For most Americans and those reading this, the nation of Malaysia--the country I call home--is likely nothing more but a mysterious, distant, small and relatively unimportant land. Some of you might be familiar with Malaysia's carefully cultivated public image of being some sort of harmonious multicultural tropical paradise, which is recycled endlessly in 30-second-long television spots both here and overseas.
But for anyone who may be trying to come to grips with the grim reality that is Islam, Malaysia may be one of the most important places on the planet. That's because anyone who still, despite all the evidence, feels that there really is a moderate, progressive, tolerant and peaceful Islam, need look no further than Malaysia. Once you do, you'll be thoroughly disabused of this notion.
My own awakening to Islam is mostly a tale of ignorance and more than whiff of denial, punctuated by sudden, shattering and irreversible epiphanies. I say 'shattering' because the ideas that I embraced as I grew up--that Islam is just one religion of many, and doesn't particularly pose a threat to anyone--does not withstand anything more than a cursory examination of the facts. And as the evidence piled up and my doubts grew, those old notions I had held previously, like a sheet of plate glass, came apart under the hammer blows of truth.
The first blow to my complacency was that dark day in Lower Manhattan nearly ten years ago. Like so many others reading this, I was horrified at the televised scenes of destruction and carnage in New York and Washington. How could any rational human feel otherwise? But as the days and months passed after September 11th, I starting hearing Malaysians say, over and over, that the US Government was lying about 9-11, that it was a 'set up' and a plot against Islam. And that the Jews were really behind it, of course. As I realised how sincere these Malaysians were in these outlandish ideas, I thought, "What makes so many people in this country prone to this nonsense?" At the time, the exact answers eluded me, but my budding doubts about Islam festered.
Another devastating blow came when Doctor Azahari Husin, a well educated Malaysian who had willingly and savagely butchered hundreds, maybe thousands of innocents, both Muslim and 'infidel' alike, became the most notorious terrorist in Southeast Asia, When he was buried in his hometown here in Malaysia in 2005. I read about it in the Malaysian newspapers. The local media did their best to humanise the man, and his funeral was like a hero's sendoff, well attended by hundreds of Malays who screamed 'Allahu akbar' as his coffin was lowered into the ground. The Malaysian government said nothing about Azahari's passing, not even a perfunctory condemnation of his wanton deeds. In addition, Azahari's own family has, to this day, steadfastly refused to apologise for any of Azahari's long list of crimes. I remembered thinking at the time, "What kind of government and what kind of family could refuse to condemn a mass murderer?' My doubts grew apace.
It was about this time when I began my own private investigation into Islam, to go beyond apologetic Malaysian government textbooks and misleading press accounts. Finding nothing credible in the local, heavily censored bookshops, I searched online. Soon I discovered the carefully-researched work of Robert Spencer. His words online, and in his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam reeked and shouted of the truth, a truth I had sensed for some time but which I had long failed to see its full dimensions.
The last and final blow that destroyed my impressions once and for all about Islam actually began for me before the late Dr. Azahari's demise. That final nail in the coffin, the most damning evidence, came to my attention because I had had the audacity to fall in love with a Muslima, a Malay 'born' into Islam solely by accident of birth. And as our relationship blossomed, I discovered to my chagrin many more Malaysian lies, ones that are never to be heard in those 30-second 'Tourism Malaysia' TV spots. This wonderful woman that I have now in my life, I learned, must apply in a Muslim court if she wants permission to leave Islam. Of course such permission has never been granted to any Malay. And anyone that is foolhardy enough to ask for that permission is promptly shunted away for a lengthy sentence inside a government-operated religious prison, which the government here disingenuously calls 'religious rehabilitation centres'. And of course, the punishment does not stop there--there's the loss of one's livelihood, fines, loss of social standing, and more. Does this sound 'moderate' or 'tolerant' to you? This fascistic system is real and is not condemned let alone questioned by any Malaysian.
Consequently, Malaysia is only 'moderate' in the sense that its apostates 'only' face detention, not death as is the law in many other Muslim countries. And such a draconian system is completely in line with Islamic ideology and teachings. Why else would no Muslim dare oppose, or not be able to oppose such a totalitarian system on Islamic grounds? They can't, lest they be deemed apostates themselves.
Faced with a system such as this, I've turned to blogging at Infidel Bloggers Alliance and at my own site Pedestrian Infidel as an outlet for my thoughts and frustrations. Of course, if I ever dare utter the truth a bit too openly, or anything else that does not fit the Official Line, I am quickly warned by my friends. "Quiet! Do you want to get in trouble?" Fear is never too far away in this country.
In fact, being a counterjihad blogger in Malaysia is, to be honest, like being the only sane person in an insane asylum. Everyone around you is either unwilling or unable to see reality in its true form--they can only perceive a distorted misshapen sort of reality. But this 'alternate' reality is the one that everyone accepts as natural and true. Any thoughts otherwise are not only unthinkable, they are inconceivable. Such is life with the inmates of Islam.
To risk using a borderline hoary cliche, my circumstances here are a bit like the plot from the first Matrix movie (the one good Matrix movie, I mean). In that movie, the main character stumbles onto the truth, but it's such a dangerous truth that it totally undercuts not only the authority, but the very reality of society itself--its assumptions, its norms, its very foundations. It is exactly the same here in this corner of Planet Islam, knowing as I know, that there can never be peace and freedom as long as there is Islam in the world.
I go about my life everyday in Malaysia with this incredibly dangerous knowledge in my mind. No amount of propaganda from the brain-dead media or government spin can erase what I know. So, it's best to keep it sealed carefully away, and this is what I do, although it has grown increasingly difficult over the years. Were it not for the net, I would have no outlet at all. So for that, I am grateful, especially to Mr. Spencer for granting me this opportunity to write for his site.
Let those in the world who value their freedom remember this. As I have learned in my own life, once a totalitarian entity like Islam takes your freedom from you, you'll have a massive fight on your hands to get it back. If freedom-loving people can take heed of this warning, then that makes all the risks I face worthwhile.