“It won’t affect non-Muslims”

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The Kelantan state government has ordered all shops in the state to stop business during solat Maghrib prayer time.

It mentions specially that non-Muslim outlets are included.

This makes me recall that in the past whenever a religious measure was enforced, PAS would always tell the people that non-Muslims would not be affected.

When Hadi tabled his private member bill on RUU 355, he said the same thing.

I have doubts whether this is a promise or a tactic to break down the psychological defence of non-Muslims.

If this is a promise, how long would it last?

This time around, how do the non-Muslims in Kelantan feel? Do they feel resentful or just getting used to it?

I recall my trip last month to Kota Baru to observe life in Kelantan under PAS.

Frankly, when one is so used to life in the west coast, Kelantan looks like a strange place.

As I entered Kota Baru, the streets were empty of crowds. Where have the people gone? Shops on both sides of the streets were closed.

I only understood why when I heard prayers coming from outside the car.

I entered the hotel owned by a state government investment arm. The standard was among the top in the city. However, the atmosphere was different from other star-rated hotels in other cities. To comply with Islamic requirement, no liquor was provided nor was there any entertainment facility. The counter staffs were garbed in religious costumes and the sound of prayer was heard in the corridor and lobby instead of light music.

The religious atmosphere in Kota Baru is stronger than any other Malaysian cities which led me think of a little Mecca.

I have not been to Mecca and the analogy is just my imagination. However, I recalled a certain PAS lawmaker saying that PAS’ ultimate objective was to develop Kota Baru into a little Mecca of the region.

As a visitor, I felt unused to it but I reminded myself that 80 percent of the population in Kota Baru is Muslims and even in the city they number nearly 65 percent. The traditions of the majority must be respected.

I made an appointment to meet a friend in the biggest shopping mall in the city. Upon arrival, I felt a sense of familiarity. It is a modern shopping mall as there was no lack of both domestic and foreign branded goods. One could also find familiar outlets in the mall.

My friend’s shop is in the mall and he used to have pictures of Bollywood stars decorating the shop but they were taken down by the municipality. It became news then. In the beginning, he was upset and felt it should not be like that. However, after a while, he thought it over and concluded that people should not fight the government and the business has to continue and things just passed.

I asked that from the government’s angle, when business grows, would it not enhance the government’s image and boost its revenue. Why then does the government make it difficult for people to do business?

He replied that the reasoning is correct. However, it is not the same with PAS state government.

“PAS must undertake certain measures to demonstrate that it represents Islam and its policies follow Islamic principles and spirit and thus it deserves the support of the people.” He said.

If that is so, how about non-Muslims?

“Just keep a low profile.”

That night, we went to a Chinese restaurant and had some liquor. And then, we went to a nameless karaoke lounge to sing and continue our drinking.

I slowly understood the thinking of the Kelantan Chinese. There is no need to resist and also they are unable to resist; just accept the reality and search for your limited space.

This time around, the ruling requires all shops to close during solat Maghrib prayer time. The space for non-Muslims has been further restricted.

I visited business centers in Kota Baru where majority of the traders and customers were non-Muslims.

Henceforth, when the time comes and the whistle is blown, customers half way through their meals will have to put down their chopsticks, knives and forks, or settle their bills at the last minute?

Will other shops chase away their customers, pull down the shutters to avoid being fined?

Why are non-Muslims restricted by religious obligations of the Muslims?

It is not reasonable but reasons are not important here because PAS wants to declare it is a religious government and this must be done.

There are two revelations. Firstly, when PAS says next time that their religious policies would not affect non-Muslims, we know in our hearts that it should not be treated as the truth.

Secondly, we should take religious measures taken by UMNO or PAS seriously and think carefully its impact and consequences.

Otherwise, when we accept it for the first time, there will be a second and third time……