Mujahid’s reformist facade


March 20, 2019

Mujahid’s reformist facade

 

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Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the minister in charge of religious affairs, has carefully cultivated an image of himself as an open-minded political moderate and reformer, someone who stands apart from the rest of the extremist crowd.

Of late, however, his pronouncements and actions have led many to wonder just how deep his commitment to reform and moderation is.

His reaction to the recent International Women’s Day rally is a case in point. While he had nothing much to say about many of the legitimate issues concerning women’s rights that were raised, he expressed shock over the presence of members of the LGBT community who were also there to press for their rights.

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Admittedly, the LGBT issue is controversial in Malaysia but to suggest that they were “abusing the democratic space” was simply outrageous. Clearly, he does not understand that in a democracy, everyone, including the LGBT community, has a right to be heard.

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Harassing women fighting for their rights is common enough in a  Wahhabi state like Saudi Arabia. That it should happen in a secular democracy like Malaysia is cause for concern.

In the short span of a few months, Mujahid’s journey as a minister in Malaysia Baru has taken him from standing alongside a transgender activist and pleading with the public not to discriminate against the LGBT community, to open hostility against them.

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He has gone from championing human rights to calling for greater restrictions on our democratic space. And he has shifted from insisting that Jakim and other Islamic agencies should be reformed to empowering them yet further.

Indeed, he is now defending Jakim’s excessive RM810 million budget as reasonable and justified.

Instead of moderating the worst excesses of agencies like Jakim, which he said was one of his priorities, he is allowing them to slowly radicalise his political views.

No surprise then that Mujahid met recently with the infamous Salafist preacher Zakir Naik, a fugitive wanted abroad for terrorism-related and money laundering offences and who remains blacklisted by several countries.

After the meeting, Mujahid shocked many Malaysians by declaring Naik, who he once criticised for demeaning other faiths, as “an inspiration”.

How Mujahid can bestow his admiration on the same man who, convinced that UMNO would win re-election, argued that it is better for Muslims to support a corrupt Muslim regime than an honest one that includes non-Muslims is also inexplicable.

Of course, as soon as UMNO lost power, Naik rushed over to kiss Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s hand and ingratiate himself with the new government.

His confidence in the absolute gullibility of Malaysia’s ruling elites was clearly not misplaced. Heroes, it seems, come quite cheaply in Malaysia.

Mujahid has since tried to justify his meeting as an attempt to educate Naik about the country’s Islamic administration. Few will be fooled by such a facile explanation.

Now that Mujahid has anointed Naik as a worthy role model, in effect Malaysia Baru’s new inspirer-in-chief, every ceramah door in the country will be open to him and his extremist teachings.

Don’t be surprised if Naik soon emerges as the most influential Islamic voice in the nation; quite a coup for a fugitive but what a setback for national unity!

But let’s face it: when it comes to Muslim radicals, the ruling elites seem to have tunnel vision. Even the police seem to go out of their way to avoid confronting the ugly reality that Malaysia is far too tolerant of extremism.

In explaining the increasing number of terrorists who use Malaysia as a base, for example, the police chief suggested that it was due to the fact that Malaysia has good air links with the rest of the world, as if somehow Malaysia is the only well-connected country in the region.

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A Life devoted to spreading a Message of Hate of the Other

The fact is terrorists choose Malaysia as their base of operations because they know that the religious culture here is more accommodating and supportive. Extremists only have to don the right religious garb and speak the same Ketuanan Melayu language and they are in.

Naik should have been kicked out of the country the moment Pakatan Harapan came to power. That he remains here – despite his fugitive status, his unsavoury background, his alleged links to terrorists, his taunting of religious minorities and his disgraceful support for the former regime – is just another indication of the misplaced priorities of Malaysia’s political elites.

Whatever it is, it’s a sad day for Malaysia when Mujahid, someone we were all hoping would help moderate the trend towards religious extremism in our nation, draws inspiration from the likes of Naik.

It really makes you wonder what lurks behind the reformist façade of some of these PH leaders.

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

The ticking time bomb of Hatred


March 17,2019

The ticking time bomb of Hatred

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In just twenty-four hours, the world is aghast, again.

Human brutality instigated by religious and ethnic hatred has resurfaced. A cynic would say this has been going on for centuries, so what else is new?

The difference is, that in the last 30 years, the internet has played a key role. The ease and speed in the dissemination of racist and bigoted ideology have allowed hateful ideology to spread anonymously.

Both the Christchurch mosque massacres are a human catastrophe, but it is not unexpected. It reveals that we humans continue in our ignorance, sinister manipulation and arrogance.

The despicable actions of modern terrorists are responses to the rhetoric and hate speeches of our leaders. They too use the internet to spread their hate speech, both covertly and openly.

Lately, Malaysia’s leadership has been slipping into the same cauldron. The race and religious rhetoric continues to divide Malaysian society.

We may read umpteen times, that “deep down in every Malaysian, we are really a peaceful, harmonious people”. This may be true.

However, in the months after May 9, 2018, perceptions have changed again. Malaysians are bombarded by racial and religious rhetoric from the leadership.

“Rhetoric and insincerity have no place in post-GE14 Malaysia. The main takeaway from the Christchurch terrorist act is that the ticking time bomb was wired by political rhetoric and self-serving leaders in the first place. The result is a growing global polarisation between nations, religions and ethnicities.”–Sharifah Munirah Alatas

Mantras like “upholding the special rights of the Malays”, “threats to Islam”, “DAP is in control”, etc. are platforms onto which both PH and the opposition have latched. The real issues of governance and reforms, have once again been sidelined.

Using the ethereal notion of “threat” as a smokescreen, Malaysian politics has been reduced to a dangerous and manipulative divide-and-rule game.

The Christchurch gunman acted on these very cliches. It is a global phenomenon. Malaysians should decide once and for all, if we want to continue down this path. Our leaders have to wake up and smell the teh tarik.

Both Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia are bracing themselves for a verbal retaliation to the Christchurch massacre.

Already, a few “educated” academics claim that Malaysian politicians and muftis will start the narrative that “Muslims must ready themselves for the glorious jihad”; that mosque sermons will be slanted for “the ongoing war with the kafirs”.

Recently, a piece of this nature was circulated on social media. The article appealed for Muslims to be introspective and to ask if the shooting is the result of the Muslims’ own arrogance and extremist tendencies.

The question was contextualised within the argument that Muslims globally are rather silent on the IS and other Muslim terrorist killings.

The logic is that, we (Muslims) have no moral right in our indignation of white supremacist terrorism because our “own backyard is strewn with garbage”. This is not only objectionable but grossly ineffective.

In 2010, leading Pakistani clerics published fatwas, endorsed by Al-Azhar University, that condemn terrorism, indiscriminate violence and the unlawfulness of imposing Islam on others.

In 2008, about 6,000 Indian Muslim clerics approved a fatwa against terrorism at a conference in Hyderabad. This fatwa was termed “The Hyderabad Declaration”.

In 2010 the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada issued a fatwa against terrorism, signed by 20 North American imams. That same year, a major international conference convened in Mardin, Turkey. It issued a declaration to dismiss a 14th century fatwa by Ibn Taymiyyah which was used to justify terrorism.

In 2005, Malaysia’s own Sheikh Muhammad Afifi Al-Akiti published a fatwa condemning the targeting of innocents by terrorists. This was in response to the London bombings.

In 2004, the “Amman Message” was declared. It affirmed the validity of all eight schools of thought, including Sunni, Shia, Ibadi, Ash’arism and Sufism. The Amman Message also declared the impermissibility of takfir (declaring another Muslim to be an apostate).

In 2003, the Saudi Arabian Council of Senior Scholars issued a fatwa concerning suicide bombings and terrorism. It reiterated that those who commit these acts are contravening Islamic law.

There is an irresponsible attitude by some, as if to suggest that the actions of the Christchurch terrorist can be justified.

Public intellectuals and academics should be responsible in their tasks. They should be above sensationalism for cheap publicity. Politicians must not get involved in rhetorical racial and religious discourse, aimed at voter manipulation.

All of us should wake up from our slumber and realise that we are all to blame for the current dire straits we find ourselves in. Stop the finger-pointing. Admit to mistakes, and work together in overcoming society’s challenges.

Ego has no place. Race and religion should never be used as a political tool. Mass political behaviour, being what it is, finds comfort in collective grievances. Use these grievances to unite, not to divide.

Politicians and religious leaders should stop their puppet performances. Academics and public intellectuals should get over their egos and write the truth.

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Rhetoric and insincerity have no place in post-GE14 Malaysia. The main takeaway from the Christchurch terrorist act is that the ticking time bomb was wired by political rhetoric and self-serving leaders in the first place. The result is a growing global polarisation between nations, religions and ethnicities.

Let us start to work together, amidst our diversity. This is not a rhetorical appeal.

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

Malaysia: Living in a Time of Jittery Politics


March 14, 2019

Malaysia: Living in a Time of Jittery Politics

By  Dr. Sharifah Munirah Alatas

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2019/03/12/politics-of-identity-is-ruining-democracy/

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We live in an era of jittery politics. Established democracies like Britain, France and the US are facing historic political crises.

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Malaysia has hopped onto the same bandwagon. The essence of the crisis in Malaysia’s democracy today is the inability of the government to address deep divisions in society. These divisions are exacerbated by the digital revolution. Information is dispersed at lightning speed, and the mix of verifiable and fake news has already become destructive.

Across class and geographical divisions, emotions are stirred, negative feelings are amplified and disdain simmers. The people are frustrated. A discerning electorate is healthy for democracy, but our brand of democracy has become a runaway train.

Since May 9, 2018, Malaysians have been coping with inertia, mixed signals and policy retractions (U-turns) from Putrajaya.

The failures of Pakatan Harapan (PH) seem to outweigh its successes. For these successes, however, we should actively highlight, and applaud them.

First, more space has opened up for public expression and assembly. The mood here is less of self-censorship, and more towards speaking one’s mind. This is a significant achievement for Malaysians in general, and democracy in particular.

Second, , as a Malaysian who believes in justice and inclusivity, I am happy that PH acceded to the Rome Statute. As expected, there are trouble-makers who feel otherwise. They are convinced that PH is out to undermine the “relevance” of the Malay race and royalty. It is obvious these critics feel it is their right to “be above the law”.

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Deputy Defense Minister Liew Chin Tong

Third, there is the emergence of a new “brand” of ministers, specifically those who are putting their tertiary education to productive use. A very good example is Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong (a graduate from the Australian National University).

Liew recently wrote a column in a mainstream newspaper, but it was unlike anything I regularly read from our political leaders.

His conceptualisation of the UMNO-PAS realignment and a possible breakup of Barisan Nasional (BN) had a creative intellectual twist to it.

Liew was also pragmatic in his thoughts. Very few would dismiss him as a “cloudy mind in an ivory tower”. Liew’s application of the “scorched earth policy” to current Malaysian opposition politics demonstrates critical thinking, which Malaysian society hungers for in our leadership.

It is clear that there is a glimmer of hope in a few of our new generation of leaders. Most of what we are used to are rhetorical, rambling politicians who want to be heard for the sound of their voice, and not the quality of their minds.

We need more leaders like Liew who will continue to nurture a sense of pride among the public. This is necessary for a healthy, functioning democracy.

However, Malaysia’s democracy is skewed. A conceptual contradiction exists in the structure of Malaysian politics.

On the one hand, the system champions political parties which represent the peoples’ aspirations. Our wishes are exercised through fair and frequent elections. The ordinary citizen feels empowered. We are able to elect who we think are committed and dedicated to speak on our behalf. Our requests are often presented in parliamentary sittings.

On the other hand, the parties that these elected individuals belong to have platforms that are premised on undemocratic values. Many of these values are neither inclusive nor pluralistic.

There are two important characteristics of democracy. One, elections provide an opportunity to the people to change the present government. Two, it is based on the principle that the people have a say in who governs, with the objective of serving them.

It is the second characteristic that has exposed contradictions in the post-GE 14 political development. There is a fatal misfiring of what we believe democracy should be and what it actually is, Malaysian-style.

The contradictions exist because of the scourge of identity politics. It is fuelled by an ideology of religious and racial supremacy. Nobody is to blame for this but our political and intellectual leadership.

PH’s loss in Cameron Highlands and Semenyih demonstrates how Malaysians are easily manipulated. It also reveals that our political and intellectual intelligentsia permitted it to happen.

Notwithstanding that economic conditions form the basis of all other grievances harboured by Malaysians today, the Semenyih by-election exposed a stark reality. It proved that race, religion and nepotism serve as our ultimate value system.

We are used to BN’s identity politics, and I do not wish to elaborate on it. However, the choice of the PH candidate in Semenyih was shocking, to say the least. Aiman Zainali was unsuitable. The excuse for why he lost was that he is inexperienced. It may be a “kind” way to accept defeat, but it is not the democratic way. The choice of Aiman lacked vision, and was totally dismissive of what the people wanted. This is undemocratic.

Semenyih residents are plagued with traffic congestion, narrow roads, flash floods, a lack of efficient public transport, inept government doctors and overcrowded government clinics. There are too many eating stalls indiscriminately set up everywhere, blocking traffic, not to mention the perpetual stench of rotting wasted food in the drains.

During the campaign period, Aiman spoke to reporters a few times and his statements were flashed on many occasions. He spewed the usual rhetoric, that he would “focus on local issues”, he has “local links” and that the “Semenyih residents here are my friends”. He even said that he has no problem interacting with them.

Again, skewed democracy. Aiman did not interact with Semenyih residents at all. Before his candidacy, we knew nothing of him. Semenyih residents like me are totally ignorant of this young man. This is the main reason voters were ticked off.

The more serious question is, why pretend to be a democratic country if basic democratic values are not upheld?

Aiman was not picked because of his tight bond with “the locals”. Neither was he chosen because of his knowledge of what his constituents required.

Most, if not all voters who abstained on March 2 were convinced he was chosen because he was “the son-in-law”. Nepotism is certainly not a democratic value. This form of identity politics dismisses meritocracy from the equation.

Instead racism, bigotry, cronyism and gender-insensitivity are upheld. Exclusive political alliances on both sides of Malaysia’s political divide will lead to backwardness. The seeds of this have already been sown.

What I have written here is neither a doomsday analysis nor peachy optimism. We have to give the PH government more time.

But, I hope we are not giving them more time to hang themselves. In all societies, education is the screw that will either make or break a civilisation. More Malaysians have to keep harping on this like a broken record.

Where are the voices of academics in our universities? There are so many of us, yet we race to dabble in ranking exercises, useless research and robotic teaching methods.

Minister Maszlee Malik’s task is gargantuan, but he must start making drastic policy reforms. These reforms should be couched in a new ideological narrative.

First and foremost, we need to re-learn what democracy really is. We are no longer in a transitional period from colonialism to independence. The democratic discourse then was alive and fiery.

It seems we have forgotten the true democracy that is embodied in the Rukun Negara. Instead, we focus on “ketuanan Melayu”, Bumiputera rights and protection of Islam as our democratic values.

From kindergarten right up till tertiary education, our youth must be indoctrinated with the values enshrined in the Rukun Negara.

Only then will they understand the true nature of multi-culturalism and living in peace amidst diversity. They will not succumb to rhetoric.

This reformed ideological narrative should condemn racial, religious and sectarian discourse. Reforms should be implemented, that are bold enough to upset racial supremacists.

The government should not be afraid to “rock the boat” if they believe it is the morally sincere and socially-beneficial thing to do. Make a decisive policy change with respect to vernacular schools, for instance.

The bold ban on smoking is one such policy move that society will learn to appreciate in time. Make a decisive policy decision on the UEC. Stop wasting time and resources on discussions in new committees. A wealth of information already exists in books, researched articles and social media.

Malaysians will value less a “Hari Akademia”, and more promotion criteria for university lecturers, based on intellectual merit. Show the public that the government has guts to take a definite stand.

Ultimately, Malaysians need to see that PH is ashamed of the poor quality of our educators. After all, scholars are significant movers of societal change.

Political leaders can learn a lot from these intellectuals. Our education ministry should revamp its policy, with the goal of producing future intellectuals.

In 20 years, we could strive to produce 5. In the last 60 years, can we currently boast of 5?

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

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Siti Kasim: An Inconvenient Woman


February 13, 2019

Siti Kasim: An Inconvenient Woman

Opinion  |  S. Thayaparan

  Our government does not seem to realise that we have a serious terrorist mentality bred with extreme prejudice inside our society, which needs to be eradicated. This is a serious problem today.—Siti Kasim.

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

― Abigail Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams

COMMENT | For those of us who view religious extremism, which is reaching critical levels as the existential threat facing this country, Siti Kasim is the raised middle finger to the religious bigots, fascist crypto-Islamists and race supremacists who have control and influence in this country.

Whether fighting for the rights of women, indigenous people, the LGBTQ community or opposing radical Islam, Siti Kasim has made herself a target for the religious bureaucracy and political operatives in the establishment.

While most Muslims who do not support the darker paths of Islam are content to hope for a moderate agenda from the political and religious elite, Siti openly advocates a progressive agenda for all Malaysians.

In this interview, Siti reminds us why people who read are dangerous to the established order of things, and continues in her efforts to save Malaysia from the political and religious class who view her as a real threat to their dominion.

Siti Kasim is an inconvenient reminder that the progressive forces in this country that could save Malaysia are being marginalised, and that speaking truth to power is problematic in these partisan times.

Do you think the persecution you face is based on the fact that you are a woman questioning religious dogma?

Yes, being an outspoken woman does not sit well with the patriarchy culture of radical Islamism. Also, a woman who does not conform to their view on how a Muslim woman should be.

How do you cope with the harassment you receive?

I try to ignore and focus on my causes. Of course, I can’t run away from reading the nasty messages sent to me, but I take it in my stride and believe that what I am doing is right for my country and my fellow Malaysians. The supportive messages I receive give me the strength to continue, and I know I am on the right path. I thank God for giving me a strong constitution to face all the negativity thrown at me.

What do you think is the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) role in the current charges against you?

I am not sure what is the AGC’s role in the current charges against me. (Note: This interview was conducted before the AGC dropped the charges against Siti Kasim for showing her middle finger to hecklers in a forum.) From what’s stated by OCCI Fadzil, he received the endorsement to charge me from the previous AGC. I believe it’s selective persecution against me by certain quarters within the government.

How do you engage with Muslims who believe in the Islamist mode of thinking and believe that sanctions against you are justified?

You have no hope of engaging with them. These are people who are indoctrinated in radical Islamism. The teachings, the mentality of which is no different from that of Talibanism and ISIS terrorists. Only Taliban and ISIS terrorists will sanction others for being different from them. The only difference between them and the Taliban and ISIS is that they have no power or weapons to carry out their threats. When they have those, the country will be torn asunder.

Yet our government does not seem to realise that we have a serious terrorist mentality bred with extreme prejudice inside our society, which needs to be eradicated. This is a serious problem today.

Malay-Muslims are participating in and leading terrorist organisations all around the world. We have groups like Skuad Badar, which is nothing more than a terrorist organisation without weapons terrorising people. We have people like Amri Che Mat and Pastor Koh disappearing in plain daylight and never to be heard again. We should be terrified. Not talking about it is not going to make it go away. We need to tackle it head-on with extreme conviction.

Does being a “liberal” Muslim who appeals to a certain demographic bring with it more problems when engaging in the Islamic discourse?

It should not be. Remember our Rukun Negara has the word ‘liberal’ in it, and it was written by Malay leadership at a time when Malay society needed to progress. In fact, most of the liberal Muslims I know have more knowledge about the Quran than the majority of the Malay population because liberals read more on their own and don’t depend on the cleric class to tell them about their religion.

Do you think that Mujahid Yusof Rawa (photo) is doing enough to offer a counter-narrative in the Islamic discourse in this country?

No. They are still not facing the fact that our religious-bent Malaysian education system is delivering to us every year a more radicalised Islamist generation who are intolerant and increasingly militant in mindset. It is no surprise that PAS is increasing in strength, and UMNO has to be more radical Islamist than before in order to gain Malay votes.

We need to change this mindset by changing education to go back to our secular humanist roots. The roots that made the Malays progressive and more developed in the 80s.

What do you think is the most important issue facing the Orang Asal community in this country and what has the Harapan government done to address this issue?

First, I’d like to correct the usage of Orang Asal and Orang Asli. The ‘Orang Asal’ term is used for Sabah and Sarawak indigenous people, whilst Orang Asli is for those in the peninsula.

The Orang Asli are largely forest or agriculture based, although several individuals have achieved levels of educational and economic success comparable to those of the dominant population.

Nevertheless, it is no hidden secret that the Orang Asli rank among the most marginalised of Malaysians today, not just in terms of numbers, but in their ability to determine their own fate.

The once politically autonomous and independent people are but a pale likeness of their ancestors.

Much of this has to do with the fact that the Malaysian nation state does not recognise the Orang Asli as a separate people – that is, as distinct groups associated with particular territorial bases and requiring ‘government’ on a different basis from that of the other communities.

But, as can be discerned from their demands, the Orang Asli are not, at least not yet, seeking self-determination in the sense that they want to secede from the Malaysian nation-state. Rather, the desire is to exercise full autonomy in their traditional territories, both in the control and ownership of their lands, and in the determination of their way of life and in the way they deal with the dominant society.

The issue of Orang Asli land rights is but the most visible and deeply-felt manifestation of the principal problem facing the Orang Asli viz-a-viz the unwillingness of the state to recognise the Orang Asli as a distinct people.

Using the ‘land rights’ problem as a strategy for Orang Asli political mobilisation is rational because the issue is deeply felt among the communities, easily identifiable, and it is the source of much social stress for the Orang Asli.

With the recent suit which our federal government initiated against the Kelantan state government, it can be seen that the Pakatan Harapan government is attempting to correct the wrongs. We have also seen more Orang Asli senators being appointed when they came into power.

From our engagement with the current government, we can see there is a lot more improvement than before, at least with the current minister in charge of Orang Asli Affairs. We hope the Harapan government will continue with its determination in trying to solve our Orang Asli problems.

Do you believe that Harapan has a moderate Islamic agenda?

They have, but they do not know how to go about it. They do not have the leadership for it. The political will is missing. I will be talking in more detail on this subject in my column soon.

Do you think it is important for non-Muslims to speak up when they witness Islamic transgressions or does this make the situation worse?

Yes. We need them to stand up for fellow Malaysians, and Malays who are being persecuted by the conservative Islamist authorities, to ensure Malaysia will always be the home for their children and grandchildren to live in and prosper. When any public policy is based on any religious ideology, every citizen must have the right to speak up about it.

Is the press doing its part in highlighting Islamic provocations?

No. It has not done enough to highlight and criticise.

Why do think “moderate” Muslims are afraid to speak up?

Just look at the social media comments by their so-called fellow Muslims against anyone who does not conform to them. The amount of vile comments, threats of sanctions, harassment, persecution and even threat of physical harm by the Islamist elements in Malay society are enough to scare away and silence many Muslims.

Do you think the Malay community needs Islamic departments at state and federal levels?

Under ideal conditions, the answer would have been ‘no’, but in our environment we need a federal department that can monitor and revamp radical Islamic teaching that is going on today to abolish them. That should be their job. We don’t need them to do dakwah (proselytisation). No government should be using tax money to propagate any religion.


S THAYAPARAN is 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 necessar

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.