Is violent surau incident another lesson about who we are? By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, May 08, 2017
Malaysiakini : “It's a universal law - intolerance is the first sign of an
inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant
impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Commander on the right
COMMENT | I have no idea if by
writing about the “surau violence” I am stirring up trouble but when
threats are made to ensure silence, then I really think it is important
to speak up. However, what exactly is the issue here?
That a Chinese Malaysian
honked his horn in annoyance when blocked by Malay Malaysians engaging
in their religious obligations. Did this warrant an assault and property damage?
Let us interpret this incident in two ways. The first, an
inconsiderate man who is “taught”, either through socialisation or
through experience, that Muslims are sensitive, incurs the ire of some
people who attack him because of his inconsiderate act. The second, that violence against a minority is something that has
always been a part of our political and social landscape and this
incident merely confirms that minorities should be careful in their
dealings with the majority.
Okay, there is a third interpretation. This incident is merely an
aberration that does not define the gestalt of Malaysian social
interaction. Maybe there is some truth in that, but the first and second
is what dominates the discourse for good reasons. People always say do
not turn things into a racial incident but the problem is that no matter
what anyone says, “race” is rubbed in our faces every single day. The
system is set up to ensure that we look at things through a racial lens
and any attempt to argue otherwise is futile.
However, what really gets to me was when Deputy Home Minister Nur
Jazlan Mohamed said this - “Besides, the opposition used to say ‘do not
try to scare people by racial conflict’, but what we saw yesterday did
show that it can occur easily.” What the opposition says is that the establishment always attempts to
use the threat of violence in lieu of debate to maintain hegemony. This
is the opposite of a group of ruffians who use violence because they
think they can get away with it or that they will receive minimum
censure from the state for their actions.
Furthermore, inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar warned
“parties were trying to create an issue out of the incident and making
provocative comments over the social media.” Nur Jazlan has admitted
that this was a “racial conflict” and what I want to know, is the PDRM
going to investigate the deputy home minister for making “provocative”
Since Nur Jazlan started this conversation about the ease of racial
conflict flaring up in our society, I too would like to make my
contribution. My contention is simple. When the state makes it clear
that it has a racial bias against minority communities, then certain
people who believe they can act with impunity capitalise on this
sentiment, plying their thuggery on minorities who they think have been
disrespectful to their religion, and by extension, them.
Let me give you an example or two. In my piece about Umno’s ‘kenduri-kendara’ gangsters,
I wrote of what Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said - "He was also
reported to have advocated a ‘shoot first’ policy for the police at the
same event, in dealing with suspected gang members in the wake of a
violent crime spree that has resulted in, according to him, Malays
making up the majority of the victims.
“He reportedly said there was nothing wrong with arresting the over
40,000 known gangsters in the country, half of whom are Indians. ‘What
is the situation of robbery victims, murder victims during shootings?
Most of them are our Malays. Most of them are our race,’ he was quoted
as saying. “‘I think the best way is that we no longer compromise with them.
There is no need to give them any more warning. If (we) get the
evidence, (we) shoot first.’”
So, if you have "evidence" you can take the matter into your own
hands especially since as a "Malay" you are on the receiving end of
criminal behaviour. This was said to the security apparatus of the state
but what happens when the average thugs interpret this to mean if there
is evidence of trespass against the Malay community, action should and
can be taken?
'Tiga Line gang'
Please remember although the establishment has shied away from
provocative comments by its members, it has never demonstrated a
zero-tolerance policy towards members of the establishment who have made
threats against the opposition, or let face facts, minorities.
Remember when an opposition leader made provocative statements
against Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. I do - “Six years ago,
Penang opposition leader Azhar Ibrahim in a spat with Penang Chief
Minister Lim Guan Eng not only referenced May 13 but also saying Umno
has three million members that he could call in the Malay 'Tiga Line
gang' and asking the army to take over the duties of the police.” Of
course, calling in outsourced thugs to secure political victory or usurp
political power is a threat many in Umno have no problem making.”
Look at it this way. We have one government minister claiming that
racial violence is always a probability in this country and accusing the
opposition of naivety when it comes to this issue and then we have the
head of the security apparatus warning people not to make “provocative”
statements about this issue.
Violence or the threat of violence is part of the social and
political fabric of our country. For the most part, Malaysians know
their place. Do not do this. Do not say that. “Tolerance”, a loathsome
but applicable word, defines our social and political interactions. We
do not accept differences, we tolerate them and if you are the majority,
your threshold is lower than that of any minority.
In other words, the state sets the example. What happens at the top
of the food chain filters down and marginalised groups seek to impose
their will on those supposedly higher on the food chain but lacking the
"protection" of the state - “We may not have everything you have, even
though we have all these special privileges but we may inflict violence
on you if we feel you have trespassed against us.”
Therefore, what are we really talking about here? Is this merely an
incident that happened without context? Is someone like me, merely
stirring up trouble in this beautiful multiracial country of ours?
Racial incidents happen in every racially diverse society. The real
issue is how the state reacts to such incidents. Is there parity of
treatment? Is there empathy?
If there were no systemic imbalances in the private and public
sectors or at the very least there were genuine attempts to correct
those imbalances, incidents like these would pass without much comment.
As it is, when incidents like these happen, we are reminded of all
that is wrong with the system and our place in it. Depending on your
position on the totem pole, this ‘surau’ incident means very little or
points to the dysfunction that you have to live with.