In the aftermath of the Low Yat riot, the regime has blamed social media, deliberately, it would appear, looking at ways to further curb freedom of expression and of reporting, says Zaharom Nain.
To all Aliran members and friends and their families:
May the celebration and Spirit of Aidil Fithri
following the Holy Month of Ramadan
Instil in us Patience and Humility,
Understanding and Acceptance of One Another, and of our Differences
so that Together we can work for a Better Malaysia, a Better World
Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fithri
Ma’af Zahir dan Batin
Aliran Executive Committee
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Into the month of Syawal after four weeks of fasting for many Malaysians, and the revelations surrounding 1MDB – and the ongoing attempts by the regime to stifle discussion, to silence the rakyat from raising pertinent questions, to even discredit various critical media – continue unabated.
Perhaps the most ironic, if not unfortunate, comment made during this last week has been that of Najib urging Malaysians not to slander and hate during this holy month
Such a hypocritical stand. It goes beyond irony when we consider the vendetta against Anwar and his incarceration under Najib’s regime, the ongoing hate messages promoted by regime agencies such as Biro Tata Negara and by hate groups and individuals often linked to the political regime, such as Perkasa and Pekida.
This past month also saw another sad anniversary of sorts – that of 100 days of the GST. Many accounts are indicating that the rakyat are really feeling the bite of the GST.
So, as has been typical of Malaysia under this regime, we get continual distractions to try and prevent us from focusing on the real and important issues. Indeed, it would seem that we are still being urged to look at form instead of substance in many areas of our daily life and in the way this regime operates.
Clothing, principally what Malaysian women wear, suddenly became an important issue this past month. This time around, it started with quite perverted comments being made about one particular female Malaysian athlete in the Sea Games in Singapore.
Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, the young gymnast who won six medals (including two gold) for the country, was heavily criticised by these strange `observers’ for revealing her aurat. Clearly fixated by certain parts of her anatomy rather than her exercises, they poured derision on the poor woman.
And this episode, somehow, appears to have awakened the carnal instincts of other male public servants, who began stopping women at numerous government departments for `indecent’ wear – and providing them with sarongs even to cover their legs, before they could pay their bills or make an enquiry.
Perhaps, some Malaysians observed, this was brought about because these evidently weak-at-heart or weak-at-the-knees, (largely) male civil servants couldn’t cope with yet another dugaan during this month of abstinence.
Whatever it was, it certainly failed at distracting the rakyat from the allegedly missing billions of dollars (not ringgit) of our money via 1MDB.
Apart from these distractions there were also the sad reports of demands made on young Malaysians during the holy month of Ramadhan. Last year it was the tale of a school in Sungai Buloh asking its non-Muslim pupils to take their breaks in the school toilet that grabbed the headlines.
This year, we had yet another adult, a senior teacher in a school in Sungai Petani, `jokingly’ telling non-Muslim students there that they could drink their urine if thirsty. This was roundly criticised by many, including Aliran’s Dr Mustafa K Anuar.
These insensitive, downright disrespectful comments and behaviour seem to be reflective of the behaviour of an increasingly belligerent group of Malaysians who feel they are `entitled’ to make ridiculous and spiteful demands of other Malaysians simply because they feel they are in the majority.
This belligerence, this arrogance, really needs to be addressed and strongly criticised, more so at a time when it is being cultivated by the regime to help it maintain its fast-eroding hegemony.
The recent case of the handphone theft at Low Yat Plaza, and how it was deliberately twisted by these type of belligerent groups is instructive.
Some would say, quite convincingly, that the incident has provided the regime yet another opportunity to resort to a law-and-order society.
Indeed, in its aftermath, the regime has blamed social media for the riot, deliberately, it would appear, looking at ways to further curb freedom of expression, of reporting, by creating a moral panic.
This follows earlier warnings that jokes and comments going viral on social media on 1MDB – and, of course, those involved – would be monitored by the authorities.
Suffice to say, these attempts at muzzling Malaysians and our channels of information must be resisted.
There are indeed a variety of reasons for what happened at and after the Low Yat Plaza theft.
But blaming it on the media – when, instead, it is the groups and individuals using the media that need to be examined – reeks of a deliberate witch-hunt, a deliberate attempt to use this incident to silence reporting of, certainly, 1MDB.
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
16 July 2015