August 14, 2017
August 2017 Unity–The Sheer Sham of It All
by R. Nadeswaran
COMMENT | IT is that time of the year when almost the whole country is engrossed in the word “unity”. They walk for unity; run for unanimity; cycle for harmony; and there are those who are also making a living out of creating sports activities in various guises of good ethnic relations.
Our leaders have been part of it. I heard the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak lecture a crowd in Oxford on racial tolerance five years ago. Declaring that he had read the Torah, the Bibles, the Quran and other religious scriptures, Najib claimed Malaysia was an outstanding society where multi-culturalism was alive and kicking.
Two Islamic Eggheads, one from Perlis and the other from Perak
Really? Weeks later, back in Malaysia, the religious zealots and racists were spewing their hatred, egged on by narrow-minded bigots who believe that every issue has to be seen through their blinkered eyes of race and religion.
It has not stopped, but takes a break once a year to have the “feel good” sensation just because we want to celebrate our independence as “a united nation”.
“We do not identify ourselves as Malays, Chinese, Kadazans or Indians. We are all Malaysians,” some of the leaders would say and the entire crowd would rise and give thunderous applause.
Around the corner, yet another of their colleagues would talk about his special rights and label part of the population as “pendatang” and add yet another order: “Balik Tongsan”.
Each has its own agenda, sometimes personal, most of the time materialistic – to advance such messages. These examples have been chronicled and can be traced from the archives of newspapers or news portals.
These are not restricted to our leaders. Anyone who has just that little power wants to impose his or her values in the name of race and religion. From heads of government departments and local councils to headmasters and retirees, all want to dictate how the ordinary Malaysian should lead his or her life.
Seven years ago, I visited my alma mater – Klang High School – after a student complained that “the guru besar had dissolved all non-Muslim religious societies” in the school, which I later found out, was not true. The decision was not made by the headmistress – it was made by the Selangor Education Department.
At that time, it was suggested that efforts be made to identify and punish the religious zealot in the Selangor Education Department. Could it have happened then and will it happen today? Who cares to punish, let alone identify the culprit because such decisions were made in the name of “maruah agama and bangsa”?
To cut a long story short, the matter was resolved, but racism, religious bigotry and extremism continue unabated until today. Occasionally, we hear of this and that, but to what extent such fanaticism exists?
The issue of a school that introduced separate cups for its Muslim and non-Muslim pupils is yet another case. Who introduced it? Why? No one seems to care.
Both the Deputy Ministers of Education – Chong Sin Woon and P Kamalanathan – reacted as expected: with a whimper and no sign of anger or regret at what was happening in our schools. The former stating that the labels were removed as the ministry does not condone such actions. No apology, no explanation – zilch – from the person responsible for such a directive.
At least in Sarawak, we get to see some semblance of discipline. Last year. the principal of a secondary school apologised after controversially rebuking pupils for wearing “big-sized” crosses, while a state minister has upheld the right of Christian schoolchildren to wear necklaces bearing the cross. State Welfare Minister Fatimah Abdullah declared that the wearing of religious symbols in school was not prohibited.
Remember the flap over the rooftop airwells on houses in Langkawi which resembled crosses from afar? That was in 2015 and the “problem was solved” when the developer painted over the structures. Everything that resembles a cross – however harmless – is seen differently through the eyes of the bird-brained people.
More recently, the Kulim District Office ordered a developer to remove 20 statues described as “inappropriate” from a Bali-themed park at Taman MBI Desaku in Padang Meha.
Kulim district officer and administrator Mohamad Che Nai said the decision was taken following a meeting on the removal of several statues, including those of deities erected in the park. Earlier, the district office ordered the closure of the theme park and removal of two female-winged statues following complaints lodged by netizens who were uncomfortable with the display of god-like figures there.
So, is the council sending its officers to prowl the toy shops to confiscate Disney’s winged fairy dolls or the God-like battle-ready Wonder Woman dolls from Mattel? Is it going to get the MCMC to block sites through which we can make online orders for such dolls?
While one side sings the unity songs, the other is full-steam ahead with the same tune, except that lyrics are changed and laced with bigotry. Who cares? After all, the unity, patriotism and other slogans are short-term “syiok sendiri” efforts. Remember the “Apa lagi Cina Mahu?” cry after the last husting?
After National Day, they will be held in abeyance, raised during the next general election and thereafter buried and entombed only to be resurrected after five years? Hasn’t anyone not seen the pattern?