Not entirely prohibited, of course. At least not yet. But the trend in the ‘model Muslim state‘ of Malaysia firmly points in the direction of, over time, greater and ever greater suppression of non Muslim cultures, belief systems and traditions. This is the agenda otherwise known as Islamic supremacy. It’s an agenda that more non Muslims will become unwillingly acquainted with in the years to come, as two Malaysian-Indian dance troops recently discovered to their chagrin. From “Where tradition is prohibited”, by Himanshu Bhatt, The Sun Daily, 28 June 2012:
TWO Indian cultural organisations were taken by
shock recently when they applied to use the auditorium of the
government’s official Taman Budaya park in Penang for their classical
It was not so much that their applications were rejected that
bothered them. What smarted was that the shows were disallowed
purportedly because they contained ceremonial acts and the placement of a
[non Islamic] deity on stage, which are much part and parcel of classical Indian
The Taman Budaya is operated by the National Culture and Arts
Department. Ironically, it is on the grounds of the birthplace of Tan
Sri P. Ramlee — one of the finest liberal performance artistes to emerge
from Malaysia in modern times. The auditorium is even named after him.
The National Culture and Arts Department is an arm of the Malaysian federal government. The top leadership of this government department, according to this organization chart posted at their website, appears to be 100% Muslim. So a government department run by Muslims wouldn’t ban non Islamic deities from being portrayed in stage performances, would they? Obviously all those Muslim officials and directors and ministers are misunderstanding the tolerant, pluralistic religion of Islam somehow.
The two groups — the Temple of Fine Arts and the Penang Hindu
Association — claimed to have been told that the auditorium stage must
not have the relevant images and statues because of their [non Islamic] religious
But such items are integral historical and creative components of the
age-old practice of disciplines such as the Bharatanatyam and the
Kathakali. This is because the presentations are to a large extent based
on ancient mythologies that are rooted in the cultural fabric of the
And such references to ancient mythologies are common features of
performing arts in other cultures. It is not only Indian dances that
have such invocations. Many ancient disciplines from other civilisations
also employ ceremonial or ritualistic acts.
One can see similar elements in the Beijing Opera of China, the
Kabuki of Japan, the Kechak of Indonesia and Passion Play of Europe.
Such elements are also ingrained in the Wayang Kulit or shadow puppet
shows that have played across the Nusantara region for centuries.
So when the two groups protested that they were not allowed to hold
such performances despite the features in question being traditional
elements, it beguiles the mind.
It is only beguiling for those who are either blissfully unaware of the Malaysian government’s real agenda, or for those who still deny the longstanding official policy of Islamic supremacy. For those who still think Islam can somehow peacefully coexist with other traditions, cultures and belief systems, look no further than Malaysia.