January 23, 2013
Ibrahim Ali’s Destructive saber-rattling antics hurt UMNO-BN
by Terence Netto@http://www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: Just now Pakatan Rakyat ought to be glad that the Opposition coalition’s propensity to feuds and follies has been overshadowed by Pasir Mas MP Ibrahim Ali’s penchant for destructive saber-rattling.
The PERKASA Chief’s urging to Malays to burn Malay-language bibles which use the term ‘Allah’ for God has drawn public odium, with consequent ill-effects to UMNO-BN’s prospects.
Pakatan leaders must be beside themselves with glee: in the final few weeks to a much-deferred general election, incendiary calls like Ibrahim’s are just what could tilt fence-sitting voters into voting against parties seen to be in cahoots with the firebrand.
Against one inflammatory shot like Ibrahim’s, such mistakes as the PAS-led Kedah state government’s guidelines on female deportment in cultural shows during Chinese New Year and the PAS Syura Council’s flip-flop on non-Muslim use of the ‘Allah’ term pale into insignificance.
Ibrahim’s blunder is on the order of Hishammuddin Hussein’s waving of the keris at the 2006 UMNO Youth annual assembly which the then UMNO Youth Chief unrepentantly went on to re-enact at the following year’s confab.
The gesture was seen as a sinister threat to non-Malays that they not press their claims too zealously for equality of opportunity in Malaysia.
The first time Hishammuddin waved the keris, the repugnance of the gesture took time to sink in. When he repeated the act a year later, its insolence was magnified to an enormity – augmented, no doubt, by all the perceived injustices of the preceding year.
The fact that the gesture was enacted and repeated by the scion of one of UMNO’s respected founding families only served to accentuate the shock of the public discovery of the extent of the damage done to UMNO by its progressive loss of resistance to the barbarous undercurrents swirling underneath it.
No restraint put on Ibrahim
Ibrahim Ali has emerged from those currents. For the large part of the last half-decade, he has strutted about the national stage, spouting racial bluster and provocation. Except for de facto Law Minister Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz, who expressed confidence that Malaysians knew Ibrahim to be a clown and as such were unperturbed by him, nobody in UMNO felt bold enough to restrain him.
True, the public were apt to view Ibrahim as a clown, what with his frequent party-hopping and penchant for ludicrous statement.
But when former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad began appearing at public forums organised by the PERKASA chief, the inclination to dismiss his antics as clownish receded as Ibrahim’s right-wing rants began to be act as checks on Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s liberalising moves.
Mahathir chose to forget the contempt he had once had for the party-hopper, claiming that the public had learned to disrespect political invertebrates like Ibrahim.
But, apparently, to a politician of Mahathir’s manipulative instincts, even frogs like Ibrahim could be useful. Via Ibrahim’s vociferous rants about Malay rights, Mahathir was telling the non-Malays, “It is better for you to prefer us moderates when there are extremists like Ibrahim around.”
Crossing the red line
Thus unconstrained, the danger-courting Ibrahim was led to flirt with racial and religious bluster until last week he crossed the ‘out of bounds’ markers that circumscribe our sensitive Malaysian polity: at a PERKASA-organised function in Bukit Mertajam last weekend, Ibrahim called on Malays to burn Malay-language bibles that used the ‘Allah’ term for God.
Incendiary calls to “burn” holy books and gestures like keris-waving are lunges across the red lines the Malaysian collective conscious had drawn in its recoil from the trauma of the May 13 racial riots. Politicians cross these red lines at their own peril.
Pakatan ought to be glad that Ibrahim has obtained for them a reprieve from a spell of dissonance within their ranks that raised doubts over the durability of the Opposition coalition. They ought to take advantage of this fortuitous turn by allowing Ibrahim, and, by extension, UMNO-BN to stew in the predicament inflicted on them by the PERKASA leader’s rashness.
Attempts by DAP chairperson Karpal Singh and Puchong MP Gobind Singh to compel the Attorney-General to take action against Ibrahim run the risk of allowing the latter to take diversionary sidesteps to protect himself from the fallout his inflammatory remarks have brought down on him. Ibrahim has provided Pakatan with a gift horse; they should not look it in the mouth.