Articles, Opinions & Views: Pahang Jawi signage row – DAP leadership's party-first, not principle-first stand - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy


 
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Pahang Jawi signage row – DAP leadership's party-first, not principle-first stand - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, August 03, 2020
Malaysiakini : "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."- Attributed (disputed) to Cardinal Richelieu
COMMENT | In defending Tras assemblyperson Chow Yu Hui's lawsuit that challenged a mandatory directive to include Jawi script on signboards, DAP Youth secretary Eric Teh said: "We should oppose any cultural hegemony instead of surrendering to it, and I think (DAP Youth chief) Howard Lee (who criticised Chow) has forgotten this."
Let us begin with the basics. Culture is a one-way street in Malaysia. The non-Malays have no choice but to learn about Malay culture while the Malays get to retreat to a mainstream political system that claims their culture, economic survival and political system are under threat because of the non-Malays - that generally means the Chinese community.
Therefore, this is not only a question about cultural hegemony but also of political expediency. I have no idea why the Pahang state government is adamant that Jawi is to be incorporated on all signages in the state, even business operations. After all, does the state government need Jawi signage to be part of non-halal businesses that revolve around the sale and distribution of alcohol?
As it stands in this country, certain words are verboten, by law, to the non-Malay community, where books are banned and people hauled up for sedition or hurting the sensitivities of others. This idea that the Tras assemblyperson and his lawsuit is attracting more trouble for the DAP is, well, ludicrous.
The fact of the matter is that Malay power structures have always demonised the DAP because it serves a political purpose. The old maverick and two-time prime minister admitted this and has been trying to walk back on earlier strategic decisions now that he needs the DAP. All this is a matter of public record.
DAP assistant political education director Ong Kian Ming called the lawsuit “totally unnecessary” and the folks involved “wannabe heroes”. Oh, really? What about the time Ong waxed lyrical about reading the Bible in the Malay language and admonished those who would restrict usage of the word “Allah” by Christians and warned of the slippery slope if this was not countered?
"To say that Christians should change the word Allah to Tuhan is to disrespect the rights of a religious group – Christians, in this case – to have autonomy and control over their own religious texts," Ong (above) had said.
"It could easily lead to other 'slippery slope'-type arguments. For example, if the usage of the word Allah by Christians might offend or confuse Muslims and this word has to be changed, would other things in the Bible that may be offensive or confusing to Muslims – such as the many references to Jesus as God and Savior – also be required to be changed?" Ong asked in a post on his blog.
What Ong was describing in his blog post about the Allah controversy is an instinctual reaction to cultural hegemony and the need to protect the freedom of expression and belief that is the foundation of a democratic polity.
You could argue that when Ong was pontificating about the need to respect one another’s culture, he was painting a target on the DAP’s back too. This, of course, did not stop the big guns of the DAP from pursuing this issue and using it as a political prop. The DAP at that time was supportive of efforts to ensure that free expression and belief remained in political and personal spaces. Of course, with the subsequent “khat” controversy and the various backtrackings since coming into power, the new tone seemed to be “do not spook” the Malays.
What benefit is there to have Jawi signage in stores that sell non-Muslim religious accoutrements? How will having Jawi signages for non-halal businesses “empower” Jawi writing? What this is really all about is the demonstration of religious power over the masses in an effort to negate the pluralism of a religiously diverse polity.
At the height of the Jawi/khat controversy, former Harapan religious czar Mujahid Yusof Rawa (photo), in a piece expressing his devotion to Jawi, made the same claims, or rather, he conflated certain concepts.
Mujahid, who was then minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs), made the claim that learning Jawi is an honour for Malaysians and spawned the rather noxious meme that "in order to be a united Bangsa Malaysia, we would cherish Jawi as one people". This passage came from a piece where I debunked the argument that Jawi/khat had nothing to do with religion.
DAP Youth chief Howard Lee, writing in "Jawi" no less, admonished Chow and claimed that the DAP needed to focus on more pressing issues. From now on, Lee should only tweet in Jawi or Malay because, maybe, he could then make inroads into the target audience the DAP needs to demonstrate that the party is not anti-Malay.
How does it look when a DAP youth leader uses the Jawi language as some sort of sarcastic retort to the action of another DAP political operative who was deemed religiously insensitive?
Does this “empower" the language, as the Sultan of Pahang intends? Do you really think that a tweet like this earns you brownie points with PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and the rest of the Malay Über Alles crowd?
I am not interested in the political manoeuvrings behind this latest provocation of using language as a means of cultural hegemony. What I am interested in addressing, in this piece, is that the phobia against cultural hegemony in this country is justified and like it or not, it falls on the DAP to protect our personal and public spheres.
The only language that needs to be in all business operations or general signage is Bahasa Malaysia (first) and, beyond that, any language that the target demographic understands. Anything beyond that is purely political and the imperative behind that reasoning needs to be questioned.
The Tras assemblyperson's actions are justifiable, if not politically expedient. This is a good thing as far as I am concerned.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 10:02 AM  
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