Are the non-Malays overreacting? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, September 04, 2019
Malaysiakini : “Those who use religion for their own benefit are detestable. We
are against such a situation and will not allow it. Those who use
religion in such a manner have fooled our people; it is against just
such people that we have fought and will continue to fight.” – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Recently there has been outrage by mainstream Malay political
operatives, activists, journalists and religious bureaucrats about the
role the media plays – often times Malaysiakini – in ratcheting up racial and religious issues.
Malaysiakini had to put out an editorial position on this issue, reassuring people that reporting the news is not the same as stoking racial and religious anxieties. This has always been an uneven playing field. The major part of the problem is the race-based politics of this country.
far right, which consists of political parties and their proxies, have
been harping on this issue ever since the federal government fell to
Pakatan Harapan, which includes the multiracial PKR and DAP.
when it comes to Islamic provocations, the propaganda is that it is the
non-Malays who are overreacting or taking advantage of the fact that
the Malay community is split. Add to this the so-called 'social
contract', which is a form of subservience to Malay political control,
if not economic control.
Take this Dr Zakir Naik (photo) fiasco for instance. Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) president Aminuddin Yahya, writing for Malaysiakini, makes two important points:
isu Zakir, saya juga berpendapat bahawa kenyataan beliau telah disalah
tafsir akibat pelbagai faktor termasuklah perasaan prejudis terhadap
beliau, 'overreaction' dan kurangnya amalan tabayyun dan berbaik sangka
dalam masyarakat kita (On the Zakir issue, I feel that his
statements were misinterpreted due to several factors, including
prejudice towards him, overreaction and a lack of investigation and good
faith in our society)."
"Apa yang paling mengecewakan kita
semua ialah perpecahan kesatuan umat Islam merupakan antara sebab utama
Zakir dilihat tidak dapat dipertahankan (What is most disappointing
to us is the split of the Islamic community, which is one of the main
reasons why Zakir is seen as indefensible)."
Think about it. The
far right claims that the Chinese are ganging up on them, but have no
problem talking about the splitting of the Malay community. What people forget about the 'buy Muslim products' campaign or whatever it is called – again Aminuddin's fingerprints are
all over this in terms of promoting his religious agenda – is that it
makes use of the legitimate economic concerns of Muslim small business
owners and conflates it with the broader political struggle in the Malay
As usual, the economic superiority of the Chinese
community over the 'disadvantaged' Muslim polity narrative is used,
instead of analysing the reasons why the Malay-led federal government
has, for decades, sidelined small Malay-Muslim business owners and
created a class of corrupt Malay plutocrats, who are part of the reason
of why these small business owners are disadvantaged.
mention that the culture of entrepreneurship in the Malay community has
been hampered by various religious edicts, which make it difficult for
them to compete with ethnic groups that do not operate under such
Malay power structures get outraged by the most
insignificant comments, and yet they claim that people "overreact" to
overtly racist or bigoted comments from Muslim or Malay personalities.
do not really blame the far right for this. Before the historic GE14
win, DAP and PKR managed to convince the base that Bersatu was needed to
shore up Malay support and reassure the community that their rights
would be 'protected'.
Hence, this so-called 'toxic' environment is
the creation of everyone, and not just Umno-PAS or whichever
Malay-Muslim personality de jure. This idea that fake news
and hate speech is tearing up national unity is bunkum. The aim of such
strategies is to tear up Harapan.
Harapan is not the country. Demonising the DAP, as the old maverick once said, is part and parcel of Malay politics. There
is no real discourse when it comes to official narratives because Malay
power brokers have no interest in a 'moderate' Islam or any kind of
The best example of this is the case of the Selangor fatwa against Sisters in Islam, labelling it "deviant." In response to the High Court ruling, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council head honcho Mohammed Khusrin Munawi said that the state fatwa committee designates "mana-manaindividu,
pertubuhan atau institusi yang berpegang kepada fahaman liberalisme dan
pluralisme agama adalah sesat dan menyeleweng daripada ajaran Islam
(any individual, organisation or institution that holds to liberalism
and religious pluralism as deviant and straying from Islamic
What does this tell us about the religious discourse
in this country? Well, there really isn’t any, because Harapan, like BN,
is not offering an alternative when it comes to the Islamic narrative.
religious czar Mujahid Yusof Rawa pontificates about a moderate Islam,
but has no problem with a religious department in a supposedly
'progressive' state labelling a woman’s movement within Islam as
deviant. This sends out a message to every Muslim that the far
right and the religious bureaucracy control the official narrative of
the state and Muslims had better watch their step.
course, means that the non-Muslims are in trouble too. Why? Because
progressive ideas that are needed to move the country forward must
include the participation of the majority in the majority ethnic group,
otherwise it will go nowhere.
Hence, anything the DAP says or
anything coming out from the non-Malay wing of PKR runs afoul of the
Islamic and racial narratives of Malay power structures.
decisions then become racial and religious landmines, and the people who
are seeking secular solutions are deemed enemies of Islam, which is
basically a discourse non-starter.
This is why it is convenient for Harapan’s religious czar to make a false equivalence between extremists and Islamophobia.
There is no Islamophobia in this country. What there has
been is the systemic intrusion of Islam into our private and public
spheres. Keep in mind that this is a country where PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang gets to say that non-Muslims have to be “pak turut” (sycophants) and Mujahid cannot even bring himself to say that this is hate speech.
when people like Mujahid throw around the term 'Islamophobia', they
mean people who are resisting attempts to erode the secular foundation
of our country. In addition, lets us not get into the whole Malay and Chinese press. Non-Malay political operatives target an organisation like Sin Chew Daily because they seem to be stirring the pot when it comes to racial and religious issues. The best-known example is the khat controversy.
what we are witness to is the Malay outrage we have to be mindful of,
and of course now, the non-Malay subservience that targets the non-Malay
press for rocking the Harapan boat. Meanwhile, the Malay press
gets away with reporting news that is designed to reinforce nativist
themes, while the rest of news organisations have to tiptoe around ideas
or news which are deemed sensitive to the powers that be.
is another point, a big one actually. The far right talks about how news
organisations are stirring racial and religious issues, but the irony
is that a good number of Harapan supporters do not want to rock the
boat. They would be happier if certain news stories are not reported.
Because some people are afraid. Afraid that if we push too much, things
will fall apart. That if we highlight certain fundamental issues that
were supposed to separate Harapan from BN, this would cause damage to
The problem is not hate speech or fake news. The
problem is that hate speech is actually doctrinal when it comes it comes
to the state-sanctioned religion of this country, and that fake news is
actually a political strategy which was created by the very people now