Well-known Islamic scholar Ebrahim Moosa says anti-liberalism spokespersons need lessons in Malaysian history 101.
Malaysia, Ebrahim said, was already on its way to liberalism as the country had accepted plural communities, adding that this stance was already enshrined in the Malaysian constitution.
"If Malaysia wants to do away with liberalism, you have to tear up the constitution," he said in a talk titled 'Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism' organised by the Penang Institute today.
Ebrahim said the founders of Malaysia were educated in United Kingdom and upon independence, the administration adopted British laws.
"So I do not know what they are talking about," he told the 30-odd participants attending his talk at Wawasan Open University in Penang today.
"The spokespersons of these statements need lessons in Malaysian history 101. Then we can have a grown-up conversation," he added.
'Liberalism and pluralism insults to Islam'
A former scholar in Religion and Islamic Studies at Duke University, Ebrahim is currently a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
He was responding to a question asked by a member of the audience, based on a Bernama report today where Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom is reported as saying that the teachings of liberalism and pluralism were seen as among the most prevalent forms of insults to Islam recently.
Jamil was quoted as saying that the government had identified the forms of insults based on reports by state Islamic religious councils and the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).
According to Bernama, Jamil was replying to a supplementary question by Senator Johari Mat, who wanted to know the most prevalent forms of insults against Islam, taking place intentionally and unintentionally now.
Ebrahim said the minister's statement seemed to lack some clarity on the meaning of liberalism and pluralism, which could be different from what he actually meant.
"We are comparing apples and oranges here," he said, adding what Jamil said needed very careful examination.
Also present at the two-hour talk was Bukit Bendera MP and Penang Institute executive director Zairil Khir Johari.
The talk was moderated by Islamic Renaissance Front founder Ahmad Farouk Musa.
Ahmad Farouk said that Jamil's remarks have led him to concur with the 25 retired top civil servants and individuals who sent an open letter calling on moderate Malaysians to stand up and be counted.
In their 19-page statement, the group urged for rational dialogue on controversial remarks against transgender community by the likes of Jamil, who is in charge of religion.
The group also urged Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to improve his leadership.
Ahmad Farouk said Najib tried to paint a moderate picture of Malaysia and eventually managed to obtain membership in the United Nations Security Council this year.
"But his ministers are doing things exactly the opposite of Najib's so-called moderate stance," he told Malaysiakiniwhen met after the event.
"It is time Najib understood the problems taking place in the country, raised by ministers like Jamil Khir and try to address them," Ahmad Farouk added.