KUALA LUMPUR - The fear that Malaysia would end up like Pakistan and Afghanistan was what drove former ambassador Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin to rally other prominent moderate Malays to make a stand against religious extremism in the country.
"I do not want Malaysia to be known as a country that politicises Islam and I do not want to see Malaysia become like Pakistan and Afghanistan with its growing Islamic extremism driving out their professionals and talented people," said Noor Farida, who with 24 other prominent Malays of the country penned an open letter calling for a rational dialogue on the position of Islam in Malaysia on Monday.
Singling out ultra-Malay groups Perkasa and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) for their "extremist rhetoric", Noor Farida said that if the groups politicising Islam were left unchecked, it could lead Malaysia down the path of another violent clash like May 13.
"If we go down that road again, it will not benefit anyone. As a multi-racial country, we swim and sink together," she said.
She also rubbished their "siege mentality" which she said is only in their narrow minds.
"We have our privileges - the special rights of the Malays and position of Bahasa Malaysia, for example, are not challengeable, so we should not feel like our rights are under threat," she said.
Calling the loose group, which comprised former high-ranking civil servants, including directors-general, secretaries-general and ambassadors, "rational thinking Muslims in this country", she explained that she had sought her former colleagues and other like-minded Muslims to sign and send out the letter to the press to show that the extremist Muslims do not reflect them and their belief.
"We wanted our voices to be heard. We wanted to stand up and be counted and allay the fears of the non-Muslims and moderate Muslims in the country."
To keep the momentum going, Noor Farida also urged more moderate Malaysian Muslims to speak up and take a stand.
She shared that she and the rest of the group felt gratified by the expression of support on social media, especially from the young, and the positive response and editorials in the media.
Stressing that the group is non-political and has no hidden agenda, Noor Farida said they were now writing a letter to send to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to reiterate their proposals and urge the Government to take action, especially to establish an inclusive consultative committee to find solutions to the intractable problems that have been allowed to fester for far too long.
"We have included in our letter to the PM an annexe of an explanation of how it is possible to reform and amend the Islamic law under the Constitution."