|The long fuse leading to the church fire bombings|
|Written by Dr Lim Teck Ghee|
|Sunday, 10 January 2010 22:04|
A long lighted fuse led to the fire bombings. These were not isolated events done on sudden impulse. This was a part of the political calculus of racist and religiously bigoted leaders to drive home to their opponents that they can at any time incite their followers to whatever actions necessary to demonstrate their might and power.
This was a result of the long time pandering by Umno leaders to the extreme religious right wing. This was a predictable outcome given the mantra fed by some of the country’s leaders to the Malays Muslims that they are a privileged and protected community, not subject to the laws and norms of our country when their ‘interests come under threat’.
This will continue to be a burning fuse kept alight by extremists feeding the public the delusion that Islam in Malaysia is faced by all kinds of imaginary enemies.
In the next few days and weeks, I have no doubt that the Umno and Government spin machinery will move into overdrive. At one level there will be public denials of any Umno involvement and responsibility for these acts of religious intolerance and hostility against Christians. Appeals for calm and reassurances will follow prominently in the non-Malay papers. In the Malay vernacular press and Malay electronic media though, other messages will be subtly and not so subtly articulated. Among these that no one s hould mess around with the Malay guardians of the Muslim faith and the primacy of Islam and that no one should question the special position of the Malays and Islam – these are sensitive issues best left to Umno and its proxies to implement as they see reasonable.
The art of doublespeak will undoubtedly be raised to higher levels. This time though, Umno and its minions will not get away so easily. The long reach of the Internet and its indestructible memory power enables us to construct this roll of dishonour of those leaders who through their individual or collective acts – knowingly or unknowingly – are bringing the country to the brink.
In Roll of Dishonour
In Roll of Honour
On the bright side, we have good leaders and many good people who have tried to promote harmonious and equitable relations between the various religions. In this list below, we pay tribute to some for their courage in standing up and speaking out on behalf of the rights and freedoms of all religions and the universal values that bind them.
PM Najib Razak may have been accused of many failings but he has not in the past been faulted for religious intolerance or for hiding behind a false religious front to mobilize political support. One of the cornerstones of 1Malaysia if it is to survive has to be religious peace and harmony. This requires him not only to reassure all Malaysians that the government does not practice double standards in the nation’s religious rights and freedoms but also to act immediately to purge extremist and intolerant religious and racist hardliners and opportunistic leaders who are engaged in torching his vision for the country.
Another perspective by fellow Blogger academician Dr Farish Noor, republished here with presumed permit granted, from othermalaysia.org:)
By Farish A. Noor ~ January 12th, 2010. Filed under: The Other Malaysia.
At a time when tempers are rising and we are being treated to a rather crude and vulgar display of verbal pyrotechnics and hammy acting on the part of pundits and politicians alike, it would pay to take some objective distance from the current sad state of Malaysian politics in order to stare at ourselves in the face and ask the important question: Why are we in the present state we find ourselves in today, and how did we get here?
As of last week Malaysia has entered the inglorious list of countries where inter-religious tensions have risen to the point where places of worship have been attacked. Notwithstanding the identity of the attackers concerned, and what could have possibly motivated their actions, the cost of these developments are high and perhaps even permanent, as Malaysia is now being unfavourably compared to countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Indonesia where temples, mosques and churches have been put to the torch. An appalling start to a new year and a new decade if there ever was one, and one that bodes ill for Malaysia’s ambitions to be regarded as a nation-state with some pretense of civility and development.
Nonetheless other commentators have reminded us to look beyond the fiery discourse and to identify the real economic-structural issues that continue to bedevil the nation. Others have called on Malaysians to remain steadfast in adhering to our principles of belief and not to show fear in the face of violent sectarian bigotry and hate-mongering.
Beyond these moot points however remain also real structural and material concerns that ought to be brought to our attention, and which make themselves readily visible as soon as we turn off our emotional buttons and analyse these developments with some degree of cold objectivity.
For a start, we need to look at the state of this nation-in-the-making and seriously ask ourselves if the Malaysian project can even be sustained in the face of such pressures. Now any historian will tell you that nations are neither historically determined nor are their existential status guaranteed or necessitated by the vagaries of history. There is nothing that determines the existential status of a nation save the wilfull desire on the part of its members to deliberately put it together and to collectively sustain the notion of a shared identity. No essentialist premises are there to serve as solid ground, no primordial attachments that can be defended by recourse to itself. Nations are composite and accidental entities and can only be sustained by those who are its members.
Yet looking at the state of Malaysian politics and society today, we see that all the feeble attempts to cobble together a Malaysian nation - be it in the name of ‘1Malaysia’, ‘Malaysian Malaysia’ or what have you, are being dashed against the hard rocks of sectarian communitarian interests that are short-sighted and being articulated by those who do not even believe that there can or should be a Malaysian nation that is complex and diverse in the first place. And to cap it off, our febrile attempts at injecting some degree of pluralism and complexity into the Malaysian story is one that stops short of narrow essentialist claims of communal solidarity and difference instead, be it on the basis of race/ethnicity, culture, language or religion.
Thus is ought to come as no surprise to us if the debate over the use of the word Allah soon turned into a polemic, then a controversy and ultimately to violence. For a cursory look at the events of 2008-2009 have demonstrated that Malaysian society remains fragmented along the lines of sectarian exclusive claims that oddly enough mirror each other while in no way compliments the process of nation-building in the broadest, inclusive sense.
What point is there of talking about a Malaysian nation when almost all political parties in the country promote some form of educational segregation or another, be it along vernacular/linguistic-cultural lines or religious lines? And what point is there of talking about a nation when the parties in the country cannot even agree if there is to be one or two legal systems? Malaysia must be the only country in the world deluded enough to think that a complex nation can emerge out of five parallel educational streams and two legal systems. And to compound matters further after half a century of confused existence, this is still a country whose political parties remain bound to their respective ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious constituencies.
It is this utter lack (or even contempt) of/for consistency that has led us to witnessing the sordid spectacle of the past week or so; when communitarian leaders openly preach conspiracy theories and weave tales of plots in full public view. And when right-wing ethno-nationalist leaders condemn acts of violence and violent rhetoric when they themselves have been involved in violent acts, campaigns and gestures in the past. Forgive me for being picky here, but I would argue that politicians who have waved weapons in public, or led demonstrations calling for the ‘death of traitors’, have no credibility to stand in solidarity with victims of violent intimidation.
Putting aside the particularlities and differences between the parties and their respective egoistic leaders, let us remind ourselves of the fact that almost all of the parties in the country have, to some extent, championed one communitarian and/or sectarian cause or another, be it vernacular education for their community, religious education for their community, linguistic rights for their community, cultural rights for their community etc. How rare it is for us today to find a Malaysian politician who can think outside the narrow confines of his/her own respective ethnic/cultural/religious group, and adopt the notion of a common universal citizenship as the basis of their politics. And in the absence of Malaysian-minded politicians, how can we honestly expect to have anything that resembles a Malaysian politics?
It is this fundamental political culture of sectarian narrow politics that continues to blight almost everything and anything that comes under the rubric of the Malaysian national project today, and renders hollow all these vainglorious claims to a ‘1Malaysia’, ‘Malaysian Malaysia’ etc, while also accounting for the phenomenal expansion of a new public domain made up and dominated by NGOs of a different ilk altogether: namely the communitarian NGOs, mass movements and lobby groups that mirror the communitarian landscape of our politics and advance its communitarian agenda further.
Set against this backdrop of a country that is no longer singular but plural and not speaking to itself, one ought not to be surprised by the developments of recent days, weeks or months. The Malaysian project has been laboured on and talked about at length, but we seem to be further from it than ever before. The demographic factor that accounts for this is simply that while communal feeling and identity have been strengthened more than ever by our politicians and political parties, true Malaysians seem to be few and far between. Romantically-inclined individuals may find some cause for lament in all this, but sadly for a political historian like me, all I can say is that I have seen it all before, in all the broken, tattered, dysfunctional states I have had the misfortune to visit and study.
Another perspective from a fellow-journalist:)
Saturday, 09 January 2010 admin-s
In the aftermath of one of the worst outbursts of religious bigotry in plural Malaysia’s history, society leaders and analysts are still shaking their heads in shock but their prognosis about what it means for the country, in terms of its stability and its economy, is not good.
By Wong Choon Mei (Harakah)
Firstly, the sense of betrayal among non-Muslims is hardening that Prime Minister Najib Razak failed to protect their rights. This is an ominous development and can be borne out by a quick check on the mountain of comments posted on blogs over the incident. The feedback shows that most blame him for not even trying.