Hopefully, those attending this congress will indulge in much-needed introspection and
This Sunday, Malays of various political stripes converged in a Shah Alam stadium in a huge gathering to address issues that purportedly confront the community or, as some would bill it, the ummah.
It attracted the interest of, among others, leaders of opposition Pas and Umno, as well as Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who attended as a “Malay leader” and not prime minister of all Malaysians.
Organised by four public universities, the Malay Dignity Congress was held to tackle particular issues regarding the special privileges of Malays and Bumiputera; the position of the Malay rulers; the status of Islam as the country’s official religion; and Malay as the national language, all of which are claimed to be under threat.
If these so-called grievances sound like an old record being played time and again, you are not wrong because it indeed is.
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While there have been attempts to question or undermine a few of these special provisions by certain quarters over the years, these are largely cases – and some of which are remote in nature – that do not require a big jamboree to issue a stern warning to the culpable.
Furthermore, there are laws that are able to handle such misconduct.
If anything, it was feared that this gathering could well turn out to appear as a congregation to unabashedly display a collective sense of insecurity, which, on the contrary, doesn’t help to enhance the dignity of the community concerned.
A sense of insecurity that lingers on even after more than 60 years of independence in the Peninsula and intense implementation of the New Economic Policy and its derivatives, apart from the fact that such provisions relating to the Malays, the rulers and Islam are enshrined in the federal constitution.
Additionally, Malays dominate the civil service, the police, the armed forces, Islamic religious agencies (that supposedly promote and protect Islam) and other state institutions.
Moreover, such a sense of insecurity would arouse curiosity, if not ridicule, as it emerges from a community whose members often pride themselves for acquiring the status of Malay supremacy among other ethnic communities in the country.
A baffling paradox of a supreme community under siege.
In a gathering that can be emotive, given the politics of race and religion that has prevailed in recent times, there was bound to be a show of bravado as well as an inclination to point fingers at others outside of the community in their search for the supposed source of their grievances.
It is, therefore, hoped those attending this congress would also indulge in much-needed introspection and soul-searching in the middle of a concerted effort to supposedly enhance Malay dignity.
For starters, why does this sense of insecurity still predominate the national narrative, particularly within the Malay community, after all these years?
Could it be, in part, that such discourse serves the narrow interests of Malay politicians whose political survival and fortunes rest on making the Malay masses feel insecure?
In other words, these politicians thrive and profit from being hailed as “protectors” of the community, and therefore they are part of the problem, and
And, for instance, does it help when the state coffers that are meant to be used to improve the living standards of the ordinary people, especially the poor Malays, are embezzled by these very “protectors”?
Here, the humongous 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal comes to mind, apart from corruption in other state agencies.
In a sense, the dignity of the entire community has been undermined by these purveyors of insecurity and siege mentality.
Indeed, moral bankruptcy is not a trait that should be linked to the attempt to bolster the dignity of a community.
Another question for those who attended to ponder is regarding the promotion of Islam and inculcation of Islamic values in various facets of Malaysian life.
If corruption is anathema to Islam, why have many Malay-Muslim leaders and civil servants indulged in it as if it is a mark of noble accomplishments and spiritual nourishment? What has gone wrong?
These and other relevant questions must be addressed by the gathering so that the community would not be waylaid by political manoeuvrings of certain politicians and other interested parties, which would then only hurt the dignity of the entire community, whose trust doesn’t deserve to be betrayed.
To be sure, there is dignity in achieving excellence in education, commerce, science, the arts, industry, humanitarian work, human rights and distributive justice, among other important pursuits in life.
Malaysians, including the Malay community, should strive for such sterling accomplishments so that the country can move forward and be respected by the international community.
And at the same time, Malaysians from various ethnic and religious groups should have mutual understanding and respect and compassion for each other.
Nothing could be more dignified than this.