A piece of advice after BERSIH 5.0

November 24, 2016

A piece of advice after BERSIH 5.0

by Azly Rahman


Malaysians, we need to come back to our senses. Our strength will still come from diversity and the respect and cultivation of talent. We should rejoice and celebrate the achievements of this nation for that beautiful concept of unity in diversity; not to organise any rally that spews hatred and invoke the horrors of the May 13, 1969 tragedy.


Image result for bersih 5.0 november 19

The recent yellow-shirt 60,000 strong-mass rally in Malaysia, urging cleaner elections and the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak ended in both warring parties winning – the protesters got their message across for the fifth time and the government got to test-drive the 2012 Special Offences Act (Sosma), its new anti-terrorist law, for the first time.

The leader of BERSIH (‘Clean’ in Malay), Maria Chin Abdullah, a long-time human rights activist, is now in solitary confinement, detained like a suspected Islamic State (IS) terrorist while investigations on her alleged links with the American intelligence-gathering-legit-government agency, the CIA, are being carried out. Exactly how she is linked will be a puzzle and a mystery, like those of the world-famous money-laundering and high-profile case of the Malaysian 1MDB.

Image result for bersih 5.0 november 19

But the government, as always, is winning. I attribute this perpetual victory to one concept – hegemony. Rousseau and Gramsci have written a lot about this idea of ‘common sense’. The control over Man, machinery, media, and money.

The former Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled Malaysia with an iron glove for 22 years mastered this concept. Today he marches with the BERSIH protesters, outside of the real of hegemony he created, and trying to figure out how to play the game of counter-hegemony and feels what it is like to play with authority.

Image result for Najib and Mahathir

Najib learned politics from Mahahtir Mohamed

Ironically, the authority he is trying to bring down was a child of his own creation – his Frankenstein. Or rather, culturally speaking, his Badang. It is a tough and complicating act and one which seemingly has no poetic justice in sight.

Recently, in a US-based publication, I wrote about the representation of the Malays on the eve of the red-shirt-yellow-shirt confrontation:

“ … Aren’t Malaysians tired of seeing the Malays being represented as buffoons, stupid, amok-prone, close-minded, rempits, kris-kissing fools, Ali Baba forty-thieves, rejects, religious fanatics, red-shirts, whatever shirts… it is a clever production and reproduction of the Malay ruling class, both feudal and wannabe-feudal… so that the Jebat aspect of the Malay – the amuck, the wannabe-sultan, the misogynic, the sex-maniac-royal groper and rapist of ancient Malacca, the royal-jet-setting-good-for-nothing-ancient-kings, the hedonistic, the grotesque epicure, the gangster, the absurd – is pushed forward and propagated to strengthen the Tuah aspect – the fool that followed the foolish orders of the foolish and idiotic Malacca sultan, the womaniser-cum-religious leader – the bad hombre of Malay culture – these are the twin representation of the Malays. A laughing stock – the Malays are made to become…” Source here.

So – how now brown cow? What are Malaysians to do after yet another rally? After yet another governmental pounding on the protesters with arrests a la Machiavelli?

The way forward

Image result for Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman–An Educator for Peace

As an educator for peace and an advocate of long-haul bloodless revolutions focusing on changing consciousness through education and self-reflection, through living an ethical, morally-compassed, and intelligible life for the collective-good of society, I would suggest the following as a long-term plan for a radical change:

It is better to focus on raising your children well in adjusting to a changing, globalising, and very diversifying Malaysian and global society. We must work harder to improve race relations, be stronger to fight corruption and power abuse, and be more intelligent in designing policies that will benefit the poor, the marginalised and the powerless.

We must teach our children to focus on ways to understand others, improving their English language skills, perfecting their moral compass, encouraging them to think well and good about children of other races and religion, to encourage them to make friends with people of other races, to be grateful that schools offer the great opportunity to love and respect teachers of different races.

Teach them to learn about the dangers of generalising, stereotyping, and projecting hate that would lead to mass deception, to encourage each child to learn about other cultures and religion, and to teach them that all of us in Malaysia are now Malaysians and not this or that group of immigrants.

We all are migrants in time and space and in history and that all of us are human beings with emotions, struggles, challenges, history of joy and despair, memory of pain and pleasure of living, and that all of us are merely of differing skin colour tone and born to speak different languages and to believe in different things about salvation and that we are all travelers in this life.

We cannot allow Malaysia to come to a point in which riots such as those race-based against the police to take root. We cannot allow the Malaysian version of #BlackLivesMatter to be the impetus for urban violence.

We are all these and will not need moments of history where we cultivate hate for the bigger picture of oppression we do not understand. We may all be pawns in this great political game of big-time plunderers and multi-ethnic robber-barons skilled at mass deception and distractions. Today, the level of corruption and the growing cases of mass corruption and power abuse that are going unpunished have made Malaysia a critically ill nation.

We should be grateful that we are still alive and breathe daily and that we must think happily and joyfully like Malaysians in order for each and every one of us to prosper in peace. We cannot travel the path of America in which racism is on the rise and of late especially in places such as Texas, Islamophobia is brewing.

Image result for Diversity is strength

Malaysians, we need to come back to our senses. Our strength will still come from diversity and the respect and cultivation of talent. We should rejoice and celebrate the achievements of this nation for that beautiful concept of unity in diversity; not to organise any rally that spews hatred and invoke the horrors of the May 13, 1969 tragedy.

Image result for jamal ikan bakar sekinchan

Let us design a safer journey towards a progressive and harmonious Malaysia, beyond for example, the red T-shirt red-river of blood march of some mangled manufactured propaganda of Malay dignity.

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My Thanksgiving wish is to see a saner and more peaceful America as well as Malaysia – two countries I have loved and will continue to love. On that note: Have a blessed Thanksgiving, my fellow Americans!

16 thoughts on “A piece of advice after BERSIH 5.0

  1. #happy.thanksgiving Dr Azly. Well said.

    Following our Columbia tradition, I guess we could not but agree to what Lee Bolinger said to all Columbians across the world recently in a post-election US.
    // In these moments, we must turn to our fundamental values, among them a commitment to freedom of thought and expression, dedication to tolerance and reason, respect for diversity and differing points of view, and a determination to do what we do with the utmost integrity and courage.

    Jamal Yunos, or those better than Jamal Yunos must stand up today. Not only Maruah Melayu is at stake, but Melayu is at stake. Independence of the nation is at stake. I am no longer a Malaysian, but I do fear for the independence of my mother land, your tanahair. #Takkan.Melayu.Hilang.Di.Dunia. My Trump President, my cousins’ Xi-Core, and your MO1 would hardly give Melayu a chance. Nada. Not a second thought, as they pursue their own dream of writing their own grand history in their own bubble. You wouldn’t stand a chance, if you would not stand up for yourselves, start cultivating the garden you have inherited and most importantly start respecting yourself and each other, as you deserve better. Melayu, Cina, Indian dan lain-lain, who are really not lain-lain kerana mereka memegang lebih hak mengundi daripada kebanyakan orang lain.

    Saya bersyukur kerana dapat keumpatan dipupuk di sebuah negara yang memberi keamanan and perlindungan bila negara nenek-moyang-ku berpecah-pelah. Saya bersyukur kerana bila dunia kata Cina dan India tu tak boleh hidup sebumbung, Malaysia membukti mereka berprasangka terlampau. Saya bersyukur bila sesetengah dunia kata Islam tu zalim, Kristian Cina ini bersumpah dia beryakinan itu bukan intipati Islam, itu pun bila orang Cina ni tak tau siapa tu Yunos, Ibrahim, dan Ismail dalam buku yang memberi kami makna berhidup. Jika hari kiamat kami bertiba, itu pun hak kedaulatan Tuhan untuk menghakim Kristian Cina ini yang tak pernah beri Nabi Mohammad s.a.w. berkenanaan yang sepatut.
    Kata Zen orang Barat, we are ‘nowhere’, if we are not ‘now’ and ‘here’.

    Hari ini, tak ada negara Islam yang tidak dijilat kuasa keruntuhan. Bila Tun M tulis blog tentang ‘Kiamat’, saya cuma diperingati kata Isa ‘Tak ada orang yang tau ketibaan masa tu’. Tapi, bila tibanya masa, we will see “the first shoot” that even “the wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will blossom and rejoice”. Hari ini bukan hari kiamat. Hari ini hari saya perlu diperingati, dalam Kristian, tiada Cina atau Amerika. Bila Tan Sri Muhiyiddin kata baru-baru ni bahawa Bersatu, DAP, dan Amanah harlus berpakatan tangan-ke-tangan, saya meratap. Saya diperingati, dalam Islam, tiada Melayu, sekurang-kurangnya tiada Melayu yang duduk lebih tinggi dari sopan-satun Melayu halus yang orang Cina ini kenal. Yang benar, tiada Melayu pertama atau Malaysia pertama. Yang pertama tu Tuan Kebenaran orang Melayu, orang Malaysia masing-masing. Tan Sri Muhiyiddin bercakap benar. Kini, sudah tibanya masa untuk kami kenali bahawa there is nothing else to loose, tapi ‘Melayu’ akan hilang kat dunia, jika kami tidak condongkan negara kami.

    Kalau nak kata Bersih itu berpengaruh asing, itu memang benar, bila kita tahu pengaruh Gene Sharp yang hasil fikiran-nya cuma berhajat untuk memberi harapan kepada mereka yang diasingkan oleh Tuan-tuan masyarakat.
    Banyak revolusi pun guna slogan ‘Bersih’ dalam bahasa mereka untuk meruntuhkan diktator yang cuma meggunakan kedudukan istimewa mereka untuk mengembangkan pengaruh mereka sendiri.

    Hari ini hari untuk kami bersyukur. Kami bersyukur demokrasi beri mereka yang diasingkan keumpatan untuk menurunkan diktator tanpa ketumpahan darah.
    Tapi bila kuasa demokrasi pun sudah dirosaki kerana ‘malapportionment’ undi kami, kami bersyukur kami bukan satu-satunya yang diasingkan Tuan-tuan UMNO Baru. Kami bersyukur none-of-us perlu tumpah darah.

    We just need to realize diktator tak boleh jadi diktator jika dia tak ada rakyat yang dikuasai-nya. Bila hari itu tiba, hantu tak berjiwa di perkeliling diktator akan meruntuhkan dia. Kami harlus perlu menyatakan kebantahan kami dengan cara yang lebih pintar. Kami bersyukur kami ada tradisi berazan. Berazan-lah kami patut, wahai Layu-sian. Buat bising dengan gong kat rumah tiap-tiap hari lima kali sehari untuk mengingatkan MO1 kebantahan kami seminit sebelum menara azan kami berbunyi. Itu bukan perbuatan kami hina Tuhan. Itu perbuatan untuk memperingatkan sendiri bahawa Tuan Kebeneran wujud.

    Saya bersyukur, ber-kam-siah.

  2. Again, Bersih will just be basis for change when change comes rather than the change itself unless they have an intellectual answer to Hadi’s PAS dysfunctionality..

    Political Islam has failed the Malays but no one has explained why. Its not that complicated. While Freedom of Religion is universally accepted as a human right, “deen” or “Way of Life” is NOT. “Way of Life” is at best socialism which no govt can gurantee, but critically its social engineering and if it goes bad, social tyranny..The very source that gave us the idea of freedom of religion, also says too much govt such as socialism, social engineering is BAD. Opposing Syariah law is not opposing Islamic “right”. It is opposing too much govt, social engineering and the fear of social tyranny..

    The idea of Freedom of Religion is actually pivotally codified in the First Amendment of the US Constitution – part of the Bill of Rights. That document, one of its key pillars, is the idea of Tyranny of Govt and Majority..And its very clear guarantee of Freedom of Religion IS NOT guarantee of “way of life” and in fact WARN against it.

    Its FALSE equivalency to argue that opposing “Syariah” is hypocrisy of principle of Freedom of Religion. Its CONSISTENCY of the guarantee. Its those that will not say NO that is overly politically correct – the same PC that result in the election of Donald Trump. If you want to criticise Donald Trump than be consistent and speak up against Hadi’s PAS..

  3. As usual, Dr. Azly Rahman writes very eloquently and with great sincerity. I have read his “An Utterly Shameful Representation of The Malays?” on Eurasia Review just a few days ago. And I noticed most of the responses were from the Malays and almost all responded favorably.

    In order “to teach our children to focus on ways to understand others…encouraging them to think well and good about children of other races and religion, to encourage them to make friends with people of other races…”, what other better way than to have an exchange program to let our kids go live with the families of other races during their school holidays? Malaysian parents should look into this if they do not already have such program. Start one if there isn’t any. Not only kids learn well from other kids, the host-family parents can learn something from the guest-kids.

    When I first came to the United States, I was so poor that I couldn’t rent an apartment. I went to live with a host-family as an au pair, helping out with housework in exchange for room and board. The family was a retired African-American couple, both educators. They taught me to speak and write in proper English. I must say it broke all my preconceived stereotypes of black people.

  4. Just look at this – Nov 8 2016 – “Singapore will reserve the position of the country’s president for the Malay community in the presidential contest due next year.

    This was announced by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as part of reforms to the country’s presidential system.

    “That means if a qualified Malay candidate steps up to run, Singapore will have a Malay president again… this would be our first after more than 46 years, since our first president Encik Yusof Ishak,” he was quoted as saying by Singapore’s Straits Times.

    Under the proposed reform, Singapore plans to reserve the position of Singapore’s president to a racial group which has not occupied the position for five continuous terms. Lee said this is to ensure minority representation.

    “Every citizen, Chinese, Malay, Indian, or some other race, should know that someone of his community can become president, and in fact from time to time, does become president,” he was quoted as saying.

    The proposed changes will require the Singapore Parliament to amend the country’s constitution.

    Singapore has had Chinese and Indian presidents since 1991 when the elected presidency system came into force, but no Malay president.

    This means the Malay community has not had a president for five continuous terms.”


  5. The law of life states that you will only understand the value of yor mother when you have lost her. Remember the past enjoy the present because what is to come is uncertain so enjoy the. Present once again.

  6. Quote:- “…an exchange program to let our kids go live with the families of other races during their school holidays?”

    As in everything in life, the devil is in the details.

    Would a Malay-Muslim parent want his Muslim kid to live for a couple of weeks in a pork-eating household where perhaps Christian grace is said before every meal or a Chinese Buddhist family with the family altar burning joss sticks?

    OK, no pork and grace for two weeks, but Muslim practice dictates that cooking and eating utensils must be washed, what, 6 times? before it can be used by Muslims.

    And of course conversely, would the non-Muslim parent want their kids to listen to Islamic prayers a few times a day?

  7. Children staying in each other’s homes…?

    Those of us fortunate to have been born around the end of the War clearly recall that that was exactly how we lived in those far-off days… it has only become a big deal now…and that too mostly here in Malaysia…

  8. Never expected an exchange program would start by the bigots. Negativity bias is detrimental while openness and transparency show us the way to growth and progress.

  9. I think there are enough like-thinking Malaysian parents (of all races) who understand that Malaysia’s future depends on our children growing up to know and understand each other. We cannot afford to let them mistrust one another.

    Kids exchange program is a good idea but unworkable as Wayne suggested.

    The one thing that will work is to bring back English-medium schools, like the old days. Let these English schools compete with the vernacular schools as before.

    Let these English schools nurture and educate the next generation of Malaysians like us, who grew up to have friends of all races.

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