Malaysiakini : “Every man who has in his soul a secret feeling of revolt against
any act of the State, of life, or of destiny, is on the verge of riot;
and so soon as it appears, he begins to quiver, and to feel himself
borne away by the whirlwind.” Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
| Saying the temple protests in the last two days were proof that “good
gestures are not always appreciated”, Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul
Abidin called on Malay groups planning to hold a rally
next month to oppose Malaysia’s joining of the global
anti-discrimination treaty, Icerd, to instead hold a rally for “Muslim
survival”. People always ask me, what is the issue the
Malay/Muslim far right have with temples? That is an easy question to
answer. Hindu temples are all over the place. It is a fact that some of
these structures are “illegal”. While some have a history like the
Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, others have less of a pedigree.
temples are in your face. While Christian places of worship are subject
to strict rules when it comes to Islamic sensitivities – the cross for
instance apparently has a debilitating effect on some people – Hindu
temples are gaudy architectural provocations for people who believe in
the supremacy of their faith
But forget about this for a moment.
If this was a mosque of more than 100 years old, and a court ruled in
favour of corporate interest, what do you think the consequences would
have been for the corporate entity when it came to this piece of land? I
love the way how some people talk about legal judgments as if they are
made in a vacuum when it comes to vested political and corporate
interest. As usual, when it comes to an Indian issue, people have faith
in the system.
The Perlis mufti, for instance, thinks that the BN
government was too soft with these illegal Hindu temples. He wants the
Harapan government to uphold the rule of law when it comes to a
historical site which is essentially what the Seafield temple is. He
believes this so strongly that he uses this incident to call for the Dec
8 anti-Icerd “celebration” to be one for Muslim survival.
very little interest in temple committees. I think that they are a bunch
of parasites who use their office to further their own economic agendas
that have very little to do with religion. In the Seafield temple case,
for instance, I have no doubt that temple committee intrigue is part of
the problem. There are more informed people who should have the courage
to speak up on this issue than me.
Having said that, when it comes to religion in Malaysia, everything is racial. Asri (photo),
for instance, prefers to use the law against what he believes is an
existential threat to the Muslim community. Meanwhile, the “gangsters”
who trespassed into this Hindu place of worship were relying on the
weakness of the institutions to facilitate whatever they were allegedly
hired to do.
Eyewitness reports claim that the state security
apparatus was lackadaisical in containing the situation, while the state
security apparatus claims that it had to be restrained because this was
a place of worship and to do otherwise would add fuel to the fire. Who
do you believe? How does your experience inform you about your faith in
the system? Not an easy question to answer.
Fracases like these
test your faith in the system. Is this a system for the "core" or is
this a system for all of us? Some people got upset with those ministers
who disputed the original “Indian vs Indian” police claim. This claim
plays to the Indian stereotype that would make it easy to forget this
issue and carry on playing the game of not spooking the Malays.
when Ahmad Zahid Hamidi calls for the resignation of a minister for
communal provocation, for merely speaking the truth, what does this tell
you about the system? Think of it this way, Zahid, the former deputy
prime minister, claimed that the Malays would run amock if Icerd was
ratified and he gets away with it. What would happen if a non-Malay
minister said the same thing to his or her community when it came to
something they consider sacred?
When it was later confirmed
by deputy inspector-general of police Noor Rashid Ibrahim that it was
possible that the party that wanted to take over the land “...hired a
group of Malay men to facilitate the process of taking the land. There
is a possibility those (hired) were gangsters and for sure, the group of
Indians tried to defend (the temple against the incursion)”, there was a
caveat added that this was not a racial issue.
Even the temple
people claimed that this was not a racial issue. The prime minister
claimed that this was not a racial issue. Various ministers come out to
claim that this was not a racial issue but the reality is that this
issue will always be racial or religious because the system is set up
this way. Whoever hired those “Malay” gangsters to invade a sacred Hindu
ground did so with the knowledge that this was racially and religiously
The Perlis mufti, for instance, uses this incident
to further his Islamic agenda. Politicians, meanwhile, attempt to use it
to deflect from the situation by propagandising an injured fireman. I
can see why. Far right Malay bloggers and propagandists have already
started forwarding me literature that claims that it is the Malays who
have to put their lives on the line and that these “Indians” are only
good for drinking and rioting. All this is part of the “ketuanan” narrative that makes it impossible to have a reasoned discussion when it comes to issues like this.
at the difference between the Low Yat rioters and this incident. The
rioters in this incident do not have the protection of the state. They
are lucky that there are some politicians who would push back on
official narratives that would seek to demonise the community at the
expense of the truth – but ultimately, they have to have faith in a
system which very often lets them down.
Who knows how this will
play out? Hopefully, those people who allegedly hired these thugs would
be dragged out into the light. The question is, do people have enough
faith in the system to believe that the real culprits would be brought
to justice – or would this just be another opportunity where the system
finds a scapegoat?