Kota Kinabalu - Both the MCA and opposition said Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hj Mohd Ali Rustam got it all wrong when he suggested that becoming a Malay is as easy as simply "converting to Islam, conversing in Malay and following the Malay tradition".
"The notion that when non-Malays convert to Islam they become Malays is not right," said Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Liow Tiong Lai, Sunday.
Asked to comment on Rustam‘s statement that if a Chinese, Indian or Kadazan converts to Islam and follows the Malay tradition, they can become Malays, the MCA Youth Chief, said:
"Such thinking is not right since Malay is a race while Islam is a religion. Hence two separate matters.
"It doesn‘t mean that when you convert to Islam, then you become Malay.
If I am a Chinese (and convert to Islam), I‘m still a Chinese," he said, after officiating the annual general meeting of six MCA division at Pacific Sutera hotel.
He said that in Malaysia there are a lot of Chinese Muslims while in China more than 50 million. In the peninsula recently, Chinese Muslims had requested to be allowed to pray in their own mosques.
Liow said Mohd Ali probably got his contentions mixed up and that it is unnecessary to rebut the latter‘s statement.
Speaking after opening the Dunia Muslim Dunia Islam (DMDI) seminar, here, on Saturday, Rustam had also said that "The Kadazans if they are Muslims, we consider them as Malays, and if they have not embraced Islam, they are Bumiputeras. It is easy to become a Malay."
Liow, who is also MCA Youth Chief, said most important is that the country remains harmonious despite being a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation.
He said everyone in Malaysia has great mutual respect and understanding of each other‘s ethnicity, culture and religion.
Liow said this was possible because the leaders took care of the feelings and rights of the citizens as stipulated in the Constitution.
"In other words, the present Malaysian Government is a fair government.
Other countries are eager to come and learn how Malaysia is able to maintain harmony among the people of various races."
Liow said despite there being 14 component parties in the BN, they got along well as a team while in other countries, different parties‘ contest in the election and those who win joined forces to form a government.
However, that type of government is very fragile because their relationship is based on short-term interest. "Whereas in Malaysia, we share the same vision and common goal for the country," he said.
Meanwhile, Sabah DAP leaders described Rustam‘s remarks as "racist, inflammatory, nonsensical and a gross insult to other races in this country."
They told a press conference at Tanjung Aru Plaza that Rustam‘s remarks were also completely against the Government‘s aspiration of promoting a truly united ‘Malaysian race‘ as envisioned in "Vision 2020".
DAP National Publicity Secretary-cum-MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok, who is also Sabah DAP liaison chief, noted that even the Federal Cabinet recently decided to adopt the term "Bahasa Malaysia" instead of "Bahasa Melayu", for the national language.
"Such a racist statement should, therefore, be condemned by all Malaysians especially the people of Sabah. We should all regard ourselves as Malaysians first, then only our race and this is what we in the DAP have been promoting all these while with our "Malaysian First" campaign.
"We should all demand to be treated equally in all aspects of our life be it in politics or socio-economic development as we were all born in this country and are working for the betterment of this country," she said.
DAP Liawan Branch Chairman Paul Kadau and Tamparuli Branch Chairman Edward Muji, who is DAP Sabah Bumiputeras Affairs Bureau Chairman, said Rustam‘s remarks were a gross insult to the people‘s intelligence.
"I felt outraged by his remarks. What about the illegals like Pakistanis, Filipinos and Indonesians. If they are Muslims, are they also automatically Malay?"
"And what about the Chinese and the Indians? Even if they have embraced Islam, even if they were to be considered Malay, they still cannot qualify to be Bumiputeras unless there had been a change in our laws which I‘m not aware of."
Kadau said quite a number of his relatives are Muslims but are proud to be recognised as a Kadazan-Dusun-Muruts. "So, what is the motive of him coming here to make such a controversial statement without considering the feelings of others in Sabah?" he asked.
He hoped Rustam was not attempting to further marginalise the KDM community by suggesting that they all abandon their existing faith.
Muji, a Dusun, agreed, saying although his daughter had converted after marrying a Muslim, she did not consider herself a Malay. "How can she change her identity overnight?" Muji asked.
Source: www.dailyexpress.com (14 Juni 2007)