June 23, 2013
Waldorf-Astoria, New York City
MY COMMENT: Malaysian Exceptionalism or Malay extremism? Josh is being polite or more appropriately politically correct in choosing the former label to describe our politics. I have no problem with the conservative label. But it is disturbing when people like Ibrahim Ali and former court interpreter turned Appellate Judge Mohd Noor Abdullah start championing Malay privileges to the exclusion of the rights of other Malaysians.
Malay extremism cannot be tolerated. That mindset is myopic and out of date. And it does not augur well for national unity. It denies the reality of our ethnic diversity and the advantage that it confers on our plural society.We need enlightened Malay leaders for our country since Malay leadership was never an issue. At issue is the quality of Malay leadership today. It is being perceived incorrigibly corrupt and philistine.
Make no bones about it. The Malays are confident, talented, creative and can be competitive when they are challenged. Malay politicians, however, like to make Malays like me feel that we are inferior to the Chinese and the Indians so that we remain forever dependent and indebted to the UMNO dominated government.
As a result of government policy, today more Malays have degrees and professional qualifications than in the 1960s and have become very assertive politically and less dependent on government handouts. Face it. Malay rights are not being threatened; only the rights of other Malaysians are being denied. This has to change so that national unity can become a reality. –Din Merican
by Josh Hong (06-21-13)@http://www.malaysiakini.com
Republicans such as Newt Gingrich, John McCain and Mitt Romney never fail to seize an opportunity to emphasise what they believe as ‘American exceptionalism’ – freedom vs tyranny, and a mandate to impose American values on others.
It has its origins in America’s history as a haven for puritans fleeing religious conformity, as decreed by King Charles I, “a shining city upon a hill”.
This unique chapter in human history has since been upheld as part of the tenets of faith in American politics. It must not be questioned even if the country has done something terribly wrong. Hence, the US, in the name of American exceptionalism, has committed great atrocities with impunity – from Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Pakistan to Iraq. You name it.
That is not all. Stepthen Walt, a Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University, once made an attempt to debunk the myth of American exceptionalism by pointing out that up to 400,000 Filipinos were killed when Washington was fighting against Spain over the Philippines, while aerial bombing during World War II killed 305,000 German and 330,000 Japanese civilians. General Curtis LeMay had to make sure the US would not lose the war, otherwise, “we would be prosecuted as war criminals”.
Thanks to this peculiar ideology which has penetrated all layers of American society, that whoever criticises US foreign policy does so at the risk of being branded as ‘anti-American’.
But my piece today is not another ‘anti-American’ rant, for I am simply using this example to highlight how irresponsible politicians and public figures can easily turn fallacies into truths and justify their own misdeeds or prejudice by referring to ‘Malaysian exceptionalism’.
Why is Malaysia exceptional? According to former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, it is because this is a multiracial country and one must be ultra-sensitive to the feelings of others.
The Police Force is a ‘symbol’
Therefore, one cannot be harsh on the Police despite the rising crime rate in the wake of deteriorating public security, as the Police force is largely made up of Malays and any criticism in this regard is tantamount to dismissing the Malay community as a whole.
For Mahathir and UMNO, the Police force symbolises the professionalism and competency of the Malays, and must be protected from public criticism. It is so ‘exceptional’ that even Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian chose to play down the fact that more Indians had been beaten to death in Police custody than any other ethnic group.
When the Cabinet and the Police unite against the calls for the long-proposed Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), they do so out of the fear of more dirty linens being exposed in broad daylight and, more importantly, that the Malay community may come to know more about the systemic failure of an institution that used to be held in high regard, which would spell more trouble for UMNO, no doubt.
And all Malays are seemingly born with a divine duty to defend first and foremost their own race. Should anyone be audacious enough to join the Opposition parties – especially DAP – he or she would become a pengkhianat (traitor) instantly, even faster than the Prime Minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor changes her handbag.
And for the non-Malays to challenge UMNO hegemony would be a crime worse than treachery, which explains why the shouts for Ambiga Sreenevasan’s citizenship to be stripped of are growing louder, with Mahathir leading the charge.
In Mahathir’s view, there is only one way for the non-Malays to become ‘fully Malaysian’ and thereby overcome this ‘Malaysian exceptionalism’, which is to speak Malay as their first language and to adopt Malay customs. Of course, one must not be too rich or it would again hurt the sentiments of the Malays.
But would one be so naive to believe that Mahathir has the best interests of the country at heart? Just look at the way he despises the poor Malays. There is even a marked social stratification within the Malay community today, and I honestly do not think Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir (right) shares much in common with the maid who comes and cleans my apartment every now and then.
In all likelihood, Mukhriz would feel more comfortable negotiating business deals with all the filthy rich tycoons in Malaysia, be they Vincent Tan, Ananda Krishnan, or Syed Mokhtar Albukhary.
Still not worthy enough
In other words, a pious, dutiful Malay is still not worthy of Mahathir’s attention unless he or she is as ‘successful’ and wealthy as his sons. As for those who sincerely believe that by becoming more Malay, they would win the hearts and minds of the ruling elites in UMNO, don’t be fooled. Even if one speaks impeccable Malay, would one then have qualified as a true Malaysian? Not likely, for the next criteria would be for one to embrace Islam – UMNO’s version of Islam, to be exact.
There will be more hurdles added to the journey of ‘becoming completely Malaysian’ just because this country is unique and ‘exceptional’. It is precisely because of this obsession with ‘Malaysian exceptionalism’ that UMNO is not putting any real efforts into arresting the decline in Malaysia’s competitiveness and curbing the rampant corruption. Instead, Mahathir and his cohorts prefer to talk about race and religion so as to fend off any challenge to their privileged position.
These days, no-one exemplifies the idiocy of ‘Malaysian exceptionalism’ better than former Court of Appeal judge Mohd Noor Abdullah (left), who has urged non-Malays to “repay the past sacrifice” made by the Malays in allowing Bahasa Melayu to be written in Rumi rather than Jawi “for the sake of national unity”.
It is suffice to say that there is no official record of the non-Malays making such a request at independence – the decision was most probably collectively made by English-educated elites, including Tunku Abdul Rahman, Abdul Razak Hussein and Tan Cheng Lok – the Malay language is heavily influenced by Sanskrit and was written in various scripts before the arrival of Islam in the peninsula.
And I wonder if either Mahathir or Mohd Noor has heard of the Kedukan Bukit Inscription. Personally, I would have no issue with learning Jawi, but to distort historical facts in order to serve UMNO’s agenda is an act most unbecoming of a Yang Arif (the learned).
The conclusion? The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. Indeed, nowhere in the region of South-East Asia has this quote been proven true time and again than in Malaysia, and that is truly exceptional.