Mahathir's daughter speaks out against 'Arab colonialism'

KUALA LUMPUR - The outspoken daughter of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, has spoken out against the "Arabisation" of Islam in Malaysia amid growing conservatism of the religion in the country.

Ms Marina also said she would emigrate if hudud - the Islamic penal code that allows, among other things, flogging and amputation as forms of punishment - were implemented in Malaysia, in a recent interview with news website Malay Mail Online.

"I cannot live in a country where people want to cut off hands, I am sorry, or stone people to death. I don't want to live in a country where this is official policy," she said.

Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, leader of the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), has submitted a private member's Bill to Parliament to remove legal obstacles to the implementation of hudud in Kelantan state, which is ruled by PAS.

As evidence of the Arabisation of Islam in Malaysia, Ms Marina noted that it was now more common to see women wearing Arab attire, such as kaftans, than the "baju Melayu" during Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

"This is just Arabisation... It is colonialism, Arab colonialism," she said. "Kaftans are easy to wear. But what happened to our tradition, culture, everything? It is lost."

But she pointed out that the biggest problem of the religion in Malaysia was the fear of knowledge of the religion itself.

"Islam has a very strong intellectual history, but there is no intellect at all in the way Islam is taught here. We are taught rituals; we are not taught about the great thinkers and differences between them," she told the website.

The eldest child of Tun Dr Mahathir also accused the authorities of "inventing new enemies all the time", and hit out at a minister for telling Muslims to watch out for "Quranism" shortly after her father had said that the Quran is supreme and that hadiths, or sayings of Prophet Muhammad, came after the Quran.

"It is a new 'ism'," she said.

Ms Marina, a women's rights activist, also criticised the govern- ment's call to Muslims to unite and conform, saying this stifled individuality, giving as examples Muslim women who were slammed for questioning hudud or touching dogs.

Asked about her activism, she said: "It is a form of worship. It is how I act out my life as a Muslim."

This article was first published on May 24, 2015.
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