History: From a Burmese prison to Tunku’s home


July 13, 2018

Note: I will away from Phnom Penh from July 14- 17 and being outstation, where I will not have access to a computer, I am taking a break from blogging. But I will back soon enough.–Din Merican

History: From a Burmese prison to Tunku’s home

Image result for Photo Journalist Kim Gooi
 Photojournalist Kim Gooi

 

MALAYSIANS KINI | In 1977, the Bangkok-based photojournalist Kim Gooi was sentenced to a year in a Burmese prison.

He was said to have violated immigration laws after he slipped into the rebellious Shan State. He thought he would die in jail.

Death was common in Burmese prisons, the “hell on Earth” he describes in “The Poet of Keng Tung Jail,” published in 2013. The book chronicles the horrors he faced on the inside, along with poems written by a fellow inmate and some of Kim’s photographs.

Yet prison was also the place where Kim would meet those who would eventually lead him to Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Father of Independence.

To Kim, the encounter with Tunku in 1978 was “a gift from above,” one of many recollections which he contributes to “Dialog: Thoughts on Tunku’s Timeless Thinking,” a 270-page compilation of anecdotes and essays by Malaysians about the country’s first prime minister.

While in prison, Kim was asked to pass a message to Tunku by a Burmese Muslim leader from Rangoon. At the time, 200,000 Muslims had just fled to Bangladesh due to persecution by Burmese authorities. It was also when Tunku served as the secretary-general of the World Islamic Council.

Image result for tunku abdul rahman

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haji is No. 1 and will always be Numero Uno in  our pantheon of Malaysian Leaders

Kim was uncertain if Tunku would meet a “nobody” like him, but he took his chances and wrote to Malaysian Islamic Welfare Organisation (Perkim) anyway, as Tunku was head of the Penang branch.

“To my surprise, Perkim replied after a few days. They even asked for my mugshot as they wanted to print my letter to Tunku which detailed the plight of the Burmese Muslims,” Kim said in an interview with Malaysiakini.

He then managed to get the phone number of Tunku’s secretary, and fixed a date for a meeting.

“These are all very happy occurrences. I felt rewarded. A small occurrence, but this was something that filled my heart (with joy),” Kim recalls.

Image result for Photo Journalist Kim Gooi with Tunku Abdul Rahman

https://kimgooi.wordpress.com/category/home/

“I didn’t know what to expect as I’d never met Tunku before. There was a bit of apprehension on my part as I waited for him in his office,” said Kim, who has written for various news outlets in the US, UK, Australia and Malaysia, including New Straits Times, Harakah and Malaysiakini.

Kim couldn’t take his eyes off the mementos and gifts in Tunku’s office, including several tongkats and a tiger skin rug.

“Then Tunku came down, shook my hand and offered me coffee and cigarettes. I realised it was so easy to talk to him, there were no airs about him.”

Tunku was a “gold mine of information” and had a talent for making people feel at home. As Kim recalls, Tunku was generous, and had great empathy for common folk.

And so it was to his delight that soon after, he got the chance to meet Tunku again.

Kim’s passport was still under Malaysian custody. He had a new job waiting for him in Bangkok, but he knew it could be months, maybe years, before he’d get his passport back, as a friend in a similar situation said it would.

An officer at the Penang Immigration Department suggested that he ask Tunku for help. It didn’t occur to Kim that Tunku still wielded a lot of influence in the government.

And true enough, Tunku issued him with a letter of support. With that letter, Kim was able to get his passport from Immigration. His career was saved.

“Tunku was my saviour, redeemer, he saved my life and career and gave me a second chance.”

Since then, Kim has had a special bond with Tunku. When the Kedah prince visited Bangkok, Kim helped to round up a host of local and foreign journalists to attend his press conference.

Kim loved attending events organised by Tunku, like his birthdays, which he said was a real “sight to behold.”

“There were lots of Malaysian delicacies, but there were also a multiracial mix of guests at his parties, and lots of children, Tunku loved children. He was more than just a politician.”

Today, Kim lives in a modest terrace house in Tanjung Bungah with his family. He’s maintained a bit of his “hippie” lifestyle. Books and photographs lay scattered on the floor of his living room. His tiny garden is overgrown with plants and grass.

Dressed in a flowery orange shirt and sarong, he gives off the vibe of someone who’s seen it all. Now 70, Kim is an ardent practitioner of Chinese art and health. He still plays the blues on his harmonica, and still lives by his Taoist beliefs.

Here, in his own words, Kim talks about how certain world events shaped his life and career.

I AM INSPIRED BY TAOISM AND CHINESE SCHOLARSHIP AND CULTURE. Some may call me a “Chinese chauvinist,” but behind all these teachings is a universal humanitarianism. It is the only philosophy that can save mankind.

I STARTED MY CAREER IN JOURNALISM during the height of the hippie era. It was an incredible time of hope and optimism for the world.

MY CAREER WAS VERY MUCH INFLUENCED BY MUSIC, POETRY, PHILOSOPHY, AND DRUGS. It was all things combined. The hip word then was that these things were “groovy” and “cool.” I was called a hippie since my days at the polytechnic in Singapore, as I often wore blue jeans.

IN MY CAREER, I HAVE MET MANY WRITERS, SINGERS, POETS who introduced me to the world of photojournalism. They read a lot, and I learned from them. They also taught me how to travel the world, take photos, and get paid for it.

HIPPIES WERE FANTASTIC. They were highly educated and thoughtful people, and totally disillusioned with American culture, which we should emulate today, as it is the most rotten culture.

PEOPLE OF MY GENERATION ADORED THE USA. But from the hippies I learned the other side of the story. Look what they have done to the whole world, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and with the secret bombings in Laos.

BEING A JOURNALIST INTENSIFIED ALL THESE FEELINGS. I came face to face with American hypocrisy and lies, but at the same time, my experiences also led me to see that they have the “best” and “worst” the world has to offer.

THESE DAYS, JOURNALISM IN THIS COUNTRY IS VERY SAD. The world of journalism which I grew up with is no more. In my time, evidence mattered, and statements published were real, but today, you don’t know what is, with all the fake news on the internet.

From Merdeka Day to Malaysia Day, Malaysians Kini will feature personalities known to Tunku, as well as their memories about him. Their detailed recollections are featured in the book “Dialog: Thoughts on Tunku’s Timeless Thinking.”


MALAYSIANS KINI is a series on Malaysians you should know.

Previously featured:

War has no victors, says last surviving WWII vet

The one-man Malay literature archive

The last of generations of storytellers

Sarawak’s sape travels across the South China Sea

Art for the people – Manjat’s work transcends controversy

Don’t Kiss the Hand that Beats You


July 12, 2018

Don’t Kiss the Hand that Beats You

by Fadiah Nadwa Fikri

Image result for fadiah nadwa fikri oxford

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri@Oxford

https://malaysiamuda.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/jangan-engkau-cium-tangan-yang-memukulmu/

“To be free does not and cannot mean to only be free from the visible concrete prison walls in our midst. Freedom must mean that we are collectively free from invisible walls that have long been erected to rob us of our dignity. To be free is to persistently and collectively stand up against and resist institutional dehumanization in all its forms.”–Fadiah Nadwa Fikri

Jangan Engkau Cium Tangan yang Memukulmu

 

Artikel versi Bahasa Melayu boleh didapati di sini.

Upon his release from prison, former Opposition Leader and Prime Minister in waiting Anwar Ibrahim shared his thoughts on his winding political journey and went on to say something that was exceptionally profound – that the value of freedom was the lesson he learned from prison life. Three years flew by. A man’s liberty was taken away and shackled to prison walls. To spectators of this political episode, Anwar’s incarceration felt like a long absence.

In his absence, ordinary Malaysians continued to deal with their everyday struggles amidst the mundane and intolerable suffocating reality. Some struggled to navigate and make sense of the meaning of freedom, having been forced to live in a bigger prison surrounded by impenetrable walls invisible to many.

When May 9 happened, the country went into immense shock. To witness the fall of an authoritarian government which had been clinging on to power for 61 years was not an impossibility. It is undeniable that the change of government enabled, among others, the release of the former Opposition Leader. The picture of Anwar, swarmed by a sea of journalists, held tightly in his family’s arms, finally free from imprisonment was a sight to behold. The celebration continued late in the night, where thousands of supporters assembled at Padang Timur to listen to his freedom speech.

While the majority of Malaysians were still immersed in the indescribable euphoria, trying to wrap their minds around the change and what it meant for the country, the internal power struggle among the political elite started to rear its ugly head. Realizing how fragile the transition was, some started to question the drama that was unveiling before the nation. There were voices who were quick to tell critics to bite their tongues and have faith in people occupying positions of power.

The terrain on which this internal power struggle was taking place was clearly off limits to ordinary people – including the very people who elected those who are now at the helm of the government. This is the harsh reality associated with representative democracy – a reality we rarely talk about and examine, in which political participation is mainly confined to the ballot box whose final outcome would subsequently be handed over to the ruling elite. In defence of this reality, people are often told to wait another five years if they wish to change the government. Who has the luxury to wait another five years? This question must not be left unanswered.

Image result for anwar ibrahim and the sultan of johor

Any attempt to break the fortress built around this existing system in order to democratize the space for people to assert their political existence is often met with harsh criticism and rebuke. As a result, the power to shape the future and direction of the country remains in the hands of the privileged few, thus further alienating the voices of the many, in particular the marginalized. Genuine democracy which seeks to place people at its heart therefore remains out of reach.

The unending internal power struggle reached a whole new level when the picture of Anwar, bending down, kissing the hand of the Sultan of Johor emerged on the internet. Given the Prime Minister’s strained relationship with the monarchy, there are no prizes for guessing why the Prime Minister in waiting did what he did. What is disquieting about the act captured in the picture is the indefensible feudal culture it’s embodying and the catastrophic consequences it’s transmitting.

It bears reminding that to most of the rest of the world, monarchy was rendered obsolete a long time ago. History has shown that the absurdities on which the institution was built can no longer be tolerated, defended, and justified. To situate a class of people above others by virtue of their aristocratic birth could not be more revolting a notion – a notion that stands in contradiction to the concept of freedom and human dignity.

As people constantly rise to reclaim the meaning of freedom and human dignity in a world that is plagued with institutional dehumanization, this indefensible notion of subjugation raises a number of questions which demand answers. Why do people who bleed red just like everyone whom unconditional submission is forced upon deserve such privilege? Why do people who perpetually live off the backs of those who are struggling to survive and live a dignified life deserve god-like treatment and adoration? Why are people who are unilaterally endowed with immense power and wealth extracted from people they subjugate immune from accountability?

The answers to these questions lead us to one inevitable conclusion: not only is the monarchy anti-democratic, it is also a direct assault on our very dignity which is inherent to our existence as human beings. While proponents of this feudal relic would argue that the monarchy as it exists today is nothing but a neutral constitutional adornment, the fact however demonstrates the contrary. One must look beyond what is written in the Constitution in order to understand the politics this institution practices, whose interest it truly represents, and whose side it is on.

Image result for The Crown Prince of Johor

One month before the recent general elections, the Johor Crown Prince, popularly known as TMJ, unreservedly told the whole nation not to bring down the government – the government which had been ruling the country with an iron fist for 61 years. The Crown Prince’s act of uttering these words shortly before the elections, while many people were engulfed in simmering anger, struggling to escape the oppressive situations they had been subjected to for so long, was indeed a calculated move.

The act was clearly executed out of fear of the unknown – fear of losing the privilege and power accorded to the monarchy by the oppressive government who was complicit in subjugating the people, should a change of government become a reality. This particular event which is in no way an anomaly is proof that the institution has never been neutral. It’s as clear as day that the side of the people is the side it has never been on.

As for believers of this archaic institution who contend that it is a symbol of unity, standing on the side of the oppressor while many are denied the right to good life in a country that is structured by domination, inequality, and exploitation only speaks of one kind of unity: unity in oppression.

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim and The Sultan of Selangor

To be free does not and cannot mean to only be free from the visible concrete prison walls in our midst. Freedom must mean that we are collectively free from invisible walls that have long been erected to rob us of our dignity. To be free is to persistently and collectively stand up against and resist institutional dehumanization in all its forms. As Judith Butler puts it:

“Indeed, if resistance is to bring about a new way of life, a more livable life that opposes the differential distribution of precarity, then acts of resistance will say no to one way of life at the same time that they say yes to another. For this purpose, we must reconsider for our times the performative consequences of concerted action in the Arendtian sense. Yet, in my view, the concerted action that characterizes resistance is sometimes found in the verbal speech act or the heroic fight, but it is also found in those bodily gestures of refusal, silence, movement, refusing to move, that characterize those movements that enact democratic principles of equality and economic principles of interdependency in the very action by which they call for a new way of life more radically democratic and more substantially interdependent.”

 

 

 

Pakatan Harapan: What is so special about this Naik Fella from India?


July 12, 2018

Pakatan Harapan: What is so special about this Naik Fella from India?

By Dennis Ignatius

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Naik and Mahathir

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad protects an Indian Cobra

What’s so special about Zakir Naik? Why is he so uniquely deserving of Putrajaya’s support and attention?

These are among the many questions that Malaysians are asking in the wake of the government’s decision to allow him to stay; so far no satisfactory answers have been forthcoming.

Well-deserved reputation

Any which way you look at it, Naik is a highly polarising demagogue. Considered one of the most influential Wahhabi ideologues in the world, he aggressively propagates a version of Islam that even Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Salman says is in need of reform, and which, incidentally, the National Fatwa Council (NFC) of Malaysia declared “has no place in Malaysia”.

Countries as diverse as Canada, India, the UK and Bangladesh consider him an extremist who seems to endorse terrorism. Some countries have denied him entry as well. Bangladesh alleges that he inspired a terrorist attack in Dhaka in 2016 which left 22 dead. India’s National Investigation Agency is also investigating his foundation for alleged money laundering.

While he consistently denies these allegations and claims that he has been misunderstood or taken out of context, it’s hard not to conclude from even a cursory viewing of his many YouTube offerings that his reputation for extremism is well-deserved.

Dishonest and deceitful

Image result for Naik and Mahathir

Now that he is in the dock of public opinion, and desperate for refuge in Malaysia, he is attempting an image makeover, claiming that his “primary concern” has always been “to foster social harmony”. He is, of course, being utterly dishonest given that he has a long history of being extremely intolerant, insulting and demeaning of other faiths.

And when cornered by his own remarks, he immediately cries that he is but a victim of some vague conspiracy against Islam, part of a “broader objective of demonising Islam and Muslims”, never mind that it is his own hate-filled invective that does more to demonise Islam that anything else.

Skillfully exploiting our divisions

While many of us might shudder at the thought of someone like Naik being turned loose in a country like ours which is struggling to contain religious and racial extremism, he has apparently no shortage of supporters. With the Wahhabi narrative already well-established in the corridors of power, the NFC’s opinion notwithstanding, he is of course a perfect fit. His choice of abode – in Putrajaya – is itself very telling.

He also seems to have adroitly exploited Malaysia’s political, racial and religious divisions to his advantage, endearing himself to many in UMNO and PAS by his endorsement of both Islamic and Malay supremacism. And they, in turn, have showered him with a level of praise, privilege and protection that he never found anywhere else. No surprise then that he loves it here.

Legal obligations

The Indian government is now apparently seeking to extradite Naik (who remains an Indian citizen) to face money laundering and terrorism-related charges.

Ultimately, extradition is a legal matter subject to treaty obligations which the courts must decide upon. The government must take a principled stand and affirm that it will respect its legal obligations. To do otherwise, to insist that Naik be treated differently from others in similar situations, would undermine the government’s own oft-repeated commitment to the rule of law.

Does Naik deserve to be here?

Beyond the issue of extradition, however, is the larger question of whether or not he deserves to be a Malaysian permanent resident. A strong argument can be made that extremists like Naik do not deserve residency status in our country.

His values, his actions and his worldview stand in sharp contrast to the kind of tolerant, respectful and inclusive nation we are trying to build. He has nothing to contribute to making our nation a strong, united and prosperous one. He is but an intolerant religious bully who does not deserve our respect let alone our protection.

And don’t forget that this is also the same opportunist who, convinced that UMNO would rule forever, insisted at a seminar last year that Muslims ought to vote for a Muslim leader who might be corrupt (read Najib) rather than a Muslim leader who depends on non-Muslim support (read Mahathir).

Of course, once Najib lost power, he immediately ingratiated himself with Putrajaya’s new leaders and now sings their praises. And this is the man that some in Pakatan Harapan are now defending.

Naik doesn’t belong here. If he doesn’t have the courage to return home to India to answer the charges against him, let him find sanctuary in Saudi Arabia; after all, he is a great admirer of the Wahhabi clerics who hold sway there.

Government owes us an explanation

Image result for Malaysia-India Relations

In the interest of transparency, the government has an obligation to explain why it refuses to extradite him and why he deserves to remain in Malaysia.

As well, the government needs to clarify whether it is paying for Naik’s ever-present security detail, whether he is receiving financial support of any kind from the public purse, and whether he is being considered for Malaysian citizenship now that India has withdrawn his passport.

Whatever it is, the government should not underestimate how deeply offended many Malaysians are with Naik and how deeply disappointed they are by the inexplicable and shocking decision to continue offering him sanctuary here.

Dennis Ignatius is a former ambassador.

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

What are our Malaysian values,Dr. Mahathir?


July 11, 2018

What are our Malaysian values,Dr. Mahathir?

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for political islam in ‘new malaysia’

What happened to his Bangsa Malaysia? It became Bangsat Malaysia. Let us get real and ask ourselves whether Mahathir 2.0 a reformer that we make him out to be.

COMMENT | Is Pakatan Harapan(Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in particular) deliberately insulting our intelligence, and lying to us, about a foreigner, who condones the hatred of non-Muslims, and who has been given Malaysian Permanent Residency (PR), and allowed to remain in the country?

This is not fair! Malaysian children born out of wedlock, the Orang Asli who delay the registration of the births of their children, and children born to illiterate estate dwelling Malaysians, are all deemed stateless.

For many, GE14 was a declaration of our desire to be ruled by common sense and the rule of law. Determined to postpone criticism until the 100-day mark has been difficult, especially with the development of disturbing trends.

How can the women in Harapan sit still when, in 21st Century Malaysia, child marriages still occur? The 11-year-old who was married to a 41-year-old man is not the first to create headlines.

Image result for Wan Azizah and Nurul Izzah Anwar

Would Harapan MPs condemn their own children to a similar fate? Will they stop hiding behind the Muslim man’s assertion that it is his right to marry an underage child and have four wives, even though he can barely afford to feed himself?

Malaysians did not vote Harapan for our MPs to allow JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) to keep its bloated budget and continue its divisive work. Malaysia must stop exporting extremism. Perhaps, Muslim Harapan MPs need reminding that they can be kicked out of office, in GE-15.

Image result for Najib Razak the criminal

 

Malaysia will put you in jail: Don’t waste our time, just plea bargain and go to jail

When in the history of Malaysian justice has a criminal been allowed to barter his bail? When has a criminal been able to manipulate the language used in the High Courts? The disgraced former Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak appears to be calling the shots from behind the scenes. Why?

Malaysia is perhaps the only nation where many of its citizens are afraid of their own nationality. At the height of Najib’s 1MDB scandal, many Malaysians, when overseas, were ashamed to admit they were Malaysian, as Najib represented corruption and a complete lack of moral fibre.

At home, we seldom talk about Malaysian values. We only refer to Malay, Chinese or Indian values, many of which are common to all the cultures, like family ties and filial piety.

Rebuilding Malaysia is about giving people hope

It took a lot of courage for many Malaysians, to take a leap in the dark and vote for Harapan in GE-14, thus ending 61 years of oppression.

Phase I in rebuilding Malaysia, was about giving people hope. That was the easy part. Phase II, which is currently experiencing a multitude of teething problems, is re-establishing Malaysian values. It is long term work.

In Phase I, we ejected Najib and UMNO-Baru from Putrajaya. It was about giving people control of their own destiny because change is possible, if we acknowledge that the first step towards change is always the most difficult.

In Phase II, we need to forge a Malaysian identity, and for that we need to re-establish Malaysian values; the values that have been eroded by 61 years of corruption and criminality.

We should try to live by Malaysian values in our daily lives. We have a common aspiration and we should derive our Malaysian values from the various aspects of our rich multi-cultural heritage.

If we were to ask the average Malay about his definition of Malaysian values, he would probably refer to Arabic, Islamic values.

For the Malays, religion can be a stumbling block to the forging of a common Malaysian identity. We have become more Arabicised and adopted Arabic phrases and clothing, because we confuse the adoption of Arab culture with being a better Muslim. We crave to be the perfect Muslim and become worse humans because of this. Our interpretation of the religion, has corrupted our morals. Don’t blame the religion.

Today’s Malay is blinded by materialism and the promotion of the self. Can he remember the core values of his grandparents’ generation? The community spirit, the engagement and interaction with people of other cultures, are largely missing. What happened to having a bit of fun, like dancing the joget at a wedding, attending a rock concert, or performing a ballet, and not feeling guilty about it?

Many Muslims have been so cowed by JAKIM, that they are afraid to speak out against it, even though they hate the organisation; just as they were afraid to speak out against UMNO-Baru, which they also hated, because they knew it was oppressing them.

Under UMNO-Baru, the Malays were force-fed a diet of quasi-superiority and bumiputeraism. They looked down on non-Malays, even though this group thrived and became successful by a combination of thrift, true grit, hard work, struggle and sacrifice.

In many parts of the world, including Malaysia, the young have been exposed to Western lifestyles. This has eroded our own core Asian values, like personal sacrifice, and family ties.

Two of the five “Singaporean values” are “putting the nation before community, and society above self” as well as making the “family as the basic unit of society”.

“Japanese values” are steeped in family, work, thinking of others, doing one’s best, and social interactions.

“English values” are incorporated in democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs.

The forging of Malaysian values does not diminish our individual cultural values. On the contrary, Malaysian values should help bring down barriers and forge closer ties with the other communities.

In the spirit of the new Malaysia, let us re-establish our Malaysian values. Those values are familiar to all those who grew up before the 1980s.


MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

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

Naik and Mahathir–Pandering to UMNO-PAS Politics


July 11, 2018

Naik and Mahathir–Pandering to UMNO-PAS Politics

by Cmdr (rtd) S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

“You perceive the force of a word. He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense… Give me the right word and the right accent and I will move the world.” – Joseph Conrad.

I think the reason why Zakir Naik is not deported – secret deal or not – is that the Malaysian government does not consider what he is alleged to have done in India a crime. They probably justify those charges as religious persecution against a beloved Muslim preacher. They probably think that anyone who disagrees with what Zakir Naik says is Islamophobic.–S. Thayaparan.

COMMENT | It is really a funny question, right? When I say “our” and there are people who were born here, like Letchumie Sinnan who has been given the run around by the bureaucracy for 20 years and been stuck in permanent resident limbo, while a demagogue, alleged money launderer and extremist sympathiser like Zakir Naik get feted by the political and social elite.

Meanwhile, there are thousands of Indians and Chinese who have to eke out a living and contribute to the economy but are not considered citizens of this country. Over the years, I have met and attempted to help – in my own small ineffectual way – dozens of Malaysians to get their MyKad. It is really galling to witness a religious hatemonger like Zakir Naik being defended by the political elite in this country of the Islamic persuasion, while so many – a legion, I would say – have no one to speak up for them.

Image result for Mahathir pandering to Islamophobia

The fact there are Indians and Chinese in this country who are considered, for whatever reasons, permanent residents (if they are lucky) and the state wilfully refuses to recognise them as citizens, while Zakir Naik gets to spread his horse manure in comfort, is an insult for anyone who has served this country, either in the state security apparatus, in the teaching profession or whatever else capacity that has made this country what it is today.

Let me say this. I bet my last ringgit that all these Malaysians who have been denied their citizenship, who have been given the run around by the bureaucracy and who toil in menial jobs unable to get a foothold, I bet that they have contributed more to this country than the radicals like Zakir Naik. All those people I have attempted to help over the years display a profound love and loyalty to this county, even though they have been marginalised.

Someone like me often wonders, how could you love this country when it doesn’t even recognise you? How can you be loyal to this country when it has willfully abandoned you? We live in a great country is their common refrain. Yeah, a great country, where the likes of Zakir Naik get to say what he likes and (now) to be deported only if he misbehaves.

 

Tell me, what does “not creating problems” mean? What would it take for Zakir Naik to be kicked out of this country? What exactly is the threshold here?

We all know that Zakir Naik uses words to instigate, demean and mock other cultures and religions. We know that his words are meaningful to large sections of the Malay polity, even though they may not understand him. We know that he remains unrepentant since he has probably met with every Malay power broker of note in this country. So, what exactly does misbehaving mean? His kind of Islam is supposedly the antithesis of the kind of Islam Harapan wants to propagate. Or is it?

Kudos to P Ramasamy, the Penang Deputy Chief Minister II, for giving it his all when it comes to the extradition of Zakir Naik. What I want to know is why aren’t the rest of the Harapan gang coming out with a unified comment on this issue. Are the major power players in Harapan reserving comment? Are they too busy, thinking up ways of how not to spook the Malays?

Freedom of speech?

Every time I write about Zakir Naik, I get many emails from people – Malays – berating me for insulting this man. I sincerely do not get it. When I provide evidence – Zakir Naik’s own words – of the racist, bigoted and inflammatory speeches he has made, it is ignored. When I explain why non-Muslims would be offended by what he says about our religions, it is ignored or dismissed, as not understanding his intent.

Image result for Mahathir pandering to Islamophobia

The Harapan Prime Minister is playing UMNO-PAS politics

When I attempt to provide an analysis of why, even if you were not religious, Zakir Naik’s words amount to incitement against secular democracies, I am told that he is an expert and thus qualified to speak about everything under the sun. Why do we need this man in our country? What possible service has he done for Malaysians that warrant the political elite to think of him as someone who is an asset to this country?

And here’s the thing, if there was freedom of speech like the kind Zakir Naik has for everyone, nobody would have an issue with him. But we have blatant double standards that border on malicious. It is the smirk which tells us that he can say things without consequences but the ‘kafirs’ have to take it.

The last time I wondered if Zakir Naik was a security threat, I got hate mail up the wazoo. Here’s what I wrote – “However, Zakir is a special case. In a time when the Islamist agenda in this country is taking new forms and the agenda is promulgated by new alliances, a preacher like Zakir who specialises in deepening already established cultural and religious rifts is a threat to national security.”

I get it. I see all these huge rallies, and the Malay/Muslim hegemons don’t want to be the Muslims who deported Zakir Naik to India. The country, which even our local preacher took a dig at in a poem which managed to insult the Hindu community, but he insisted was a personal letter to the Prime Minister of India. Nobody wants to be the pious Malay/Muslim political leader who said that Zakir Naik does not belong in this country.

Ramasamy hammers the point home when he reminds the Malaysian government that they deported Chinese Uighurs and Sri Lankan Tamils back to their countries of origin. What is the hold up with Zakir Naik? Why is he a special case?

You know what I think. I think the reason why Zakir Naik is not deported – secret deal or not – is that the Malaysian government does not consider what he is alleged to have done in India a crime. They probably justify those charges as religious persecution against a beloved Muslim preacher. They probably think that anyone who disagrees with what Zakir Naik says is Islamophobic.

Why is it, for some people, the beauty of their religion is only found in the vilification of other religions?


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

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

Rethinking race and its appeal in Malaysia


July 11, 2018

Rethinking race and its appeal in Malaysia

by Tan Zi Hao

Tan Zi Hao is a PhD candidate in Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. He is also a conceptual artist whose artworks can be viewed at http://www.tanzihao.net. As both artist and writer, he is interested in the arts, language, cultural politics and mobilities.

http://www.newmandala.org/imagined-minorities-rethinking-race-appeal-malaysia/

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Despite the game-changing outcome of the 14th General Election, the spectre of race lingers in Malaysia. Appointing an ethnic Indian and Christian Tommy Thomas as the Attorney General has already attracted some predictable flak. When Hindu Rights Action Force 2.0 (Hindraf 2.0, a Hindraf splinter group) demanded that MARA University of Technology (UiTM) be opened to entry by all races, an online petition was immediately kickstarted and has collected more than 150,000 signatures in the first two days. The new Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng—also Malaysia’s second Chinese finance minister after a 44-year break—was condemned for uploading a Mandarin translation of his statement, even though it was officially released in Malay, and later translated to both English and Mandarin.

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If race remains as a potent category of exclusion, its perpetuation must have an emotional appeal rooted in the realities and assumptions of those who embrace it. However, public intellectuals who wish to do away with racism tend to give a response that is dismissive in nature: sociologist Kua Kia Soong proposes outlawing racism, law lecturer Azmi Sharom considers racists bereft of ideas, Dialog Rakyat committee member and academician Omar Abdul Rahman pushes for a greater collective effort in eradicating racism.

But these criticisms refuse to acknowledge the sentimental affect of racism. Key to most racial thinking is the seductive appeal of imagining one’s own race as a living minority in need of some protection. It enables a majority to be convinced of their own vulnerability, and to live as, to borrow from Benedict Anderson, an “imagined” minority. Without a doubt, the most vocal imagined minorities in Malaysia are the ethnic Malay majority, and the largest ethnic Chinese minority. They are the two “racialised” ethnic groups who succeed in the enterprise of self-minoritisation.

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To be an imagined minority is not only to assume victimhood, but to believe in the appeal that one’s own vulnerability is racially unique and significantly more urgent than that of others. The more vulnerable your “race”, the better your prospects. Unsurprisingly, the most controversial of all race-related debates in Malaysia revolved around the competitive narcissistic posturing of the Malays and Chinese. Actually-existing minorities—such as the Orang Asli, Orang Ulu and Dayak, or Anak Negeri—hardly make the cut.

The Malays and Chinese each have at their own disposal a plethora of rhetoric to foster their brand of imagined minorities. Among this is their special attention directed to tradition and heritage. From national institutions (e.g. Muzium Negara, and the Malay Heritage Museum) to privately-funded Chinese cultural institutions (e.g. the Malaysian Chinese Museum or Johor Bahru Chinese Heritage Museum), in museumising what is in dire need of preservation they are able to articulate better their vulnerability.

Each of these museums emphasises narratives of loss and sacrifice, while de-emphasising narratives of elitism and privilege. Whenever narratives of privilege are presented, they are framed as an overdue accomplishment, an exemplary success whose arrival is the fruit of previous sacrifices. Additionally, while anti-colonial struggles are highlighted and detailed, complicity with colonialism is sloppily summarised and omitted.

Beyond infrastructural facilities, another effort in self-minoritisation is to think through racially-oriented solidarity movements and protests. For the Malays, Muslim solidarity movements with the Palestinians, Rohingyas, Pattanis, or Moros, yield a new awareness of being an imagined minority in places beyond Malaysia; for the Chinese, issues pertaining to the dignity of the Chinese language and the official recognition of Chinese independent high schools offer an avenue through which the imagination of being minorities can be constantly reinvigorated.

These movements are valid political expressions. But it remains crucial to question their almost organic proclivity for attracting only a specific ethnic, racial, or religious group. At the outset, their protests appear as reactionary and racially exclusivist, but in fact the principal premise is strikingly similar: a vulnerable minority against a dominant majority, the powerless against the powerful. The very impossibility of imagining cross-ethnic solidarities in these essentially anti-hegemonic movements in Malaysia is, in and of itself, a testament to how one is more appealed to race (or religion) than to the actual oppression at stake.

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That these solidarity movements only lend credence to identitarianism should compel us to question the limits of solidarity among Malaysians. Can a Malay who antagonise the Israeli occupation of Palestine stand in solidarity with a Chinese who calls for the abolishment of Bumiputra policies in Malaysia? Can a Chinese who insists on the recognition of Chinese independent high schools stand in solidarity with a Malay who demands for the recognition of the Pattanis in Thailand’s deep south?

More provocatively, can a Malay who applauds Indonesia’s assimilationism that had stigmatised and marginalised the Indonesian Chinese minority truly empathise with the marginalised Pattanis?

Truly empathise with the marginalised Pattanis? Can a Chinese who disregards the implicit Chinese privilege in Singapore genuinely lament the prejudicial effects of Bumiputra privilege in Malaysia?

These hypothetical questions, at a cursory glance, have little to do with race, but they bespeak the exclusionary temperaments of racial thinking.

The affect that these protests reveal, or at any rate create, is more fundamental than what the movements advocate. One finds in these ritualistic public demonstrations the highest realisation of imagined minorities: the subliminal emphasis on racial–religious identity over power inequality helps mould the psychological temperament that one is born into victimhood. They become symbolic tokens for self-minoritisation. Whereas the abovementioned museums exhibit narratives of loss and sacrifice, these protests stage and perform them, in public and in action. Under this operant self-minoritisation, it is not too far-fetched to claim that to become a “Malay-Muslim” or a “Chinese” in Malaysia, is to first learn to become a victim and to think like minorities.

“Opponents of racism need to understand that proponents of racial politics do believe in race. We need to listen to and explain these affective temperaments rather than dismissing them outright. It is only by first understanding the appeal of race and the complex imagination it summons that one can begin to find ways of uprooting racism”.–Tan Zi Hao

Many who still question why an ethnic Malay majority requires institutional protectionism miss the point. Recall what Arjun Appadurai provocatively identifies as the “anxiety of incompleteness”, whereby postcolonial ethnic majorities are burdened by an unfinished project of obtaining authenticity: equipped with temperaments of loss, a demographic majority will remain “incomplete”, “inauthentic”, and live as imagined minorities in fear of actually-existing minorities.

What is lost to the Malays in colonialism is lost to the Chinese in migration. Both imagined minorities seek to rectify their “incompleteness” by pinpointing, even racialising, one another as the dominant “imagined majorities” obstructing their attainment of an originary authenticity.

There is a seductive appeal to this track of imagination that liberal analysts and public intellectuals disregard. It is an imagination that is grounded on the fact of being “Malay” and of being “Chinese”.

However unscientific or unfounded these racial categories, the temperaments contained in them are disturbingly honest, intimately personal and subjective. Part of the affect of being “Malay” is to first identify how “Chinese” became the cause of their grievance, vice versa.

Opponents of racism need to understand that proponents of racial politics do believe in race. We need to listen to and explain these affective temperaments rather than dismissing them outright. It is only by first understanding the appeal of race and the complex imagination it summons that one can begin to find ways of uprooting racism.