Fact-checked journalism must endure


August 12, 2018

Fact-checked journalism must endure

Image result for christiane amanpour quote on journalism

“There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because when you are neutral you are an accomplice. Objectivity doesn’t mean treating all sides equally. It means giving each side a hearing.”–CNN’s Christiane Amanpour

 

COMMENT | If the media are to be socially constructive, they must rely on the journalist’s intelligent understanding and reporting of issues. This can only come about if journalists are themselves intelligently informed.

That’s the basic premise of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) seminar on media training in Kuala Lumpur in June 1973.

Journalism has changed radically since then – from the makeup and digital literacy of the readers to the multitasking required of journalists to write for a newspaper and produce an online package for the same story on the same day.

Journalists are no longer the main purveyor of news. Readers are now able to circulate their version of the same story on social media sites, which add another level of complexity to today’s journalism – the tussle between “journalistic truth” and “fluid truth”, “real news” and “fake news”. Do we even care about the truth these days?

The line separating “truth” and “falsehoods” is constantly shifting, depending on who you ask. And, the difference between real and fake news is unclear – so vague that “fake news” has become a catch-all term to mean anything that we don’t like, particularly information that strikes at our core values.

US President Donald Trump (photo) has appropriated the term to demonise the media that are hypercritical of his presidency. Trump has wilfully engaged in deceptive political tweets to mislead and disinform, as do many conspiracy theorists.

POTUS 45 is the Slayer of American Journalism–Putting Josef Goebbels to shame

Rookie and poorly trained journalists are not immune to the fake news phenomenon either. J–ournalists do misinform when they report inaccuracies because they did not do their research or quote a source out of context.

But when sources knowingly circulate false information and dress it up to look like real news to mislead and manipulate, that’s disinforming.

That’s pandering to the inherent biases we hold of particular issues and people. Herein lies the “fake news” menace – to deceive for political ends.

The spread of disinformation has caused the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) to jointly declare on May 10 a framework to stem the flow of “fake news”.

The Poynter Institute has also initiated an International Fact-Checking Network to counter the “fake news” phenomenon .(https://ifcncodeofprinciples.poynter.org/ )

April 2 was even named as a global fact-checking day. Computer programs are being designed to help readers sieve falsehoods from the “truth”.

Restoring public trust

Image result for Award Winning CNN Arwa Damon in Iraq

Ultimately, fact-checked and research-based journalism must endure, especially in the Malaysian media context. Pakatan Harapan’s ousting of decades of BN rule has given our journalists a shot at doing their job better.

The nascent freedom to speak truth to power, the freedom to critically report and boldly investigate should ideally lead to a positive change in Malaysian journalism. Greater freedom, however, does not necessarily lead to quality journalism.

 

Higher standards can only be achieved if the editorial leadership and newsroom environment are firmly committed to fair, accurate, contextual and investigative reporting. Journalists must be led by the facts. Only then can the mainstream media reclaim what they have lost – their public trust and credibility – during decades of acting as BN’s lapdogs.

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Malaysiakini–Malaysia’s Foremost Web-Paper–refuses to be intimidated by Najib Razak’s UMNO-BN Government

Decades of BN’s hold on the media and political affiliations of the top brass in the mainstream media have for too long stifled the advancement of Malaysian journalism. For too long, the mainstream media have aligned its op-eds and narratives with the BN agendas. They have pandered to the interests of those in power rather than address the concerns of the people.

Returning media to people

Which reminds me of what the former rural affairs editor of Indian newspaper The Hindu, P Sainath said about returning the media to the people.

I met Sainath at his home many years ago in Mumbai during one of my research trips. In a 2016 lecture he gave in New Delhi, he said: “We have a media (in India) that is driven by revenue, not by reality; by commerce, not by community; by profit, not by people; by narrow corporate greed, not by news judgement. Media, journalism, art and literature did not come out of corporate investments, they came out of communities and societies, we need to return them to the people.”

To return Malaysian journalism to the people, the first step is to appoint an internal readers’ advocate, or a “public editor” as The New York Times once named it. The advocate will act as an internal media watchdog of fair, ethical and accurate reporting.

 

He or she will receive and examine complaints of unfair reporting from readers and assess such complaints. The news organisation will then publish the assessment in either the letters or op-ed page.

The advocate will write a monthly summary to be published by the respective paper, and at the end of the financial year in the annual report to inform their shareholders. That’s a form of media audit.

The second step is to integrate stringent fact-checking into the daily news reporting and production. True, reporters are expected to check their stories, and have them checked again by their news editors.

With the fast turnover of news, however, this task should be delegated to fact-checkers. Their main job is to check the veracity of statements, claims and opinions of various sources multiple times. Self-regulation in the newsroom is certainly preferred to government legislation – and it works better in raising standards.

Malaysian journalists should also undergo continual professional training to enhance their skills in critical observations and analyses of issues to serve the public interest.

Training should focus on developing proactive reporting or solutions-oriented journalism, probing interviews, fact-checking, data analyses, and in depth research. An in-house training curricula can be designed alongside local and regional media training organisations.

If the mainstream media initiate these internal reform measures, we may see some improvements in the quality of news coverage and analyses. The media will in good time earn back the public trust, and consequently maximise its profitability.


ERIC LOO is Senior Fellow (Journalism) at the School of the Arts, English & Media, Faculty of Law Humanities & Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia. He is also the founding editor of Asia Pacific Media Educator.

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

No to Academic Normalization of Trump


August 6, 2018

No to Academic Normalization of Trump

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Those who have served the current US president are necessarily tainted by the experience. While they should not be barred from speaking at universities, they should be accorded none of the trappings of institutional esteem such as fellowships, named lectures, and keynote speeches.

 

CAMBRIDGE – The University of Virginia recently faced a storm of protest after its Miller Center of Public Affairs appointed President Donald Trump’s former Director of Legislative Affairs, Marc Short, to a one-year position as Senior Fellow. Two faculty members severed ties with the center, and a petition to reverse the decision has gathered nearly 4,000 signatures. A similar protest erupted at my home institution last year, when Corey Lewandowski, a one-time campaign manager for Trump, was appointed a fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

“Universities should uphold both free inquiry and the values of liberal democracy. The first calls for unhindered exchange and interaction with Trumpist views. The second requires that the engagement be carefully calibrated, with not even a semblance of honor or recognition bestowed on those serving an administration that so grossly violates liberal democratic norms.”–Dani Rodrik

The Trump administration confronts universities with a serious dilemma. On one hand, universities must be open to diverse viewpoints, including those that conflict with mainstream opinion or may seem threatening to specific groups. Students and faculty who share Trump’s viewpoint should be free to speak without censorship. Universities must remain fora for free inquiry and debate. Moreover, schools and institutes of public affairs must offer student and faculty opportunities to engage with the policymakers of the day.

On the other hand, there is the danger of normalizing and legitimizing what can only be described as an odious presidency. Trump violates on a daily basis the norms on which liberal democracy rests. He undermines freedom of the media and independence of the judiciary, upholds racism and sectarianism, and promotes prejudice. He blithely utters one falsehood after another.

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Those who serve with him are necessarily tainted by the experience. Trump’s close associates and political appointees are his enablers – regardless of their personal merits and how much they try to disassociate themselves from Trump’s utterances. Qualities like “intelligence,” “effectiveness,” “integrity,” and “collegiality” – words used by Miller Center Director William J. Antholis to justify Short’s appointment – have little to commend them when they are deployed to advance an illiberal political agenda.

The stain extends beyond political operatives and covers economic policymakers as well. Trump’s cabinet members and high-level appointees share collective responsibility for propping up a shameful presidency. They deserve opprobrium not merely because they hold cranky views on, say, the trade deficit or economic relations with China, but also, and more importantly, because their continued service makes them fully complicit in Trump’s behavior.

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Academic institutions must therefore tread a narrow path. They cannot turn their backs on Trump and his entourage, nor ignore their views. Otherwise, they would be stifling debate. This would run counter to what universities stand for. As a pragmatic matter, it would also backfire, by giving the Trump camp another opportunity to demonize the “liberal elite.”

But clear rules of engagement are necessary. The most important principle to uphold is the distinction between hearing someone and honoring someone. Trump’s immediate circle and senior appointees should be welcome for discussion and debate. They should be treated in a civil manner when they show up. But they should not be accorded the degree of respect or deference that their seniority and government positions would normally merit. We do not, after all, have a normal administration that can be served honorably.

This means no honorific titles (fellow, senior fellow), no named lectures, no keynote speeches headlining conferences or events. While individual faculty members and student groups should be free to invite Trump appointees to speak on campus, as a rule such invitations should not be issued by senior university officers. And lectures and presentations should always provide an opportunity for vigorous questioning and debate.

Without two-way interaction, there is no learning or understanding; there is only preaching. Administration officials who simply want to make a statement and escape searching interrogation should not be welcome.

Students and faculty who sympathize with Trump may perceive such practices as discriminatory. But there is no conflict between encouraging free speech and exchange of views, which these rules are meant to support, and the university making its own values clear.

Like other organizations, universities have the right to determine their practices in accordance with their values. These practices may diverge from what specific subgroups within them would like to see, either because there are contending values or because there are differences on the practicalities of how to realize them.

For example, some students may believe that requirements for a certain course of study are too stringent or that examinations are a waste of time. Universities allow free debate about such matters. But they reserve the right to set the rules on concentration requirements and exams. In doing so, they send an important signal to the rest of society about their teaching philosophy and pedagogical values. Allowing full debate of Trumpism while refusing to honor it would be no different.

Universities should uphold both free inquiry and the values of liberal democracy. The first calls for unhindered exchange and interaction with Trumpist views. The second requires that the engagement be carefully calibrated, with not even a semblance of honor or recognition bestowed on those serving an administration that so grossly violates liberal democratic norms.

Dani Rodrik is Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is the author of The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy, Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science, and, most recently, Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy.

Dr.Bakri Musa’s Advice to Education Minister Maszlee


August 7, 2018

Dr.Bakri Musa’s Advice to Education Minister Maszlee Malik : Be More An Executive, Less A Professor

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Morgan Hill, California

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New Education Minister Maszlee Malik should be more an executive and less a professor. He leads an organization with a budget in excess of RM280B and a staff of over half a million to lead. That ministry, like all others, is not known for its crispness.

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Forget about grand plans and overarching policies. All would be for naught if your staff and organization cannot execute them, or if they are consumed with such trivia as campus newspaper subscriptions and pupils’ shoe color. If Maszlee is still obsessed with policies, delegate a committee to work on them.

Maszlee should first focus on shaping up that flabby organization. Enlist someone with a solid MBA or credible business experience to help him be an effective and efficient executive. There is a universe of difference in being a professor and an executive. Likewise, business meetings are unlike academic seminars. You want results and decisions, not endless intellectual musings and more research.

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Dr. Maszlee Malik–Malaysia’s New Education Minister

Maszlee should assess the capabilities and weaknesses of his staff . Forget about wacanas, town hall meetings, or press conferences. To his credit, he has already made many personal visits for first-hand assessments.

The challenges facing Malaysian education are as overwhelming as they are obvious, the consequence of long neglect, incompetent leadership, and political meddling. The difficulty is not in identifying them but to pick three or four of the more pressing ones and tackle those.

Maszlee has articulated some of those–greater university autonomy, making our students at least bilingual, enhancing English and STEM, as well as fixing our dilapidated schools. Those four would occupy and challenge him for some time. There is little need and would serve little purpose to go beyond as with recognizing UEC, sending a team to Finland, or issuing edicts on students’ shoe color.

Maszlee’s first and continuing public task, as with all the other ministers, is to “walk the talk.” He cannot profess to champion university autonomy and then order the dismantling of campus gates and make the campuses have speakers’ corners! The universities should do those things on their own initiative. By issuing that directive Maszlee missed out on a splendid opportunity to assess his Vice-Chancellors’ (VCs) responsiveness to the rising expectation for greater openness.

Maszlee should elicit from them their three or four most immediate challenges and ask how he as minister could help. They, not him, know best (or should) as they are closest to the problems. If they cannot articulate them or are more concerned with a welcoming ceremony for him, fire them.

Firing university leaders should be done only if they are found wanting or fail to gain the confidence of the greater campus community, and not because they were appointed by the previous administration. Doing so would only perpetuate the blight of political interference that is the bane of local institutions.

Likewise with stressing the importance of English. Maszlee would best demonstrate that not through endless speeches but with an executive decision to make MUET mandatory for universities and teachers’ colleges. Likewise if he were to give extra allowances and preferential choice for quarters to teachers of English (as well as STEM). He could also direct schools to increase their hours of instruction in English and have another subject be taught in that language.

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Former MITI Minister Rafidah Aziz–An Excellent Dare to Do  and dynamic executive

 

Another would be to have his staff communicate in English and make its proficiency a requirement for promotions and entry into the permanent establishment. Emulate what Rafidah Aziz did at MITI. She was an “excellent dare to do” dynamic executive.

Make 12 years of schooling the norm. Bring back Form VI and reduce it to one year and start it in January together with the rest of the school. Make the transition from Form V to VI as seamless as going from Form IV to V. That would bring order to the current chaos for school-leavers.

For those academically inclined, the current seven-month hiatus following Form V is a colossal waste of time and precious loss of learning opportunity. The rich enroll their children in private colleges. Most Malays idle their time away. Much attrition of good study habits occurs. Beyond that, idle time is the devil’s workshop.

Get rid of matrikulasi and universities’ foundation courses. Both are a waste of scarce and expensive resources. Universities should focus on undergraduate, graduate, and professional education, not high school work.

As for fixing schools, Maszlee has demonstrated the dire need for that by his many photo-ops showing him sitting at pupils’ broken desks. At the macro level the best solution would be to prevail upon Treasury to have MOE’s tenders be open to competitive bidding. That would achieve more with less.

At the micro level, the Minister would achieve even more and much faster while at the same time streamline the process if he were to give the money directly to the headmasters. Let them prioritize the repairs and choose the local contractors. If you entrust them with the nation’s most precious assets–the brains of our young–then you could also trust them with a few million ringgit.

Back to the teachers, Maszlee should not get bogged down with administrative trivia as with requests for their transfers and maternity leave. Let your human resources people deal with those. Stay out of it by letting the teachers deal with the schools directly.

Execute these well and Maszlee would earn the heartfelt gratitude of millions of Malaysians, quite apart from making a significant contribution to the betterment of the nation. Get off the public lectern and buckle down at your desk.

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Note: I have explored these and other ideas in greater depth in my book, An Education System Worthy of Malaysia (2003,  ISBN 983 2535 06-9 (Malaysian edition), 0-595-26590-1 (US Edition).

Say No to National Car Project


August 5, 2018

Say No  to National Car Project

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Instead of pushing for another national car project, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad should work on improving the public transportation system.

 

by Allen Tan

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

We now have a new government under Pakatan Harapan (PH) as the voters decided to remove the Barisan Nasional (BN) government after 61 years of rule. Many had placed their trust in Dr Mahathir Mohamad to bring about reforms in the country. But to their dismay, some of his ideas show that he intends to move back to the old ways. One of these is the idea for a third national car.

The first national car, Proton, has survived for over 30 years. But unfortunately, it bled billions of ringgit from the treasury.

Many Malaysians have heard “The Tale of Two Brothers”. The older brother was pampered and, at the end of the day, kept relying on his father. The younger brother, who was not given anything, put in his own efforts and emerged a successful man.

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These two brothers are like Proton and Perodua. Proton has no will to improve its image and quality. Its models have remained the same for many years. When new models come out, they are like copy-and-paste versions of earlier ones. Where is the innovation?

A generation of Malaysians have been forced to buy a protected national car which is not worth its price. Unqualified people were placed in top positions. When the government wanted to build a car industry, there was no political will to develop a good infrastructure for public transportation. The LRT and MRT were, in fact, 30 years too late. When more cars piled up on the roads, it became a nightmare for the people. Urban people who have to drive don’t live a good quality life. Every day, they waste many hours on the road. This has also hindered the country’s productivity.

Because public transportation is poor, the people are forced to buy cars. Mind you, driving a car in Malaysia will cost you toll. Let’s say a person earns RM3,000 a month. For him to buy a modest car that costs RM40,000, he would probably need to service a five-year loan.

I pity the young people who are fresh in the job market. Many have to service even nine-year loans on their cars. For an American, a modest car would cost US$8,000. If a person earns US$3,000 a month, he could probably settle the loan within a year.

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So I urge Mahathir, please spare us further agony. It would take many years to build a heavy industry. We don’t need engineering prowess to make it as a developed nation. Singapore has no heavy industry but it is considered a first-world country today. This is because Singapore prefers brain power to automobiles.

Besides, to regulate the import of cars is against the global policy of promoting free trade. Don’t repeat “The Tale of Two Brothers”. The word “protectionism” should not be in PH’s vocabulary as it seeks to reform the country. Auto technology has already gone too far; it is too late for us to come up with a car that will impact the global market.

I hope that Mahathir will bring in experts to develop public transportation instead. City folk are suffering from a sleep deficit. They have to get up very early in order to beat the traffic. After finishing their work, they have to crawl home in long queues again. Not only is productivity hindered, family life is affected as well.

Allen Tan is an FMT reader.

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

On the Malays by Dr.Azly Rahman


June 29, 2018

A Rejoinder from Dr. Munirah Alatas to her Fellow Columbian Dr. Azly Rahman

P.S.  Dr. Sharifah Munirah,

To call Jamal Ikan Bakar Yunos a James Dean is to insult and debase the memory of James Byron Dean,  my teenage idol of the 1950s.

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You cannot in good sense equate rebellion to gangsterism. Jamal is a law breaking pro-UMNO and Najib Razak political operative and a racist who is now a fugitive in Indonesia.  His Red Shirt movement should be outlawed and Jamal himself extradited to face the law for inciting violence against Malaysians , sedition, racism and violence. Otherwise, your comments on Dr. Azly’s article are fine.–Din Merican

Dr. Sharifah Munirah writes:

I refer to Dr. Azly Rahman’s commendable and no-nonsense expose ‘On the Malays’ (dinmerican.wordpress.com, June 29, 2018). Well-written, but I expect nothing less from a fellow-Columbian (Columbia University graduate). Thinkers like Dr. Azly should continue in the struggle against racial chauvinism, corruption and bigotry that has become rampant in Malaysia.

It is in this spirit that I feel compelled to highlight a few key points brought up by Dr. Azly. To me, these are crucial to the reform of the Malays. Without a movement to address these points from all quarters of Malaysian society, ‘the new Malay’…’the multi-cultural Malay’…’loving emphatically with Malaysians of other races’….will be relegated to the cobwebs of rhetoric, just a bunch of useless words and sentences to fill up blogs, newspapers, academic journals and textbooks.

1. The red-shirt movement…Azly asks why they are harassing those who want to see a better Malaysia? A cleaner society and one that is not only for the Malays or for the Muslims but a Malaysia for all Malaysians? Yes, a simple concept of good citizenship. Adding on to this, the 48 year old Jamal Yunos does not represent the majority of Malays. Many are embarrassed and appalled at his hooliganism.

Having said that, though, there is an insidious feeling of ‘us and them’ flowing through the veins of this majority with respect to other races and religions in Malaysia. I see this as a deeper crisis that needs immediate attention. Examples from daily life in urban Malaysia betray this separateness. How often does one see Malays dropping into the homes of Indians and Chinese, eating food cooked by them, on their plates, with their forks and spoons, drinking from their glasses? Malays may drop by, and may definitely accept Indians and Chinese as their friends, but the extant of this acceptance is only skin-deep.

Malays will not go the extra mile because it is against Islam….or so they erroneously interpret. For Chinese New Year and Deepavali, of course Malays visit Chinese and Indian friends, families, households….all in the name of friendship, comraderie, good citizenship, muhibbah, acceptance. Murruku is deemed unfit for Muslim consumption among many Malays I’ve encountered….comments made by my fellow-academic colleagues!! Yet they talk about inclusivity, pluralism, open-mindedness and racial harmony. No matter how subtly a Malay refuses a lunch invitation to a Chinese friend’s home (by giving various excuses of being busy with work or other kenduris), that Chinese friend knows the fundamental reason.

Malays and Muslims cannot and will not compromise on their Islamic beliefs of keeping halal. Herein lies the problem, and a detailed analysis can be the topic of another post. It is sufficient to say though that the interpretation of Islam among Malays is completely devoid of history and theological philosophy. One can argue that Chinese and Indians have long accepted this, are not offended and can ‘live with it’ for the sake of harmony. Malays too continue to be polite in refusing. But we ALL know and feel the ‘us and them’. In a true ‘better Malaysia’ why should the minority races have to ‘live with it’ or just ‘accept’ it? We should create a Bangsa Malaysia, a new Malaysia which is truly inclusive.

Jamal Yunos is truly a James Dean (rebel without a cause). But the Malays in general must revisit their concept of ‘jihad of peace’. Which brings me to my next point.

2. On the need to defend/protect the Malays. Psychologically and philosophically, for decades this has damaged and not improved the lot of the Malays. Deep inside the Malay psyche there is a feeling of inferiority. Economically they may have progressed but there will always be the ‘us versus them’ complex. It is glaringly obvious in daily life activities, in sports interaction, coffee-shop banter, classroom interaction and at university lectures.

3. My last point…sedition charges brought against Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (using Mandarin in an official document) following a protest launched by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka outside Masjid Putra (June 29, 2018). Without going into the tiresome but dishonest accusations that the minister violated the constitution (which he did not), let’s ask ourselves, honestly….why are the majority of protests coming from the Malays? Show me a sizeable protest by a group of Chinese or Indians (and other non-Malays) on this? One may argue that the press/media do not highlight news from other quarters. Granted.

But honestly ask yourselves…in your daily lives, within the last week, have you been inundated with statements AGAINST what Lim Guan Eng did from your non-Malay brethren? In a truly ‘new Malaysia’ this would be happening, because criticism would be based on facts and the intrinsic desire to unite all Malaysians.

The concept of jihad is not the monopoly of Muslims. All Malaysians have to, as Dr. Azly succinctly writes, ‘inculcate the love of reading, of wisdom, of humility, of perspective-taking, of appreciating and learning from the arts, social sciences and philosophy.

 

On the Malays by Dr.Azly Rahman

“The new Malay will not need to be defended. They need philosophical, scientific, and republicanist thinking. They need to be existentialists, rather than follow some theocratic nut trying to establish a kingdom of “ketuanan Melayu“. The new Malay is a multicultural Malay living emphatically with Malaysians of other races”.–Dr. Azly Rahman

http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | I think political parties wishing to understand the Malays need to know the following, through an essay I wrote a while ago, I hope relevant now.

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The Buffoon of a trouble maker in UMNO Jamal Ikan Bakar Yunos

Analysing the events that happened the years preceding the 14th general election – the humiliation of peaceful protesters, the harassment, the intimidation, the threats – leading to  the 60,000 strong yellow shirt Bersih rally that ended peacefully in Kuala Lumpur, I have this to say about those who are out to misrepresent the Malays:

Aren’t Malaysians tired of seeing the Malays being represented as buffoons, stupid, amok-prone, close-minded, Rempits, keris-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 amok, the wannabe-sultan, the misogynistic, the sex-maniac royal-groper and rapist of ancient Malacca, the hedonistic, the grotesque epicure, the gangster, the absurd – is pushed forward and propagated to strengthen the Tuah aspect.

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The fool that followed the foolish orders of the Malacca sultan – the bad hombre of Malay culture – these are the twin representation of the Malays. A laughing stock – the Malays are made to become.

This is what the then ruling class wanted to use as ‘Hitlerian Youth’. This image must be forever destroyed. For way too long the image of the Malay as wise, learned, philosophical, tassauwuf/Sufistic being, the communicatively competent, the old school pre-Merdeka Johor type, the prudent, the proverb-loving, the artistic, the high-cultured, of high intellect and Jawi-literate Malay, the deeply perceptive and reflective, the viewer of materialism both as “rezeki/god’s bounty” to be careful with and to not let it be a corrupter of the soul, the raja haji-type of Malay (warrior who fought against the Dutch with bravery and with philosophy has been ignored. Where are you now, these Malays?

Aren’t we sick of the red-shirts’ antics and their representation of the Malays? A representation that has also been used successfully by the non-Malays through the power of discourse of a newer Malay fascism hegemonising national perceptions?

Then there is the display of silat to ineffectively and hilariously scare people off.

Malays don’t need this representation as well. It was useful as a way for good, morally upright warriors of the 15th century to kill their sultans, such as in the famous story of the death of the power-drunk sultan, Mahmud of Kota Tinggi, Johor. He was killed by his own Laksamana Megat Seri Rama while he was being carried by his serfs on his mobile throne, the ‘julang’, hence the story Mahmud Mangkat di Julang.

That evil-fool called a sultan killed the laksamana’s wife Dang Anum simply because she ate a piece of jackfruit (sebiji buah nangka) from the Raja’s orchard – because she was craving for it. She was pregnant. The raja ordered her stomach to be cut open to retrieve the jackfruit. That was the story of the Malay sultan worshipped by his people.

Laksamana Megat Seri Rama, skilled in silat, had to put the fool to death. Good for the sultan. That’s what a good silat man or woman ought to do – get rid of tyrants while they are on their throne.

But strangeness we are seeing in the use of the Malay art of self-defence. Lost is the meaning of silat as I understood it – ‘silatur-rahim’ or to make peaceful connections with other human beings – with Chinese, Indians, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Martians, Jupiterians, robots and androids – or even Trump-supporters. Silatur-rahim, that is what it means. Some Malays don’t even understand the simple meaning of a Malay word.

The multicultural Malay

Read…read… read…

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The Malay Intellectual Pak Kassim Ahmad

If only each family inculcates the love of reading, of wisdom, of humility, of perspective-taking, of respecting others, of appreciating and learning from the arts, sciences, world music and of becoming a good global citizen, we will not need to do this in public – beat each other up with planks while doing the breakdance.

Read…read…read… in the name of thy Lord who created thee…that foundational verse: “Iqra bismi rab bikal lazee khalaq”.

I’d say, stay home, take off your coloured shirt, wear your singlet and your sarong/kain pelikat if you are still feeling hot and angry, help mum bake cookies and read and read, read and be more intelligent in understanding what is ailing our society.

What a waste of time some of these Malays are doing harassing people on the streets, storming buildings, running after cars, yelling incomprehensibles – all in the name of truth?

What truth then?

How much money was being given to the cause of the rebellion without a real cause? This is the puzzling aspect of the red-shirt movement – why are they harassing those who want to see a better Malaysia? A cleaner society and one that is not only for the Malays or for the Muslims but a Malaysia for all Malaysians. Is that not a simple concept of good citizenship to comprehend and to fight for?

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The way those troubles were created seem troubling and ‘out of place’ in a Malaysia – a globalised Malaysia of the 21st century. It seemed like a very awkward, rude, uncouth, uncultured way of exercising free speech. It seemed like a well-paid job done without rhyme or reason or sincerity.

But the worst part was that it was claimed to be one of “defending the rights of the Malays” when the Malays, in general, did not wish to be defended as such. It is a shameful way.

What ought to be done is to stop these grotesque ways of behaving and start the work of helping the Mat and Minah Rempits, the single mothers, the youth who are about to go into the dungeons of drug addiction, and the Malays who think that Tanah Melayu is theirs alone and others are “intruders in history” and ought to be sent back to where they came from.

These are the Malays that need to be helped and their dignity restored. That would be a nobler job for the red-shirt gang or any gang wearing whatever shirt yelling for Malay rights. That is the “jihad” of peace the Malays, in general, would agree to be associated with.

Not the run-amok, latah, and drunken Jebat and foolish Tuah Malays we no longer wish to see. Let us help destroy this image of the Malays. We are not fools. We have never been.

The new Malay will not need to be defended. They need philosophical, scientific, and republicanist thinking. They need to be existentialists, rather than follow some theocratic nut trying to establish a kingdom of “ketuanan Melayu“. The new Malay is a multicultural Malay living emphatically with Malaysians of other races.

That’s what a Malay ought to become. Until it was destroyed by a dominant Malay party.


Dr. AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books. He grew up in Johor Baru, and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in five areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, and creative writing.

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

 

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