A sociologist has warned of the emergence of an apartheid-like environment in Malaysia, saying signs pointing to it were clear.

Syed Farid Alatas, a professor at the National University of Singapore, said Islamic scholars and political leaders, including ruling politicians, needed to take steps to reverse the trend, such as speaking publicly against divisions between people along religious and racial lines.

“If we are going to have policies like separate trolleys for halal and non-halal shopping, eventually that will lead to separate supermarkets, like Muslim-only laundry businesses,” he told FMT.

“These are all early warning signs of an apartheid-like situation which bears religious and racial colourings.”

Syed Farid is the son of the late Syed Hussein Alatas, the renowned Malaysian scholar and social and political activist who was one of the founders of Gerakan as well as the defunct Pekemas.

He said one of the reasons for divisions in Malaysian society was the Malay community’s sense of insecurity and he alleged that some politicians and religious scholars were stoking it.

“Malays are feeling insecure about their economic status in the country,” he said, “and they are being told that they may lose control over the country’s politics if they are not careful.”

According to him, it is to compensate for such fears that the community has started to lay stress on certain aspects of their identity, particularly their religious beliefs.

He also cited external factors such as the spread of dubious religious ideas originating in the Arab world.

“There are regressive and exclusivist ideas coming from the Arab world which are influential in Malaysia,” he said.

In the past week, two laundrettes, one in Muar and the other in Kangar, were found to have displayed signs prohibiting non-Muslims from using their services. They have been rebuked by the Sultan of Johor and Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin as well as several civic groups.

The laundrette in Muar has since abandoned the policy.

In January last year, the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism announced proposed guidelines for the segregation of supermarket trolleys for halal and non-halal items. The ministry’s secretary-general, Alias Ahmad, said the government was considering making it a licensing requirement for businesses to comply with the guidelines.

CREDIT: Minderjeet Kaur (FMT)



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