his party colleagues.

In a press conference recently, Dato’ Saifuddin said that “there is no need to amend the Federal Constitution to specify Islam as the Sunni denomination” as “it is sufficient that the Federal Constitution already plainly states Islam as the religion of the federation.”

Dato’ Saifuddin also expressed concern that attempts to define Islam in the constitution in such a specific manner would not be inclusive, and that he did not believe in the “holier-than-thou approach” in handling this issue that he deems to be “exaggerated.”

Najib’s false moderation

In 2010, Najib spearheaded the formation of the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) by calling upon “members and leaders of the world’s major faiths to censure and reject their own extremists.”

However, far from practising what he preaches, Najib’s own government has consistently submitted to the demands of the very extremists he is asking the world to reject.

Following on from the “kalimah Allah” controversy which has made Malaysia a laughing stock not only amongst Western nations but also in the Muslim world, the Government’s latest attempt to cast limitations on the definition of Islam is a palpable mockery of the religion.

Moreover, the zeal with which the Government is pursuing the persecution of Muslim minorities such as the Shia goes against the very grain of moderation or inclusiveness. In fact, it even contradicts the charter of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which affirms the need “to foster noble Islamic values concerning moderation, tolerance, respect for diversity,” as well as “to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

It is clear that Najib has betrayed the very movement which he started, and that the GMM is now nothing more than a false façade that belies the extremist, bigoted and narrow-minded tendencies of the Barisan Nasional Government.

Zairil Khir Johari

Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera

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