The decree issued recently by the Conference of Rulers to prohibit political leaders from stoking racial and religious sentiments suggests that such dangerous expressions have reached a worrying level in the country.
Certain politicians had indulged in hate speech and lies in a calculated attempt to gain support from the electorate, particularly people of ‘our kind’, in the run-up to polling day.
It is troubling because, even after the general election, such aspersions cast against others still continue unabated by people who are disgruntled by the outcome.
Politicians, particularly those in Pakatan Harapan, were accused of being communist, immoral, Jewish agents and promoting Islamophobia, at a rate as if freedom of expression has no bounds and does not require accountability.
It is politically significant that DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang has even suggested that the government form a commission of inquiry to look into the allegation, particularly by Pas, that the Chinese-based party is Islamophobic. DAP has been the convenient punching bag of Malay-centred politicians over the years.
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And there were a few video clips that essentially warned ethnic Malays to be vigilant because the ethnic minorities allegedly were bent on usurping Malay special privileges and stifling Islam.
As if to reinforce this supposed looming threat, a year-old video clip, among others, made its rounds on social media showing DAP’s Nga Kor Ming making a controversial suggestion that Malaysians born after Merdeka should be accorded bumiputra status.
The video obviously was aimed at spooking certain quarters in the Malay community, especially those who already possess a siege mentality and people who understandably feel it is a sensitive issue.
This is despite Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s assurance that the special position of the Malays and bumiputra, Malay as the national language and Islam as the country’s official religion are well protected and entrenched.
It is feared that this kind of negative incitement would further drive a wedge in an already divided nation – a problem that is expected to be addressed by the Anwar administration, said to be inclusive in its worldview and to have the resolve to put the economy back on track.
Hence, it is politically welcoming that at this juncture the Council of Churches and Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) intervened and separately called for a stop to such kinds of dangerous narrative, while welcoming the rulers’ decree.
It is unfortunate, though, that to date, support for the royal decree has yet to come from the ulama fraternity.
Fear and suspicion haunt some members of our multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, eroding goodwill and solidarity built over the years.
We have come to such a point that, for example, there appears to be a dire need to show that there is indeed a bumiputra majority in the composition of MPs that support the ‘unity government’.
This is to allay the nagging fear of some Malays about a government being dominated by ethnic minorities, which partly explains why the Malay-based opposition has gained much ground in the Malay heartland.
Incidentally, it would baffle foreign observers, to see the irony of a majority community, which claims to have racial supremacy, exhibiting a sense of insecurity that could, in turn, belittle its collective dignity.
Malay-based parties in the opposition would do the Malays a great service if they would spend much time outlining their policies and plans to help uplift the socioeconomic status of the majority of the Malays they purportedly champion, so the community is able hold its collective head high.
In a period where social media often become purveyors of hate, lies and dark designs, there is one video clip that is worth watching. It may not fully explain the complexities of our political culture, but it nonetheless helps to shed some light.
Using an analogy, American writer-humourist Mark Twain was credited as saying, “If you collect 100 black ants and 100 fire ants and put them in a jar, nothing will happen.
“But if you take the jar, shake it violently and leave it on a table, the ants will start killing each other.
“Red believes the black is the enemy, while black believes the red is the enemy – when the real enemy is the person who shook the jar.” – The Malaysian Insight