COMMENT | The Malaysian prime minister’s threat of violence
– Islamic State (IS) or otherwise – against the Chinese community is
the kind of political malfeasance that demonstrates that with each
passing day, this country slips into a kind of kleptocratic manure hole
much favoured by regional and international power brokers.
The Malay community is split not because of the Chinese community but
because of tectonic shifts in Malay power structures caused by the
ejection of the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim from the Umno fold and briefly
a glorious moment of political simpatico between disparate oppositional
power structures. The reality is that Umno is demonstrating that if they lose power
(even by a small margin), they will resort to creating instability using
whatever means at their disposal. Does this sound seditious? Well, this
rejoinder comes from a former Umno president and longest serving prime
minister of this region and now de facto opposition leader, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
To recap - "Either that or the government would refuse to admit
defeat. The opposition would be accused of cheating. No evidence would
be needed for the government to declare this. The bullies in BN would be
ready to create instability. On this basis, there could be a
declaration of a state of emergency and Parliament would be suspended,"
he said in a posting on his blog, Chedet.
If readers are interested, they can read my commentary here
– “Let us get something out of the way first. The only political party
in BN that has the means and ways of creating instability is Umno and
Umno has never been shy of playing the bully in Malaysian politics.
Therefore, if any political party is going to declare emergency rule, it
is not going to be the BN alliance but rather Umno.”
We need to unpack the grand Umno poohbah’s statement and look beyond the easy polemics. Two points need to be made.
1. There can only be peace in the country if the democratic process is observed. The Umno president has only made the claim that the democratic
process is observed in this country when writing op-ed pieces for
foreign publications. He has never stated clearly locally that Umno
would abide by the democratic process if they lose the elections. We can
assume that if the peace is broken, it would be because he has used his
fancy new legislation to declare emergency rule.
In this scenario, all types of Islamic extremists will crawl out from
the sewers and attempt to make chaos for Islamic rule sans Umno. In
this type of scenario, the simmering class conflict within the Malay
community would boil over and history tells us when this happens in
Muslim countries, the only winners are the Islamic extremists.
Add to this, the Muslim diaspora which has been given bumiputera
status and you have a tinder box of conflicting expectations waiting to
go off. When Najib admonishes the Chinese community to be fluent in
Bahasa Malaysia because it unites the nation, I say you have to know
Bahasa Malaysia to communicate with the Burmese, Bangladeshi, Rohingya,
Indonesian, Pakistani and Eastern European emigres who claim to have
more rights than the Chinese and Indian natives of this country. Not to mention that the existence of various Malay dialects, makes
this horse manure of standardised Malay uniting us more ridiculous
because regional cultural differences makes a mockery of Umno's attempts
at Malay cultural and religious hegemony.
Yes, the Chinese and Indian communities would be targeted but as
always, and there is enough empirical evidence to support this – the
main beneficiaries of Islamic violence would be the Malay/Muslim
Complicating matters would be regional power players who would take
their interests into account and wage a proxy war in this country and we
could be looking at the Balkanisation of Malaysia. In all scenarios,
the non-Malay communities would be at risk but the people who would be
in far more danger are the Malays.
2. The Islamic State (IS) has declared war against China and her interests. I made the argument that because of the way the Najib regime is
playing the regional geopolitical game, extremist elements will not make
a difference between PRC interests and Chinese Malaysian interests. Keep in mind that the issue (unlike what some other pundits claim) is
not that Umno is selling off the country to the PRC, but rather Umno’s
political vendetta against the Chinese community makes them easier
targets for homegrown IS-affiliated extremists.
I made this argument here
– “The Umno state security apparatuses have acknowledged that IS
sympathisers could emerge from anywhere, even from Umno’s bureaucracy,
which has for years sustained an anti-non-Muslim sentiment for political
reasons. “Umno’s response has been ineffectual because they are not really
fighting a war against Islamic extremists. They have been too busy
fighting a war to remain in power by using the rhetoric of Islamic
extremists to galvanise a Malay voting base, terrified of losing power
Furthermore, what has the IS demonstrated? They have massacred more
Muslims in their quest for an Islamic state(s) then they have
non-Muslims. Indeed, the Malaysian mainstream press has carried reports
that high-ranking cabinet ministers, security personnel and politicians
have been targeted by the IS. What does this tell us? It should tell any
rational thinking Malaysian that the goal of the IS is to destroy
religious plurality in the Muslim world.
While the Umno regime may think that it has a monopoly on Islam in
this country, what the IS has demonstrated is that monopoly is only as
good as the number of Muslims you have butchered in the name of your
cause. In other words, sure the Chinese are targets and so are the
Indians, but the community who would be the main target of extremists
Muslims would be the "moderate" Malay/Muslim community that has never
been in real combat with anyone.
Malaysia is a transit point for international terrorism for a variety
of reasons. If this situation changes, it would be because of the
various arrangements made by Malaysia with international power brokers –
the US and China – for regional security reasons. The main point would
be commerce of course, but stability and security carried out on behest
of foreign powers is catnip for these Islamic extremists. As I said in one of my earlier pieces, the IS has declared that
Southeast Asia would be their main theatre of operations. This makes
Malaysia either a possible transit point for extremist activity or a
battleground because it chooses to carry out measures to curb their
activity in the region. This, of course, is only part of the problem.
The real problem is homegrown terrorism and the political bureaucracy
which either knowingly or unknowingly creates an atmosphere for these
types of extremists to flourish. Najib’s warning to the Chinese
community is misplaced. There is a fight coming and even though our
adversaries will make a distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims, it
would be the former who gets it worse.