‘The Vagina Monologues’: Untold stories of womanhood


February 19,2019

‘The Vagina Monologues’: Untold stories of womanhood

by Som Kanika / Khmer Times

Each of the monologues deals with an aspect of the feminine experience. KT/Som Kanika

It was in 1996 when Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” premiered in New York City. More than two decades on, the episodic play continues to draw women together and inspire them to embrace their bodies and womanhood. During last week’s Phnom Fem Fest, “The Vagina Monologues” was brought again to Phnom Penh to empower Khmer women, writes Som Kanika.

Drawing inspiration from the an episodic play “The Vagina Monologues” written by Eve Ensler and was first performed in 1996, a group of local and expat women worked hard to bring the motivational play to Cambodia in time for the Phnom Fem Fest which began on February 15.

“The Vagina Monologues” explores consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with reproduction, sex work, and several other topics through the eyes of women with various ages, races, sexualities, and other differences.

. .
The monologues use the female reproductive organ as a tool for empowerment. KT/Som Kanika

Shauna O’Mahony, Men Sonita, Emily Marques, Phoebe Ray and Alex Kennett – the directors of the Phnom Fem Fest – said that playing the thought-provoking “The Vagina Monologues” story in Phnom Penh was meant to inspire and empower Cambodian women to embrace their womanhood and fight for their rights. With its three-night run from February 15 to 17, the play drew a large crowd at the Chinese House on Preah Sisowath Quay.

The Vagina Monologues is made up of various personal monologues read by a diverse group of women. Originally, Eve Ensler performed every monologue herself, with subsequent performances featuring three actresses, and more recent versions featuring a different actress for every role. Each of the monologues deals with an aspect of the feminine experience, touching on matters such as sex, sex work, body image, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, the various common names for the vagina or simply as a physical aspect of the body. A recurring theme throughout the piece is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality.

The play – first performed Off-Broadway and in locations around the world by Ms Ensler – delves into the mystery, humor, pain, power, wisdom, outrage and excitement in women’s experiences. V-Day grew out of the play which exploded onto the scene in 1998, breaking taboos about women’s sexuality and shattering silence around violence done to women and girls. Strong language and sexual content. Recommended for ages 16 and older.

Having committed in the play writing and rehearsal for more than three months, Ms Sonita, emphasised that, “In this country, the word ‘vagina’ is one of the most sensitive topic and not too many women have the courage to talk about it. However, we can see that there are many issues that we need to know and discuss about vagina, such as health issues, its beauty and function. But talking about these seemed to cause condemnation before because it contradicts the code of conduct set for women in Cambodia. By creating this festival and performance, we want to change how women and the society in general see this sensitive topic. We want to break taboos in term of discussing a woman’s body in publich. We want to encourage more women to talk about the importance of their body because there’s really nothing to be ashamed of.”

Ms Sonita further note, “The inspiration leading me to take part in this festival and performance is my family. I grew up in an environment where my family gave me freedom to follow what I believe is right, and they listen to my opinion. And taking part in this festival and creating it up is part of my core desire to see Cambodian women in the next generation to have this kind of freedom, too.”

. .

“The Vagina Monologues” producer and director Alex Kennett, who has been living in Cambodia for 21 months now, noted that the play had been performed in Cambodia a few times before and people enjoyed it very much. “But this year, we would like to change some things including the Khmer translation and the participation of Khmer women performers, which is really important to us because what the monologue has to say is something that is for women everywhere. And I find that the ideas are really powerful so we wanted to bring it here.”

One of the interesting facts about the three-day Phnom Fem Festival and “The Vagina Monologues” performances was the producers and directors’ choice of highlighting specific issues that are relevant in Cambodia’s present situation.

Some of the actors of the thought-provoking play. KT/Som Kanika

“Each year they make a new issue that they want to focus on and for this year one of among the three spotlights is ‘incarceration of women’ which was in line with the 40th anniversary of the end of Khmer Rouge. It talked about the story of imprisonment of women at that time,” Ms Kennett said.

A theater performer and enthusiast, 22-year-old Ham Sovanpidor, was glad to be part of the play and deliver a strong message to her fellow women.

“This event is created for women and having women to participate in is really important in a way that shows Cambodia women should have a courage to talk more about her sex matters because the performance will feature many aspects of feminine experiences related sex beauty, menstruation, organism and more which are all related to women in general and it is vital for them to know too,” said Ms Sovanpidor, a student at the Department of Media and Communication.

Phnom Fem Fest is a registered international V-Day event, and this year’s V-Day spotlight was focused on ending gender-based violence and supporting previously incarcerated women. All profits from Phnom Fem Fest would go directly to Early Years Behind Bars, an initiative from a local human rights NGO that supports women, mothers and children in Cambodian prisons.

 

Marzuki’s scroll, small minds and big mouths


February 17,2018

Marzuki’s scroll, small minds and big mouths

by Abdar Rahman Koya

Image result for abdar rahman koya

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2019/02/10/marzukis-scroll-small-minds-and-big-mouths/?fbclid=IwAR2YWRR

Marzuki And The Prophet pbuh- one is a Politician chosen by Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, the other is a great Prophet of Islam pbuh. What are you suggesting Mr. Koya?

Our mailbox has been recently flooded with statements and letters on Marzuki Yahya, the deputy foreign minister whose decision to pursue a lowly, unrecognised and undignified course from a “degree mill” caught up with him rather wickedly some 17 years later.

Degree-laden politicians, heavily titled academicians and activists leading fancy research houses that churn out useless data are all calling for Marzuki’s resignation.

They say he has misled the public about his degree because, according to the gospel called Wikipedia which they think is carved in stone, he falsely claimed that he received his education from Cambridge, that hallowed institution that some of us think of as the ultimate giver of academic recognition in our lifelong and increasingly mindless paper chase.

Then there are also those who say it is embarrassing that a senior government official put in charge of international relations holds a degree from some unknown institution that is labelled a fake university.

 

A true leader is one who is humble and honest. One can even say that great men in history succeeded because of these two traits. The Prophet Muhammad, a mere trader, was not chosen by God for his expertise in cosmology or prowess in quoting Plato. The fact is that the person tasked with leading the Arab society, known for its intellectual sophistication, was a man who could neither read nor write.

Never mind that a college dropout turned cooking buff is in charge of our sovereignty, nay our very existence, or someone trained in literature was once tasked with managing the country’s finances, and soon would lead all 32 million of us into this unknown new era that some of us have styled as Malaysia Baru.

Regular FMT readers will notice that our coverage of Marzuki’s paper qualification has not been as vigorous as has been our coverage on many other issues that have put the government side on the defensive.

We have sometimes – and this we admit – been less than complimentary in our coverage of government leaders. Some say we give too much space to that kleptocratic former leader whom a certain veteran MP has made a key ingredient in his daily regurgitations.

So why this omission of the Marzuki affair, when it is a chance to expose and shame the current government further?

It is because the media too are bound by the saying that great minds discuss ideas and small minds discuss people.

Instead of beating the deputy minister’s pinata to a pulp, we sought out the opinion of a mortal who, like Marzuki, did not have the privilege of attending an ivy league university in some snowy land, subsidised of course by the Malaysian taxpayers back home.

Marzuki and many others with lowly degrees have nothing to be ashamed of. A person’s integrity is judged through his current actions in his adult self-made life. It does not matter whether he answered a set of questions when he was going through a confusing period of adolescence.

A university education does not guarantee integrity. At best, it provides some kind of discipline in the pursuit of knowledge, plus of course a scroll that attempts to hoodwink prospective employers.

Having said that, even that discipline may be absent in the tens of thousands of graduates we produce annually from our accredited and recognised universities.

It is normal these days to find a degree holder, even one with a PhD, struggling to write in English or, for that matter, in Malay, despite decades of emphasis on the national language.

If the basic intellectual act of communicating is lost on our graduates, we cannot hope for more, and certainly not critical thinking, which is at the core of human innovation. The capacity for such thinking is given, as a rule, to those who love knowledge and exercise humility in its pursuit. It is seldom associated with those in the habit of brandishing their degrees to show they are more qualified than others to undertake certain tasks.

A true leader is one who is humble and honest. One can even say that great men in history succeeded because of these two traits. The Prophet Muhammad, a mere trader, was not chosen by God for his expertise in cosmology or prowess in quoting Plato. The fact is that the person tasked with leading the Arab society, known for its intellectual sophistication, was a man who could neither read nor write.

Abdar Rahman Koya is editor-in-chief of FMT.

 

Change in education will come, but wait


February 15, 2019

Change in education will come, but wait

 

At a recent forum attended by the education minister, I had a unique chance to observe the citizenry in action with regards to the issue of education.

I suppose 30 years of pent-up anger about the issue was suddenly unleashed after May 9 and, with the openness of the new minister, an opportunity was raised to vent out these frustrations.

Everyone has ideas on revamping the education system. I, too, in many ways, have written or voiced out those exact comments in other forums and talks.

But what seems to be missing is patience and appreciation on the part of the citizenry of what has already been done: the planning and complexity of manoeuvring things in order to effect change in education.

The ministry has addressed many housekeeping issues on the provision of basic infrastructure like abandoned projects, broken furniture, inadequate book stocks, teachers’ workloads, and trying to change attitudes towards education management.

But the middle-class elites seem unimpressed with these efforts. They want to see change now.

Image result for malaysian education blueprint 2018

What are we waiting– for the Sun to rise in The West?

We can only expect to see change if we start to think in the right direction. In the case of religious education, it will be a miracle if we see change in the next 30 years.

On the issue of English, on the other hand, I can see change in five years’ time.

Why can’t change occur now? I think the reasons are pretty obvious.

Changing 450,000 teachers is a doable, but Herculean task. Changing the mindset of the academia will not be easy after 30 years of complacency due to the Universities and University Colleges Act.

Changing the curriculum of professional education will be near-impossible if the ministry has no control over the professional bodies who ride roughshod over universities’ professional programmes. But it can still be done.

Fighting off extremist Malay and Islamic groups is like walking on water. We need a miracle! But miracles, too, can be engineered and managed, and change will come eventually.

For me, hearing about “values-driven education” and “humanising education” is already the signal for change.

The ministry has proposed a drastic change from the factory production-oriented school leavers and university graduates to a more tolerant citizenry on differences of faiths and culture. All teachers and academics should answer this call immediately and with utmost urgency.

What we can do now, we should do. What we can plan to change a little later, we put plans in place. The onus is on us not to wait for another education blueprint.

The call for change has already been sounded. The strategies for change have already been placed. The long-term issues of education are already being planned and are undergoing minute scrutiny before implementation.

What is required of the citizenry is their own efforts to understand the vision and change according to their own capacities and abilities.

What is needed are new ideas and suggestions to strengthen the framework that is already in existence. What is desired most of the citizenry is an open mind to the various sensitivities and time bombs of socio-political constructs surrounding the issue of education.

At the end of the day, we must understand that the minister concerned has no magic wand to conjure miracles.

As long as the objectives of change are clear and some small change has occurred, we should accept patience as an investment in life.

The battle to put in place the right people and perspective of change has already been won. The question for the citizenry now is: can we accept what has come and endure with patience for what is promised?

Can we look at change as a continuing process and not as a singular momentous event?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

533 Shares
484
11
32

Remembering Tunku’s words on his 116th birthday by Lim Kit Siang


February 8, 2019

Remembering Tunku’s words on his 116th birthday

by Lim Kit Siang

https://www.malaysiakini.com

MP SPEAKS | Today is the 116th anniversary of the birthday of Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Thirty-six years ago, on Feb 8, 1983, on his 80th birthday, Tunku issued the clear public message that plural Malaysia should not be turned into an Islamic State.Image result for tunku abdul rahman

Four days later, on Feb 12, 1983, on the occasion of his 61st birthday, the Third Prime Minister  Tun Hussein Onn publicly supported Tunku’s call.

In fact, Tunku told Parliament on May 1, 1958: “I would like to make it clear that this country is not an Islamic state as it is generally understood; we merely provided that Islam shall be the official religion of the state.”

It is most appropriate to remember this history when we watch the MCA president Wee Ka Siong turn and twist in his histrionics to justify something the founding fathers of MCA, whether or not Tan Cheng Lock or Tan Siew Sin would have approved, the political co-operation with PAS under the leadership of Abdul Hadi Awang – who is reviving Islamic State rhetoric and espousing the most toxic and vicious brand of politics of lies, hate, fear, race and religion to sow suspicion, distrust and hatred among the races and religions in Malaysia.

Wee need not reply to the question whether he is aware that he would have lost his deposit in Ayer Hitam parliamentary seat in the 14th general election under the Hadi’s dictum that Muslims must vote for Muslim candidates, for all Malaysians know the answer.

DAP has never denied that we had worked with PAS in the Barisan alternative from 1999 to 2001 and Pakatan Rakyat from 2008 to 2015, but DAP’s co-operation with PAS was based on principles – not opportunism or expediency.

DAP leaders believe that Malaysia should be an international showcase of inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue, tolerance and understanding instead of being an example of a “clash of civilisations”.

To achieve this, Malaysians must engage with a political Islam that recognises Malaysia as a plural society and believes that Malaysia’s greatness comes from the leveraging of the assets and best qualities from the diverse races, religions, languages and civilisations that meet in confluence in Malaysia, building tolerance, trust and confidence among the races and religions and not sow suspicion, distrust, fear and hatred among the races and religions.

DAP leaders were prepared to pay a heavy price to achieve this national goal, including being defeated in the 10th general election in 1999 when Karpal Singh and I were defeated in the Jelutong and Bukit Bendera parliamentary seats, respectively.

This is when the voters succumbed to the Gerakan/MCA propaganda against Barisan Alternative with the politics of lies and fear that a vote for DAP was a vote for PAS and an Islamic state, and that if I was elected, the Chinese could not eat pork, take alcohol and go to temples, while beautiful women woud not be able to find jobs and that there would be a chopping of hands and feet.

The Barisan Alternative would not have been formed if PAS was not prepared to respect the opposition of DAP, Parti Keadilan and PRM to an Islamic State, focusing instead on the common objectives of restoring justice, freedom, democracy and good governance in Malaysia.

After the 1999 general election however, PAS leaders disregarded the opposition of the other component parties of Barisan Alternative to an Islamic State.

The issue confronting Barisan Alternative was whether the PAS leaders were prepared to abide by the BN consensus and respect the DAP’s opposition to an Islamic State in a multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia was not compatible with parliamentary democracy, power-sharing in a plural society, human rights and individual freedoms, women’s rights and social tolerance.

DAP had no hesitation to break our co-operation with PAS in 2001 when PAS reneged on the common Alternative Front manifesto “Towards a Just Malaysia”.

 

When the second DAP-PAS cooperation occurred with the formation of Pakatan Rakyat on April 1, 2008, after the “political tsunami” of the general election that year, it was based on a joint commitment “to uphold the rights and interests of all Malaysians, regardless of religion or race, as enshrined in the Constitution”.

But Hadi’s insistence to raise the Islamic State issue caused a crisis in Pakatan Rakyat, which was saved from dissolution after a late-night meeting of Pakatan Rakyat leaders on Sept 28, 2011, resulting in a joint statement by the leaders of the three parties in the coalition reaffirming their resolve to continue giving priority to Pakatan Rakyat’s common policy framework and consensus.

This common policy framework and consensus excluded Islamic State and hudud and there was the clear understanding that any policy change in Pakatan Rakyat would need the agreement of all three component parties.

Before the 13th general election, DAP rebuffed PAS overture for Hadi to replace Anwar Ibrahim as Prime Minister-designate of Pakatan Rakyat.

After the 13th general election, the Islamic State and hudud issues re-surfaced and Pakatan Rakyat faced its demise in 2015 when Hadi persisted with the goal of implementing hudud in violation of the coalition’s common policy framework.

Now Hadi condemns DAP as an “enemy of Islam”. But during the Teluk Intan by-election in May 2014, Hadi was full of praise for DAP and recalled that it was DAP that defended PAS when the Kelantan government fell in 1978.

Although BN was working with PAS then, BN did nothing to help them.

Hadi said in the Teluk Intan by-election: “Only DAP defended us that time and we are grateful to them.”

At that time, PAS followed the true teachings of Islam and was a strong opponent of corruption and abuses of power – but subsequently, Hadi took PAS through a major transformation by giving former prime minister Najib Razak support for turning Malaysia into a global kleptocracy!

DAP is always a “friend of Islam” which is moderate and tolerant which will make Malaysia a world top-class nation and not an extremist and intolerant Islam which divide Malaysians and will destroy the Malaysian dream.

I had wondered why Hadi has suddenly attacked DAP as an “enemy of Islam”.

Image result for hadi awang the hippo

The reason is quite obvious – to divert public attention from Hadi’s withdrawal of his legal suit against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown and an out-of-court settlement which allowed the original Sarawak Report article on Najib giving RM90 million to PAS to remain online and Unretracted.

This bring us to the question of why MCA is co-operating with PAS when Hadi is reviving the Islamic State rhetoric and espousing the most vicious and toxic politics of lies, hate, fear, race and religion to divide Malaysians in post-GE14 Malaysia?


LIM KIT SIANG is the MP for Iskandar Puteri.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

Know the Difference– Being Jewish and Being Zionist


January 28, 2019

Know the Difference– Being Jewish and Being Zionist

by Dr. Kua Kia Soong

www,freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for kua kia soong

At the outset, let me make it clear that as far as the Palestinian cause is concerned, I am on the same page as Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, although I cannot vouch for his consistency on all the other non-Muslim liberation causes in the rest of the world.

What is disturbing is that through the years, we have witnessed Mahathir’s deliberate refusal to make any distinction between the Jewish people and the ideology of Zionism.

This has huge consequences for how our prime minister stands on racism and racial discrimination in our own country. Those who have followed his political career will note the continuity in his ethos and it was not unexpected that he should once again create a similar rumpus recently on the international stage by conflating Jews with Zionism.

Unashamedly racist paradigm

Mahathir’s first claim to fame (or rather, notoriety) was the publication of his “Malay Dilemma” after the May 13th 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur.

It was banned by the then Tunku–led government when it first appeared and Mahathir was expelled from the ruling UMNO. Apart from being an academic embarrassment because of its unashamedly racist paradigm, it was clearly “seditious” by the definition of the government-of-the-day in its undermining of sacred constitutional provisions:

…the Malays are the rightful owners of Malaya…immigrants (read non-Malay Malaysians) are guests until properly absorbed…immigrants are not truly absorbed until they have abandoned the language and culture of their past.”–Dr.Mahathir Mohamad

Mahathir’s ‘Malay Dilemma’ was an instant hit among the emergent state capitalists in UMNO who were hungry for power since it provided the instant recipe for them to rally populist support for their bid for power just before May 13, 1969. It was the time-tested recipe for opportunistic politicians to use ‘race’ as the rallying cry for political support just as Hitler’s racist polemic, “Mein Kampf” had provided the model for such a political route.

Since the demise of Hitler and his race-steeped ideology and the price paid in blood by the freedom-loving peoples of the world, racism, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance have been outlawed in the world community by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948, the International Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) 1965 and the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) in 2001.

Although Malaysia has yet to ratify I-CERD, we are signatories to all these UN treaties.

Glad to be labelled anti-Semitic!

But why is Mahathir so recalcitrant about his blatantly racist attitude towards Jewish people as an ethnic community?

“I am glad to be labelled anti-Semitic,” Mahathir wrote in 2012 on his personal blog. “How can I be otherwise when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hard-heartedness.”

He wrote in his 1970 book “The Malay Dilemma” that “the Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.” He was not embarrassed about repeating this recently on international cable TV.

Not all Jews support Zionism

Much of Malaysians’ antipathy towards Israel can be attributed to our government’s longstanding support for the Palestinian cause. But Mahathir’s rancour extends far beyond geopolitics, spanning anti-Semitism of yesteryears including alleging international Jewish conspiracies to blaming the 1997 Asian financial crisis on a Jew, George Soros:

“The Jews rule this world by proxy,” he told the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in 2003.

If Mahathir had studied abroad as I have, he would have come across many Jewish academics, students and politicians who are anti-Zionist activists.

 

Image result for noam chomsky

One of the most notable anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinian activists is, of course, Noam Chomsky.

One of the most notable anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinian activists is, of course, Noam Chomsky. There is even a Palestinian solidarity group called ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) based in Britain that advocates for human and civil rights, and economic and political freedom, for the Palestinian people. It opposes the current policy of Israel towards the Palestinian territories, particularly the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and seeks a change in their political status. The membership of JfJfP is primarily made up of British Jews.

“Zionism is itself a racist nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine. Certainly, not all Jews support Zionism nor do they support Israel’s discriminatory and repressive actions against Palestinians. “–Dr.Kua Kia Soong.

More Jews live outside of Israel and not every inhabitant of Israel is Jewish; there are also many non-Jews living in Israel. Many Jews, both living in Israel and elsewhere support a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a possible solution to the conflict. In other words, not all Jews identify with Zionism and it is mischievous to conflate ‘Jews’ with ‘Israelis’ and ‘Zionists’ just as it is wrong to say that “all ethnic Chinese in Malaysia are rich” or that “all Chinese must be held responsible for the persecution of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, China”.

Likewise, Mahathir’s stereotyping of ethnic Chinese

Image result for the malay dilemma 1970

Much of Mahathir’s portrayal of Chinese Malaysians echoes his stereotypical anti-Semitic slurs. In his ‘Malay Dilemma’, Mahathir describes Malaysia’s Chinese as “predatory immigrants” who exhibit an “unlimited acquisitiveness” that threatens the “complete Sinicization of the economy.” They are mistrusted as disloyal and mercenary, enriching themselves at the expense of the country’s other communities. Has he ever shown remorse and rectified his racist thesis in the “Malay Dilemma”?

Ostensibly to “correct the racial imbalance”, the New Economic Policy has provided a carte blanche for the new Malay ruling class to amass wealth in the name of their “race”. Mahathir has justified this blatantly racist policy thus:

“The best way to keep the shares in bumiputera hands is to hand them over to the bumiputeras most capable of retaining them, which means the well-to-do.”

Today, race has been so deeply institutionalised that it is a key factor determining benefits from government development policies, bids for business contracts, education policy, social policy, cultural policy, entry into educational institutions, discounts for purchasing houses and other official policies. Practically every aspect of Malaysian life is permeated by the so-called “Bumiputera policy” based on Malay-centrism.

No wonder the time is not ripe to ratify I-CERD

In the decades since, Mahathir has continued to resort to racial chauvinism whenever popular support has ebbed, stirring anxiety about Chinese investment and immigration following disappointing electoral showings in 2008 and 2013. He castigated Najib for “giving too much to the Chinese” after the disastrous GE13 results.

The recent anti-ICERD rallies organised by UMNO and PAS have now given the prime minister the excuse to say the country is not yet ready to ratify ICERD. The real question is: Is Mahathir ready to eradicate racism, racial discrimination and related intolerances from his own mental paradigm?

As someone has said, “Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself!”

Kua Kia Soong is the adviser to Suaram.

The views of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT

 
 

Malaysia is in no position to lecture Israel


January 28, 2019

 

Malaysia is in no position to lecture Israel

Opinion  |
by S Thayaparan@ www. malaysiakini.com

Published:  |  Modified:

 

“The anti-Semites who called themselves patriots introduced that new species of national feeling which consists primarily in a complete whitewash of one’s own people and a sweeping condemnation of all others.”
– Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

 

COMMENT | Let me get this out of the way. When people say they are not anti-Semitic but rather anti-Zionist, most of the time this is complete horse manure. The people who most often say this apply the Zionist label to all Jews, thus making the distinction irrelevant.

This is like claiming there is a difference between ketuanan Melayu and the Malay ‘race’, but ignoring the distinction and claiming that all Malays are racial and religious supremacists. Are all Malays racist? Are all Malays religious bigots just because they support politicians who pander to the lowest common denominator? Or is the situation a little more complex than that?

However, this is not the article for that conversation. This is another article – my second, I think – on mainstream anti-Semitism in our politics.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang back in 2012 proclaimed that his party would cooperate with the Jews, especially in the realm of trade, but rejected Zionism. He said: “Nevertheless, PAS rejects Zionism because it is a fanatical ideology of the Jew race.”

See what Hadi did there? He made a distinction, but then negated it with his insistence that race and ideology were not mutually exclusive.

I will give you another example. The organisation Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Malaysia chairperson Nazari Ismail speaks for had a huge victory – at least the Palestine Chronicle thinks it is a huge victory – last year because it got Giant to withdraw jeans that were supposedly a product of Israel, but which the hypermarket chain claimed was made in China.

Two points from the Palestine Chronicle article are worth mulling over.

The first: “BDS Malaysia stated that an officer from the Giant branch in question reported that they had returned all the stock nationwide to the supplier. Following which a manager from Giant called Nazari and stated that the supplier of the product was from China and asking BDS to end its campaign against Giant.

“The professor refused, unless Giant could prove that the original company was not of Israeli origin. Upon checking various Giant supermarkets, BDS Malaysia members found that the product was still stocked.”

And the second: “A statement was received by BDS Malaysia from a Ms Roseta, corporate affairs, GCH Retail Sdn Bhd stating that thought the product was made and imported from China, and the management was willing to remove the product from all its outlets due to its sensitive nature. She also said that she would seek further clarification from the supplier.”

Both these examples demonstrate how the Malay ruling elite and intelligentsia manipulate the discourse, claiming victimhood while propagating racist or bigoted agendas.

Boycotting products because companies are enabling or propagating certain ideas is acceptable, but boycotting all products from a country and linking all companies, products and services to a Zionist agenda is not.

Why do we even have to have this conversation? The Prime Minister of this country, on the campaign trail in Cameron Highlands, claimed that people from Israel were “crooks,” and mainstream religious dogma have claimed that the Jews are the “enemies of Islam.”

Never mind that political operatives from the Malay right have invested in companies and have had dealings with the Jewish people for decades.

Who are the crooks?

What is needed is for the average Malay – who have not even met a Jew – to feel a sense of hatred towards Jews for a conflict in the Middle East, which has been used for decades to justify all sorts of malfeasance from Islamic regimes and extremists all over the world.

Does anyone actually believe that the Malay political elite and their mouthpieces make a distinction between Zionism and Jews? I have attended many rallies by the Malay right – and let me tell you something, there is only the Malay right and far right – and none of these people has made this distinction. All of them talk about how “evil” the Jews are and how they are not to be trusted. Some have gone so far as to cite religious texts and authority.

The Malay right hates liberals, but they make an exception for Jewish liberals who criticise Israel. A couple of years ago, I was talking to a scholar who opposes the Occupation, but who also said that there were similarities (“frighteningly so, Thaya”) between the ketuanan Melayu ideology and Zionism.

Both she argued centralised race as the determining factor for political and social action. Both relied on indoctrination to marginalise the other and both perpetrated injustice through a bureaucracy riddled with dubious personalities who were content to wallow in their petty power. Of course, this is not the kind of Jewish liberal who is embraced by the Malay right.

The Pakatan Harapan grand poobah, while campaigning, served up a large spoonful from the bigoted Kool-Aid that is served up to the Malays on a daily basis. He claimed that the Najib Abdul Razak regime had allowed crooks into this country and his administration, which was the principle behind not allowing these crooks into this country.

Who were these crooks? It was David Roet (photo) who was leading the Israeli delegation for a UN event. What did the progressives fighting against the “evil” BN say at the time? They accused the Najib regime of having an “affair” with Israel.

They claimed that the Najib regime was following in the footsteps of the Saudi regime which had close ties with Israel. They mocked Najib when he said this in 2015: “This dictum, known universally in all religions as the Golden Rule, could herald the dawn of a much-needed revised relationship between Muslims and Jews.”

Of the visit and its anti-Semitic reception by the then opposition, I wrote this: “This would have been a perfect opportunity for so-called moderate Islamic parties to change the discourse even a little by highlighting the fact that Islam from the Middle East, or at least that which was perverted by petrodollars, is changing.

“They could have taken the opportunity to learn from the Israeli experience of holding their leadership accountable like how Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu is facing possible criminal charges for corruption, by highlighting the fact that a supposed enemy of Islam holds their leaders accountable to graft allegations submitted by (mostly) independent institutions.”

Instead, then, like now, what the Malay right is doing is merely reinforcing anti-Semitic narratives in an effort to maintain hegemony, while ignoring the very real consequences of such actions.

Remember, blaming the Jews for the problems of Muslims is exactly like blaming the Chinese for the social, economic and political problems of the Malay community.

Which brings us to the non-Malay component of Harapan’s anti-Semitic discourse. You will never see a non-Malay political operative speaking out against the anti-Semitism which is part of mainstream Malay politics. Why? Because to do so would expose the truth in the Hannah Arendt quote which opens this piece.

I know I am going to get into trouble for saying this, but Malaysia has not earned the right to condemn Israel. Maybe if Harapan actually delivered on its promises and slowly did away with this corrupt, bigoted system, we could be on the road to being a credible voice in the Palestinian discourse.


S. THAYAPARAN is a commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.