The terror created by extremism is man-made, fabricated and by all means unnatural and therefore can be brought down, asserts Syerleena Abdul Rashid.
The hostility and animosity targeted at fellow Malaysians whose opposing views may not be in line with the doctrines endorsed by the ruling elite is dangerously becoming a standardised template used to instil fear in would-be dissenters.
Ironically, just a few weeks ago, our prime minister told the world there was a need to “break the cycle where one group gains power only to wield it against another” and to provide an “inclusive” platform that reflects the “pluralistic society” we live in. His speech was nothing more than another instance of lip service to appease and deceive international critics – ideological dishonesty Malaysians have grown to love and hate.
On 12 October 2014, Gabungan Hapuskan Akta Hasutan organised a gathering in Penang to call for the repeal of the Sedition Act. What should have been a peaceful gathering turned into whirlwind pandemonium, instigated by none other than the usual suspects – (hired?) hooligans from the far right.
Just a few minutes after the event started, a mob of men disrupted the event with overzealous fervour, reaffirming that the threat of extremism is fast becoming a disease that may eventually destroy our country.
The ruling elite saturate our society with fear. They tell us to fear the loss of certain socio-political rights, the Communist threat, the “Christian agenda” and other creative fibs they conjure up in order to remain in power. They exploit the fears of those who are most gullible and uninformed. The rest of us can see through the lies and recognise the price our future generation will pay if we allow the rot to be perpetuated further.
Calls that condone extremism and racially motivated intimidation have become more apparent, and several right wing groups have become increasingly vocal because they appear to have been granted undue consent to do so. This occurs because the ruling elite are aware that socio-political reforms in our society are inevitable; it is just a matter of time before the walls of oppression start crumbling down.
Fanaticism and bigotry have found a certain stronghold in our society: as the acceptance and influence of universal values have slowly eroded, genuine intellectualism now seems more of a taboo – a threat that should be exterminated rather than a quality we should uphold. Such a development is due to a number of factors: it may be seen as a chain reaction to ineffective policies, the waning quality of life and education, unemployment and questionable political leadership. It can be said that although political ideologies fuel the fire of extremism, it is the psychological aspect that facilitates and perpetuates such evils in our society.
The disillusionment that becomes increasingly apparent in some factions gives way to radical and extremist philosophies. Only the victims of severe socio-economic and political inequalities will start rebelling against universal values that uphold tolerance, respect and sound moral logic. When disenchantment and resentment become widespread, it makes it easier for the ruling elite to use divide-and-rule tactics – masked under nationalistic catch phrases and patriotism that is anti-democratic, totalitarian and somewhat fascist.
The sentiments of an overtly strong nationalism and weak democratic practices allow extremism to flourish. The ruling elite will use this concoction to manipulate the broken dreams and the unfulfilled hopes of certain factions by feeding them government-backed propaganda.
The only way out of this is through a comprehensive and accurate understanding of this phenomenon. Extremism and other racially motivated violence are all part and parcel of a political agenda created by the ruling elite.
Although Malaysia’s political ethos may not seem to honour democracy and the just rights conferred on its citizens, the terror created by extremism is man-made, fabricated and by all means unnatural and therefore can be brought down.