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SINCE the decision by Kuala Lumpur City Hall to prohibit the sale of liquor at all convenience stores, grocery stores, and Chinese medicine halls, and the PAS-led Kedah government’s decision to ban the operation of all gaming shops and curb the sale of alcohol in the rural parts of the state, there has been concern among non-Muslims that their rights and access to these activities have been infringed, besides subjecting them to moral policing. 

Gaming and consumption of liquor have been projected as a battle between Muslims and non-Muslims.

PAS leaders, with their self-righteous attitude, have imposed their argument on the basis of religion and protecting the rights of the Malay-Muslim majority, while non-Muslims feel this is an orchestrated move to enhance Islamic hegemony in the Malaysian political and social landscape.

The truth missing in this debate is that not all non-Muslims favour gaming or drinking alcohol, while others do so in moderation without the sin of addiction.

This shows there is complexity of behaviour among human beings, and it cannot be separated as Muslim and non-Muslim issue.

Gaming and alcohol are not the vices PAS tries to project, but an activity that can moderated or it could also result in an addiction.

For example, on those days when you sit in places like food stalls, there will be people selling lottery tickets.

People who buy these tickets try their luck, but that does not mean they will become addicted to gambling. Moderate alcohol consumption does not make one addicted.

There are good, loving and helpful people who buy lottery tickets and drink moderately.

If you look at addiction per se, you could ask why PAS does not speak about banning cigarettes, since they are also harmful to health, causing medical conditions that burdens families.

While it true that the addiction to alcohol and gambling has brought misery to certain families, it is vital that issue of this nature is addressed through inclusive discussions and building of consensus with non-Muslims on the harm of alcohol being sold in certain areas where there are cases of addictions.

This should be projected through statistical scientific findings, instead of addressing an issue purely from dominant religious eye that could be construed as exclusive and made with ulterior motives.

It is time that Malaysians built a consensus on issues related to gaming and alcohol, instead of one political party imposing its beliefs on others, which would certainly be rejected because it is based on deep-rooted, self-righteous, ethno-religious identity politics. – November 17, 2021.

* Ronald Benjamin is secretary for the Association for Community and Dialogue.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.


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