Home Newsletters Who’s afraid of the big bad rainbow?

Who’s afraid of the big bad rainbow?

The only way to beat Pas at the Islamisation game is by offering a counter-narrative that is progressive, just and inclusive

Rainbow in cloudy sky

Follow us on our Malay and English WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram, Tiktok and Youtube channels.

Back during the Cold War, the term “red scare” was widely used to create irrational fear of communism and its impending takeover of the society.

The red scare was so pervasive that its believers imagined there were communist threats everywhere they looked. Even a lighter hue of red – pink – was not spared from the mass anti-communism paranoia. Those who showed affinity towards any kind of leftist ideology were branded as “pinkos”.

The recent nationwide raids on Swatch stores to confiscate LGBT-themed watches call to mind an era when colours such as red and pink symbolised threats to national security and public morality.

Perhaps we should call the government crackdowns on all LGBT-related people, events and things as the “rainbow scare”. Imagine that!

This could encompass the fear of being turned into an LGBT+ person just from seeing a rainbow appear on the horizon after a downpour.

Or after eating a rainbow-coloured kek lapis Sarawak (a layered cake).

Or sleeping on a rainbow-coloured bedsheet.

Or wearing a rainbow-themed Swatch timepiece.

Well, you get the idea.

That said, the raids are symptomatic of the government’s consistent targeting of the weak and vulnerable sections of our society to appease the perceived demands of the majority.

It is not just the LGBT+ community that is on the receiving end of the government’s blunt instrument of force. Think of other marginalised groups such as the refugees, migrant workers, Orang Asli and minority Muslim sects such as the Shias and Ahmadiyahs.

How are we to make sense of these raids and other similarly inspired incidents – like the use of the word Allah in Malay-language Bibles – that seem to have grown in frequency since 2018?

READ MORE:  Sexuality issues and Malaysia's future

The Swatch raids were carried out without official sanction from the home minister. Ministry officials claimed the raids were part of a “routine operation”.

But it beggars belief that an operation of that magnitude, which took place across the country, did not appear on the minister’s radar.

Was it a planned effort to burnish the unity government’s Islamic credentials in the run-up to elections in six states? Were the raids carried out to gain political mileage – to lure Malay voters away from the opposition Perikatan Nasional?

Surveys have shown that in last November’s general election, 57% of ethnic Malays voted for PN and less than 15% voted for Pakatan Harapan (PH), which now helms a multi-coalition government.

Umno’s inclusion in the “unity government” will not automatically bring with it Malay votes. Quite the opposite. Political analysts have projected that the party will continue to lose its supporters to PN in the upcoming state elections.

The unity government, however, thinks it can go toe-to-toe with its opponent by trying to ‘out-Islamise’ the Malay-Islam-based PN.

PH leader Anwar Ibrahim, as a central figure in Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first administration (1981-2003) and the so-called architect of the then government’s Islamisation efforts, should know better than to vie with Pas for ‘religious authenticity’.

The only way to beat Pas at the Islamisation game is by not appropriating its conservative values but to offer an alternative counter-narrative that is progressive, just and inclusive.

We do not have to agree with those who are different from us to acknowledge their rights as citizens and, more importantly, as human beings. All of us want to be treated justly and to lead a life with dignity and pride (pun intended!). It is just the right thing to do as members of a diverse society.

READ MORE:  Constitutional morality and societal morality: Safeguarding minority rights

Surely, we want others to provide us with the respect and equality we deserve, and it is only fair that we reciprocate with the same courtesy.

As the myth goes, there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I’d like to imagine the rainbow represents our collective self, united by the common ideals of humanity – despite our differences – in pursuit of a just and equal society, the metaphorical pot of the gold.

Now that’s the kind of rainbow we can all be a part of.

Azmil Tayeb
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
31 May 2023

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
Support our work by making a donation. Tap to download the QR code below and scan this QR code from Gallery by using TnG e-wallet or most banking apps:
Avatar photo
Dr Azmil Tayeb, the honorary secretary of Aliran, is a political science lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia. He is the winner of the 2019 Colleagues' Choice book prize (social science category) awarded by the International Convention of Asia Scholars for his book Islamic Education in Indonesia and Malaysia: Shaping Minds, Saving Souls
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Most Read

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x