Hardline groups claiming to represent Malay and Islamic causes have mushroomed in recent years. - The Malaysian Insider pic, November 28, 2013.Malays in Malaysia were attracted to hardline groups who claim to champion their rights, as they felt the country's major Malay-based political parties have ditched them for non-Malay votes, said the Singapore daily The Straits Times.
"Muslims are attracted to NGOs... like ours because the political parties cannot prioritise Malay and Muslim rights," Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman, was quoted as saying.
Abdullah is of the view that Malays and the position of Islam in the country were being threatened by liberals, Christians and groups advocating gay rights.
Adding to their list of enemies were what they termed "deviant" Shi'ite Muslims, all of whom they said threatened the sovereignty of Malay rulers by "invoking equality and freedom of religion".
And while their views may seem outlandish to many, hardline groups represented by the likes of Abdullah have been gaining support among Malays.
The paper said Malays felt that both Umno and PAS, two of the country's largest Malay-based political organisations, have failed to defend Malay-Muslim privileges because the parties were now going after non-Malay support.
Associate Professor Shamsul Adabi Mamat, political analyst at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said the hardline groups were comprised of inactive members of political parties who felt their parties had not been assertive enough on Malay and Islamic issues.
Another analyst said Umno would risk losing support from other races if it stressed too much on Malay-Muslim issues.
"Race-based groups like Umno cannot be voicing Islam and Malay rights too much, or they will lose the multiracial votes so they need some prominent pressure groups to do it for them," Shaharuddin Badaruddin of Universiti Teknologi Mara, told the Straits Times.
After more than 40 years of affirmative action, many non-Malays and even some Malays viewed race-based policies as outdated, and instead were calling for a needs-based approach to poverty.
This shift, according to the report, has not sat well with groups like Isma.
Over the next three to four months, Isma plans to hold at least 20 forums on such topics as "Christianisation and survival of the Malay", "Christian threat in Malaysia" and "Threat of liberalism".
The group claims to have 20,000 members nationwide with hundreds more to be recruited by the month, while Perkasa, the other Malay rights group, claims to have "hundreds of thousands" of members, the report added. Perkasa's membership is said to overlap with that of Umno.
The Straits Times said the groups were vocal, and recalled how protests by Perkasa and another Malay rights NGO called Jati, had shut down a festival to highlight gay rights in Kuala Lumpur, Seksualiti Merdeka.
The same groups were also behind protests in the wake of the Allah controversy. A ruling on October 14 banned Catholic weekly Herald from using the word Allah in its Bahasa Malaysia edition.
Abdullah had then urged Christians who disagreed with the court's decision to migrate.
Former commissioner with Suhakam, the human rights commission, said groups like Isma were hurting their own cause by vilifying those who did not share their views.
"Asking people to get out of Malaysia if they disagree with certain issues is not an argument, it's a bully method," the Straits Times quoted Muhd Sha'ani Abdullah as saying. - November 28, 2013.