Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Responding to BN-inspired racism and prejudice

Dear Reader,

While reading the comments that came in response to the post "Fail, Mr Home Minister, fail!" over at Hartal MSM, I came across one that I believe exemplifies the kind of racist and prejudiced thinking that BN is trying to inculcate amongst Malaysians. I reproduce my response to it here, but first we need to read the comment itself, and an earlier comment which it was addressed at.

Here is the first comment to the post, by "Leong Yook Kong", to which the subsequent one was addressed:
1. Leong Yook Kong | August 22, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Kerisman, you are the Home Minister, right. You should give a firm instruction to the police to carry out a thorough investigation into the arson case and to bring to book the real and actual culprit/culprits. If the police cannot do it, sack all of them and bring in the overseas investigators to do the job for them. Get the IGP involved in this case. He just cannot relax and wait for 13 September 2009 to see whether his contract is extended or not.

How can the Home Minister act like a small boy when he said the next target will be the police and the prisons? Where is the preventive measure? Kerisman, the RAKYAT want love (true love), happiness, peace and security.

For it is man’s rejection of love and loving laws that causes most of the evils and troubles in the world today.

Here is the response to Leong's comment, by "Abdul Rahman Mohd. Sharif":
11. abdul rahman mohd.sharif | August 24, 2009 at 10:06 am

Woi…woii..woi…WOW!! Leong. The IGP do not wish to extend the contract. Satisfied…… Hishamuddin, please shut up and just do your work. Don’t make any comments. Let all this bonkers wonder whats next.
Guys. In the first place, why are you not the MACC, police or in the prison depart? Its not a good place to be, right? Its always this lot of people call ‘MALAY’ whose stupid enough to enrol into one.
Its so easy heh!! Attacking those stupid lot.
If this is your beloved country called MALAYsia then work into one. Ease these departments from all these setbacks that you are so concerned. Allow your kids to be one of them. Help your kids to change all these embarassment.
Be a Malaysian my friend. Your mother tounge IS Malaysia not China or India. No more china’s or India’s mentality. No more chinese or indias school. DO NOT BE A RACIST. (I know I’ll be attcked for these sentence-go ahead shoot)

Finally, here is a much lengthier version of my response to Abdul Rahman Mohd. Sharif:

Abdul Rahman Mohd. Sharif seems to be saying that Leong and others were "attacking" Malays when they criticised the police, MACC and/or the prisons department. Is he justified in saying so?

Looking at the comments by Leong and others here, there isn't a single mention of the word "Malay", until Abdul Rahman brings it up himself. How did he come to that conclusion? Does he believe, that criticising someone who happens to be from a particular group means that one is criticising (or is anti) the entire group? Such a belief is misguided; as I have written elsewhere:
"Criticizing a person who happens to be Malay doesn't necessarily mean that I am anti-Malay. Going by that logic, anyone who criticizes wee ka siong is anti-chinese, the person who murdered kugan is anti-indian, and if kugan's murderer happened to be an orang-putih, prosecuting him would be anti-orang putih too. Subscribing to this type of logic would mean the end of civil society in Malaysia & a descent into the tribalism & ketaksuban of zaman jahiliah, when supporting your clan was more important than standing for justice & fairness. If we are to progress as a nation, people who are truly "Malaysian at Heart" need to go beyond seeing things from a race based, assabiah perspective."
Next, Abdul Rahman seems to be questioning the loyalty of the commenters here. He writes, "If this is your beloved country called MALAYsia then work into one. Ease these departments from all these setbacks that you are so concerned. Allow your kids to be one of them. Help your kids to change all these embarassment." He has a valid point in saying that if we love Malaysia we will work to improve it. However, he fails to realise that criticism is part of that improvement. If we do not even realise that Malaysia needs improvement, there will never be positive change. Unfortunately, people like Abdul Rahman are disregarding valid criticism because they choose to see it as racially motivated.

He also has a point, and I agree with him, when he says that more Malaysian minorities should join Malaysian law enforcement and armed forces. However, I believe that we need to find ways to overcome the discrimination, official and unofficial, that minorities face when they join the government service in general. What are these discriminations? Although this is just one example, it seems to be representative of what they face: here and here. Will Abdul Rahman help in the efforts to eradicate such discrimination and unfair treatment?

Finally, Abdul Rahman seems to be accusing commenters here of being racist, and of not being "Malaysian" enough; because (as he says):
1) they speak Chinese or Indian
2) they have "china’s or India’s mentality" (whatever that means)
3) they go to a Chinese or Indian school

Racism is defined as:
  1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
  2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
  3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
Can Abdul Rahman show how and why Malaysians who speak Chinese/Indian, have been to Chinese/Indian schools, or have Chinese/Indian "mentalities" necessarily meet any of those three criteria, or are not Malaysian enough? I doubt that he can. There is actually some evidence to the contrary: the National Youth Survey 2008 conducted by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research showed that, when asked the question "If you can only choose one identity, would you say that you are...?", 52% of respondents who had been to a Chinese school chose Malaysian as their identity. In contrast, 39% & 37% of those who had been to National & Tamil schools respectively, identified themselves as Malaysians first. So, at least one part of Abdul Rahman's assertion seems to be based on prejudice towards others.

On the other hand, isn't Abdul Rahman the one who is demonstrating racism here, by exhibiting his intolerance for other races, their language, "mentality" and human rights?

Unfortunately, this type racism is now becoming too common in Malaysia.Why wouldn't it be, when it is officially encouraged by Barisan Nasional? At the same time that they are promoting "One Malaysia" with their catchy song and glitzy logo, they are also sowing intolerance and racism, via their mainstream media such as Utusan Malaysia, and pro-BN blogs.

Why is BN doing this? Because they realise that Malaysians of all races are beginning to see beyond race and ethnicity, and are learning to really work together to rid this country of racism, bigotry, corruption, oppression, bad governance and tainted judiciary. This unprecedented cooperation, unlike the "elite accomodation" of BN's consociationalism, has the potential to bring down the barriers separating Malaysians of different ethnicities; barriers that are jealously preserved by the BN and its race based parties. Once these barriers are down, there would be no need for race based parties in Malaysia; BN would essentially go extinct, like the dinosaur it is. More importantly, the corruption, cronyism and nepotism that thrive on BN's race based ideology (and that BN leaders thrive on), would finally be eradicable. For BN (and its leaders) to survive GE-13, this new trend of true inter-ethnic and inter-racial cooperation, understanding and harmony in Malaysia must be thwarted and reversed.

Therefore, encouraging racism and sowing distrust and fear of other races has become BN's strategy of choice. It's leaders, along with their mainstream media, Biro Tatanegara, and blogger mouthpieces, are hard at work, spreading their message of racism and bigotry. Their message is simplicity itself: the races in Malaysia cannot trust each other or work with each other, because the every race is out to victimise and dispossess the others. Only the "strong" hand of BN, with the help of unjust laws like the ISA, OSA, PPPA etc. can "protect" their respective races, and keep them from killing each other in another May 13. Therefore, we must all trust the BN totally, and let them decide what is best for us. Of course, this means letting BN decide how Malaysia's national wealth and resources are distributed.

Are we Malaysians incapable of working together? Is BN's message essentially true? Of course it isn't, but why is it so easy to believe? Because we humans are hard-wired to distrust anyone who doesn't look like us. When our ancestors were still living in caves, a face that wasn’t the same color as our own was probably the face of an enemy. Civilization, ethics and religion have tried their best to replace our innate racism, but the caveman brain that evolved years ago is still lurking somewhere within us; all BN needs to do is find it and feed it. It's also easy to believe because we Malaysians are gullible enough to swallow whatever BN sends our way, hook, line and sinker. We have not learnt to be mature and critical enough in how we read and evaluate arguments, and how we discuss and debate issues.

So, how does BN spread its message in the blogosphere? Firstly, it is not in BN's interest to encourage open discussion and honest debate. Open discussion and honest debate will increase understanding between various groups, thereby endangering BN's objective. Therefore BN will want to discourage and destroy it wherever it can. How does it do this? By never aproaching an issue with the intention of mutual understanding, but wiith the intention of provoking others with racism and prejudice, waiting for them to react with the same, then showing it to everyone else as proof of how BN's basic premise, that we cannot work together, is true.

It is this agenda of BN that has visited us in the form of Abdul Rahman's comments. I do not know if it is his job to spread BN's ideas in our blogosphere, or if he truly believes in them. Either way, depending on how we respond to them, our response to his words can cause a ripple effect, a chain reaction of either more racism, or its opposite, in our blogosphere and our nation. The only way to defeat BN, is to engage with all others and express our thoughts & opinions in a precise, conscientious & respectful way. The moment we have an open and honest dialogue going, the Rakyat have won, and BN has lost.

So, comments and arguments like Abdul Rahman's should be called out and exposed by all Malaysians, because they try to inject racial conflict where there is none. Malaysians should not fall into BN's trap and return ignorance for ignorance, and malice for malice. Instead we must turn the cool, bright light of reason on them, and racist, prejudiced arguments will be shown up for what they are.

However, we cannot do this when we ourselves are racists, classist, ageist, sexist, group-ist. Yes, you read me correctly. Just like Abdul Rahman, we too are group-ists, in one way or another. Not because we have been to a particular school, not because we speak a particular language, but because we still let our race, ethnicity, gender, age or group of one form or another, decide what is right or wrong, rather than base our conscience on fair principles applied equally to all.

When have we been so?

How about when we stopped worrying and being concerned about ISA detainees as soon as the Hindraf five were released, even though there are still many who are unjustly detained? Is it because they look different from us, and aren't all those people in JI, JIM whatever, all "extremists" anyway?

How about when we condoned the demolition of Kg. Buah Pala just because they were of a different race from us, or because they were just uneducated cowherds who don't deserve any better, or because we would like to buy a condo that Nusmetro is building, or because they got in the way of our peaceful Sunday morning drive?

Being unable to empathise with our fellow human beings, just because they are of a different race, religion or group than ourselves, in my book, is a serious moral flaw. It betokens a meanness of spirit, an inability to see beyond ones own interests and a lack of human values & EQ. Such an inability is a hallmark of bigots; all of us must somehow learn to empathise with the plight of our fellow humans, whomever they are and whatever their race, religion, gender, age and socio-economic status may be.

We must never forget that as long as we do not realise that freedom, human rights, equality and justice come from equally applying principles common to all, we ourselves will never achieve it, nor would we deserve it. Our sense of what is right or wrong must never be influenced by which race, religion, gender, nationality or age we ourselves identify with. Whenever we point our fingers at the Abdul Rahman's in our blogosphere, let us never forget there are three more pointing back at ourselves.

To Abdul Rahman Mohd. Sharif, may I wish you and your family a blessed Ramadan and a joyous Aidil Fitri; may God guide us all to see that we are all part of the same Human family. As it is written in the Holy Quran:
"O mankind. We have created you from a single male and female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other. The most honorable of you in the sight of Allah are surely the righteous." (Surah al-Hujurat, verse 13)
And as the Prophet (pbuh) said:
"Truly, Allah does not look at your outward forms and wealth, but rather at your hearts and your works" (Sahih Muslim, 4.1389: hadith 2564)
Selamat Hari Merdeka to all Malaysians. Let's remember that there is a lot more work for us to do, starting with our own consciences, before we can say that we are truly MERDEKA!!!

Malaysian Heart

P.S. Please do read this very enlightening article here.

With apologies to A.A., I wrote this when I should have been writing something else :-(

1 comment:

  1. Dear Malaysian Heart,

    The saudara you are talking about may harbour views with racists overtone but we must commend him for his frankness in speaking his mind and dare to use his real name if that is his real name.

    I do see some positive light in his rant, he is prepared to accept those Malysians not from his ethnic community as equal Malaysians even though with his notion of what constitue Malaysian may to some people, be flawed.

    Well saudara Abdul Rahman, your words may be harsh but at least if you are sincere that we can all be saudara in this country then we may find common ground, let us look at the moral principles involved in the issues , away from the emotional straigtjacket of ethnic identity.

    To those who are worried about the rampant racialism of today, hark ye, today's Malaysians are no more racially biased and prejudiced than 50 years ago or even 40 years ago.

    In fact there are more manifestations of actual coming together of Malaysians of all ethnic communities against common causes despite the forces that have sought to dividee us for the past 100 years.

    Pls read this book written in 1973 and you will know what the BN has been doing does not differ from what they used to do 50 years ago. Only thing this time there are less guillable people. GO READ IT:


    "Race and Politics in Urban Malaya".



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