The title of the essay that got Time in trouble was “Losing Faith: The Islamization of Malaysia” which criticized the so-called moderate Muslim country for its religious intolerance toward minorities.
During a party conclave in December, several UMNO leaders called specifically for Sunni Islam to be enshrined as the state religion. This came after the arrest of two Shi’ite Muslims for possessing books on Shi’ite Islam and a ban on the word Allah in reference to a non-Muslim deity, even though such usage has long been common. In January, Islamic officials in Selangor state raided a Christian organization and seized some 320 Malay-language Bibles that referred to God as Allah. The parish priest of a Selangor Catholic church, Father Lawrence Andrew, is being investigated under the Sedition Act for defending such use of the word.
The Malaysian authorities say they are trying to pre-empt religious tension. But, if anything, they are undermining a largely peaceful status quo. What’s happening in Malaysia also echoes a disturbing trend in two other Muslim-majority Southeast Asian countries. Officials in Indonesia’s Aceh province are thinking of subjecting non-Muslims to Shari’a, while, elsewhere in the country, Shi’ites, Ahmadis and Christians have been attacked. In October, the Sultan of Brunei announced that his kingdom would permit cutting off limbs for theft, stoning to death for adultery, as well as flogging for homosexuality and the drinking of alcohol. All this smacks of an intrusion of Saudi-style Islam that is not widely accepted in Southeast Asia — the region has been the more tolerant for it.
And moderate Muslim Malaysia responded exactly the way you would expect… by threatening the magazine.
Time Magazine, which came under scrutiny last week for an article depicting the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Najib Razak apparent failure to deal with race relations and growing religious intolerance, will have to watch its columns.
The international weekly is said to be under ongoing scrutiny, with the matter of the article written by Zoher Abdoolcarim still under investigation by a unit tasked to monitor foreign publications at the Home Ministry.
A source said a handler at the ministry is preparing a report that will be submitted to the Ketua Setiausaha (Chief Secretary) of the ministry, soon and it is only then a decision will be taken on Time article.
Time Magazine was urged, in a meeting with several people, to report on ‘more positive’ aspects of Najib Razak’s leadership, the source said.
The article entitled “Losing Faith’ and published in the March 2 issue of the magazine, implies religious harmony is under severe strain in Malaysia, and lambast Prime Minister Najib Razak for his apparent mishandling of the deteriorating situation.
Time Magazine came under scrutiny in Malaysia when its distributor was ticked-off over an article that did not please the Malaysian authorities on the current government’s handling of religious tolerance level.
Time went further in its criticism of Malaysia, stating the country is not a progressive society under Prime Minister Najib Razak pointing out there is a critical front undergoing testing times, and that is religion.
“He has backtracked since to appease UMNO conservatives, many of whom want him out.” he wrote, adding that ‘religious jingoism is a bigger sin than political calculation, because how a society treats its ‘other’ reveals its core.’
Time, through the pen of its Asia Editor, Zoher Abdoolcarim said Malaysia – where US President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit in April this year – is an example among Muslim states and matters more because it is a study in how a country can or cannot reconcile Islam with the contemporary age.
Let’s see if Obama has anything to say about this when he visits Malaysia again or whether he will go on handing out empty praise to its supremacist Islamic politicians.