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“Stop ‘Arabising’ Malay culture,” Rais Yatim

Ms June H.L Wong of The Star interviewed the Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, earlier this week. Due to space constraints, The Star did not publish the entire interview. For those who would like to read the full text of the interview, FAC News , in our section called LOONY MALAYSIA , is publishing the full text of that interview.

“I promise to put on the map again what has been lost such as the Mak Yong and Manora dances which had been banned by PAS in Kelantan and Terengganu. This is where I would say politics and culture don't seem to mix in the hands of those responsible in the past decade.”

“I am also interested in the buried past of the Baba and Nyonya in Penang and Malacca, and the Sanskritised elements of the culture. They are all very rich. I think studies must be encouraged and we would like authoritative, serious people to go into these fields and produce research for us.”

When asked what is meant by ‘Islam Hadhari’ and why have we never heard this term used before, Dr Rais had this to explain:

“Islam ‘Hadhari’ means ‘modern’ or ‘progressive’ Islam as opposed to outdated Islam, Islam ‘Badwi’, which means ‘village’ or ‘outdated’ Islam. As you know, the Arabs call all those country bumpkins ‘Badwi’. The English word for this is ‘Bedouin’ or uncultured people. These are people of the desert.”

“In fact, when any Arab acts uncultured, we refer to them as ‘Badwi’. This is of course not to be confused with ‘Badawi’, which is the family name of our most beloved new Prime Minister.”

“Islam Hadhari is in fact not a new thing. Our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj, was a propagator of Islam Hadhari or modern, progressive Islam. He set a good example of what a Hadhari Muslim should be like.”

“If you can remember, our equally beloved recently-retired Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, once openly criticised Tunku Rahman for gambling with his Chinese friends while there was rioting on the streets on 13 May 1969. Mahathir was then sacked from Umno for this criticism of the Tunku.”

“But that is another matter. The point I am trying to make is the whole country admits that the Tunku gambled. He also owned race horses and never missed his weekends at the Turf Club.”

“The Tunku also never denied he indulged in liquor and told everyone his sin of drinking is between him and God and does not concern any other mortal. All that matters, said the Tunku, is that he was a good prime minister and his gambling and drinking did not make him a bad prime minister.”

“The Tunku, in the 1960s, had already taught us what Islam Hadhari is all about. Then, in the 1980s, all this changed and we became radical Muslims. We need to bring Malaysia back to the days when we were liberal Muslims, modern Muslims, progressive Muslims, or Hadhari Muslims, not radical Muslims like today.”

With regards to the contradicting policies of the government in implementing Islamic rules:

“I agree, in the 1960s, Muslim couples could court in the Lake Gardens without any disturbances. I remember couples would be necking in dark corners, under the trees, and behind the bushes in the Lake Gardens. They would also park their cars along Jalan Duta and the road leading to Carcosa Sri Negara and have sex in their cars and no one would come and disturb them.”

“Today, even non-Muslim, Chinese couples, get arrested merely for holding hands. And they did not even do this is dark corners, yet they get arrested.”

“I agree that this is a contradiction of sorts but it is the overzealous religious department officers who should be blamed. These people are probably influenced by the PAS propaganda and do not understand the concept of Islam Hadhari or modern Islam.”

“This must change or else we will be the laughing stock of the world.”

“PAS does not allow males and females to dance with each other in public. But Malay culture is all about dancing. Even our martial art, Silat, is actually a dance rather than unarmed combat. How can you separate the Malays from their dancing?”

“Men and women must again be allowed to dance in public. If not, all our Malay culture will disappear.”

“And this is the first priority of my ministry, to re-introduce dancing in Terengganu. Maybe we can have a three-day dance festival or pesta like the Mardi Gras. The Terengganu people are going to find that this is the greatest benefit they will receive by kicking out PAS and voting Umno back into power in Terengganu. They will once again be free to dance and to practice the concept of Islam Hadhari or modern Islam.”

“We shall reject PAS’ version of Islam and the Islamic State they wish to introduce to Terengganu. We will ensure Terengganu remains a secular state and that the Islam Hadhari of our Bapak Merdeka, Tunku Abdul Rahman, is practiced to the fullest.”

Terbitan : 25 April 2004

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