A statement from the MP of Lembah Pantai.
Taking Issue with a Non-Issue: The Lembah Pantai Azan Protest
By Nurul Izzah Anwar
18 January 2011
Last Friday, Lembah Pantai witnessed an angry protest by two Malay NGOs in the name of defending Islam against a lifetime MCA member who admitted that he had wrote to the Prime Minister with carbon copies to not less than 5 Cabinet Ministers appealing for their intervention in lowering the loudspeaker volume of the local mosque’s azan (call to prayer).
I immediately issued a statement calling for calm and clarification on the azan issue by all involved. I also invited the protesters to join me first in investigating the truth on the complaint with the aim to resolve it amicably. But it was to no avail.
Fortunately, the protest which ended with an effigy burning ritual had not turned violent and did not incite widespread protest beyond Lembah Pantai into adjoining neighbourhoods. Now if added with sinister rumours and SMSes it could have turned into a major crisis across the nation like what we experienced once many years ago.
There was no preemptive move prior to the demonstration by the Prime Minister, his government, including JAWI. Rather, the matter was allowed to degenerate when Datuk Seri Jamil Khir denied what the Imam of the mosque had clearly admitted to –that the Imam received a JAWI directive to lower the azan volume. As a consequence, the protest was allowed to proceed and encouraged with the complainant’s faxed letter to the Prime Minister being conveniently leaked, photocopied and distributed widely.
There was no attempt by the Prime Minister, who was the primary recipient of the complain letter, to immediately clarify the matter or calm the potentially explosive incident. Instead, a disconcerting silence was maintained bordering on possible deniability of culpability if the protest had turned ugly. This was not only irresponsible but could have been also criminal.
Hoping to use both the race and religious card, this protest could have been the spark that would have engulfed the nation with sectarian flames.
The irony is that the protest now is deemed a non-event and a non-issue based on a non-directive as announced yesterday by the Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik where we witnessed the complainant apologising for his ‘misunderstanding’ for failing to differentiate between an azan and a ceramah (lecture) in the presence of the protest organisers. This is only adding insult to injury.
As the elected Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai, I believe that we must learn from this incident so we can better manage contentious issues in a multiracial country. Indeed, peaceful protests is a right enshrined in our Federal Constitution. But when it is caused by a ‘non-issue’ based on a ‘non-directive’ it becomes a non-democratic means to subversion.
Now, I take issue that the issue is conveniently declared a non-issue.
I take issue that the complaint was never immediately resolved through civil discussion between the parties involved.
I take issue that no attempt was made to pre-empt the widely announced protest especially by a statement from the Prime Minister and the cabinet ministers involved.
I take issue that the name of Islam was tarnished with threats of death, ISA and violence against the complainant by what would now appear to be a resolvable ‘misunderstanding’.
I take issue that if the intention to protest was to ‘defend’ Islam then the NGOs involved should show the same determination and tenacity to protest on other major sins in Islam such as corruption, lack of democracy, abuse of power, detention without trial, elections cheating, a muzzled media, murder, rape, racism, profiteering, hoarding, price gouging, economic plundering, shares manipulation, overpriced mega-projects and undeserving commissions that clearly tarnishes Islam and impoverishes the rakyat.
Like selective persecution there is now selective protestation to benefit the powerful few.
I have written officially to the Prime Minister requesting that an investigation be made on why the protest was allowed to take place when the identity of the organisers were known in advance. I have also alluded to the fact that JAWI and his cabinet ministers were not willing to take responsibility by keeping completely silent on the issue under their jurisdiction, and as a followup asked for clear guidelines, in particular regarding the use of loudspeakers by mosques to be made available to the public.
Finally, I had also invited the Prime Minister to make a joint-statement with me, calling for calm and maintaining of harmony not only in Lembah Pantai but in the entire nation.
Now, isn’t that the real and right issue to take?
*Note. The emphasis in bold is my own.