Friday, August 7, 2009

More than a Can of Beer

Sales of beer in convenience stores has become a major issue in the Pakatan State of Selangor. Beyond the can of beer are many important indicators and signs that the Rakyat (both Muslim and non-Muslim) must understand. Raperas, must of course read the signs beyond religious and racial sentiments.

It apparently began with the MBSA seizing 70 cans of beer being sold legally in a retail outlet. The Star reported it:

When the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) enforcement unit seized 70 cans of beer from a retail outlet in Section 8, state executive councillor Ronnie Liu got involved and got MBSA to return the beer and apologise to the owner. Selangor PAS said that the ban will only concern Muslims and not impinge on the rights of non-Muslims, although he conceded to would have to travel farther for their fix. It accused the DAP’s Liu of “meddling in Islamic affairs.”

The Edge reported:

"Ronnie Liu, the state local government, study and research committee chairman, ordered the local council officers to return the seized beer, sparking an outburst from Datuk Dr Hasan Mohamed Ali, chairman of the state Islamic affairs and Malay culture, infrastructure and public facilities committee.

Hasan also called for the removal of Liu from his portfolio. The sale of beer in Muslim-majority areas became a contentious issue, prompting Khalid to issue a gag order on his exco pending his announcement of the new guidelines

I have been advised to stay away from commenting on this on the grounds that this is sensitive….but I would like to think that, being a Muslim, it would be munafiquun (hypocritical) of me to shy away from learning from this episode.

These are my comments and observations (stand to be corrected, of course):

1. Obviously, Pakatan has not worked out a formula for cooperation between their leaders of different racial and religious background – again and again it has shown that at the human level, it appears unable to live together. God save multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic Malaysia from such leaders!

2. How did MBSA get away with infringing on the retail outlets legal right to sell what is lawfully allowed? (assuming it is not illegal to sell the beer in the first place). What has happened to Pakatan’s commitment to the rule of law?

3. Was Ronnie Liu’ s insistence that the retail outlet be allowed to act in accordance with the law tantamount to “meddling with Islamic affairs”? Is there no respect for existing law?

4. Is Pakatan (PAS) setting a precedent for this country that the minute someone cries “meddling in Islamic affairs”, we, the citizens of this country must immediately dispense with our responsibility to God and country? I think we should first of all evaluate whether our acts really do tantamount to meddling in Islamic or other religions’ affairs.

5. This will once again raise the alarm bells among BOTH Muslims and Non-Mulims living in Selangor about how PAS will react to so-called “Muslim sentiments”. As a Muslim, I believe there must be respectful efforts at reform and it has no place for arrogance, even if it well disguised under religious pretexts. It is very scary when a group of Muslims take it upon themselves to speak for the rest of the Muslim world in issues such as this.

6. If it is true as the Star reported that “that the ban will only concern Muslims and not impinge on the rights of non-Muslims”, well, since I am a Muslim, and it does concern me in the sense that it affects how my non-Muslim friends perceive how Muslims react to such issues, I have spoken up. Like gambling, I do not see consumption of alcohol as an “Islamic issue” but a social issue that needs to be addressed.

7. On the issue of sales and availability of liquor, the following has been my position for years:

(a) I have been against the sale of uncontrolled liquor in convenience stores (24 hours!) because it is EASILY available to teenagers. I believe there must be controls on such items.
(b) I have been against the opening hours of pub and discos extending beyond 11 pm due to many reasons – social problems, drunkenness, again teenagers and young adults get into bad patterns of behaviour. Incidentally, in UK pubs are closed at 10.30pm and in South India, the public is unable to buy any liquor after 1030pm. (both do not boast of being “Islamic”!)

8. I pray to Allah that He gives wisdom to those who claim to champion “Islamic” causes such that their efforts do not move people further away from the Light of Islam, which is a mercy for all humankind.

I do not know Ronnie Liu at all but I know Dr Hasan Ali. In fact I often visit his website and it is even on my blogroll. I am surprised at the way he reacted (unless he has other reasons which I do not know).

Peace !


jchl said...

Re Point 6 - Indeed, accepting for a moment that it doesn't concern non-Muslims directly, it might make one wonder what next? What else might non-Muslims except around the corner? Especially since, as you point out, it is equally an issue of running roughshod over the law per se, and the state and respect of the law is all our concern.

But in any case, that 'stay out of Muslim affairs' kind of line is awful - since when don't we care for our neighbours? I'm Malaysian and so I have an interest in the fate of many different poeple, even though I may not be a woman, Christian, Muslim, Semai, farmer....

Jahamy said...


totally agree with you. apart from things like marriage ceremonies, and "strictly religious stuff", all things in Malaysia concerns all Malaysians.

peace !

Dr said...

The weakness here as you correctly pointed out is with the Pakatan gvt. Right hand goes one way and the left hand goes the other way, and the head knows nothing about it.
The sale of liquor in this country is more liberal than in Ireland where I studied. Most of my non Muslim friends are not happy with hard liquor being so easily available here. One non Muslim doctor friend of mine even severely reprimanded a Muslim teenager for being drunk, reminding him of the Quranic verse fobidding alcohol! What happened in Selangor is a PR problem, not a Muslim/nonmuslim problem.

Jahamy said...


agreed! PR problem.