October 1, 2012
When commenting, please take political correctness into consideration
by Oon Yeoh (09-26-12) @http://www.thesundaily.my
WESTERN media will normally publish critical commentary on anything under the sun. Nothing is sacrosanct. However, for certain topics, especially those that touch on race and religion, even western media takes into consideration political correctness.
It does this by featuring a commentator from the community that the topic touches on. For example, if they wish to have a commentary about how Chinese entrepreneurs need to stop being copycats and start innovating, there’s a good chance they would get a Chinese entrepreneur to write it.
And so it is with the violent response in some Muslim countries to the anti-Islam YouTube clip called Innocence of Muslims. Here are excerpts of commentaries:
“If Americans – and, more importantly, American politicians – can let (Egyptian president) Morsi’s apparent venom towards us and our way of life slide, then why can’t Egyptians remain calm when some random kook mocks the Prophet Muhammad?” – Tarek Masoud, Slate.com (September 14)
“Modernity requires the willingness to be offended. And as anti-American violence across the Middle East and beyond shows, that willingness is something the Arab world, the heartland of Islam, still lacks.” – Fouad Ajami, Washington Post (September 15)
“Rather than letting the crisis blow over, he (US President Barack Obama) ought to use the moment to explain the Constitution’s First Amendment and freedom of speech, a principle unfamiliar to societies of the Middle East and Southern Asia but (is) at the heart of democracy.” – Nivien Saleh, Salon.com (September 19)
When you want to feature a commentary that’s critical of Muslim reaction to the video, it makes sense to get a Muslim commentator to do it. In similar fashion, if there’s to be a commentary about Buddhists, who would be the best person to write that? A Buddhist writer, no less.
You can see examples of this all around. Recently, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wrote in Mingguan Malaysia a scathing commentary about how Malays had become so weak that they now had to “beg for support” from other races.
“Who brought on this disaster? No other than the Malays themselves – greedy Malays, Malays lacking in intelligence, Malays easily influenced by lust, easily dominated by hatred when agitated,” he wrote.
Imagine the backlash if the same words had been written by former MCA President Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik or former MIC President Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu? Going back to the three commentaries I referred to earlier, imagine if they had been written by Christians or Jews.
Actually, it doesn’t even take a whole column. Perak DAP Chairman Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham learned that all too well when he posted a tweet questioning UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin’s intention to stage a protest and asked whether Muslims were spending too much time and energy on the matter. That single tweet earned Ngeh 237 Police reports (and counting).
“… rather than to recoil in defensiveness against everything western or offensive, there must be instead, an attitude of critical reflection and openness to ideas. Progress requires freedom, for no genuine learning can proceed when power is imposed from without on what can be said and heard… Hate must be combated. Oppression must end. But Muslims will only fail themselves if they proceed in a stupor of insecurity and anger.”
That statement was jointly authored by Ahmad Farouk Musa, Ahmad Fuad Rahmad, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Rizqi Mukhriz and Ehsan Shahwahid of the Islamic Renaissance Front. I share their views.