Archive for May, 2014

RACIAL¬†and religious hate speeches by a very small minority of extremists have crossed the “thin red line”. The contents are becoming rather vile, offensive and provocative.

The type of supremacy (not affirmative action to help the poor) these extremists are advocating for their race or religion (which they do not even represent) and the negative discrimination and inequality they are implying against the non-Malays and non-Muslims (which smacks of apartheid and Zionism), have shocked many decent-minded people of all races.

Furthermore, the remark by some extremists to ask non-Malay and non-Muslim citizens to leave the country if they do not like it here, is stoking ethnic tension to a new and dangerous level.

Even though these extremists are only a handful of people, unrepresentative of their race or religion, the fact that there is not much of a strong response from most of our political leaders is a serious cause for concern. We need an institutionalised, systematic and more holistic way to deal with those inciting ethnic conflict.

When challenged by some critics, these extremists are claiming their “freedom of speech” and their right to express their opinions, never mind if such publicised opinions may be extremely vile, offensive or provocative. However, if their critics were to say outrageous things about them (also as a matter of opinion), these extremists would threaten to cause trouble.

Is our multi-ethnic society mature enough to allow the absolute freedom for anyone to make hate speeches, even to the extent of instigating, provoking or inciting ethnic tension?

Our past and present political leaders have often stated that freedom comes with responsibility and there is no such thing as “absolute freedom”.

Therefore, to minimise tension and prevent further conflicts from flaring up, a new law should be drafted on a “no platform for racialism, extreme religionism and sexism”. Sexism is a social illness which oppresses and discriminates against women. It is also a major threat to national unity. Of course, what is considered racialist, extreme religionist or sexist must be defined clearly.

The proposed law, with severe and punitive penalties, can be a separate Act of Parliament or perhaps it should be included under the proposed National Harmony Act.

No one, including members of our Parliament and state assemblies should be granted any immunity from the proposed law, even inside the “august houses”.

Yes, we must ban such hate speeches to protect a greater freedom for all, ensure justice and promote national unity, just like how the country banned and fought communism in the past.

National unity is crucial for our survival and progress as a small country in this age of globalisation. Without it, our economic competitiveness and productivity, public service efficiency, wealth creation for all and our journey towards a developed and civil society would be severely hampered.

Serious ethnic conflicts may even cause our country to degenerate into a failed or pariah nation and ALL races will lose out.

Before I go further to make my case, I wish to state that I do not see myself better than or would judge another person based solely on race or religion. I see a person of another race or religion as a human being just like me and I would treat him/her like how I would like my family or I to be treated.

Although my article may appear to be targeting Islamic extremists who are very vocal, aggressive and visible with their constant and provocative attacks against the other races and religions, I wish to stress that the new proposed law must be applied fairly to all, regardless of ethnicity.

Non-Malays or non-Muslims who make derogatory racial or religious remarks about Malays or Muslims must also be dealt with severely.

As a non-Muslim, it may seem strange to many people that I have been consistently supporting the Palestinian cause for nearly 40 years against Zionist oppression and aggression, first as a student overseas (in street demonstrations there) and subsequently as a writer and columnist.

When I was invited as a speaker to a forum at UiTM a few years ago to speak alongside the then Palestinian ambassador (who was so pleased with my speech that he put his scarf around me), many in the audience, who were predominantly Muslim students, looked rather surprised to see me (as a non-Muslim) speaking so passionately in support of the Palestinian struggle.

Some even came over to me after the forum to find out how and why I was taking such a strong stand on this issue. I explained to them that it was based on the principles of equality and justice and on my in-depth knowledge of the issue.

I also told them that, if Muslims in this country were to be oppressed, like the Palestinians, even by my own race, I would actively support them to fight such oppression based on the same principles.

So, as a non-Muslim, I am not an anti-Muslim, in fact, in many cases such as the Palestinian struggle and Islamophobia in the West, I am pro-Muslim. It is therefore, very dishonest and unfair for our local extremists to imply that non-Muslims, especially Christians, are threatening or are natural enemies of Islam.

They seem to be blaming the entire Christian West for being an ally of Zionist Israel (which is not true, as shown by the Pope’s visit a few days ago to the Israeli’s “separation wall” near the West Bank) and for Islamophobia in the West, which is more the public’s backlash there to Muslims due to the many acts of terrorism, which have been spearheaded by Al Qaeda and its allies.

When I was a student leader at my university in Britain in the seventies, I promoted a students’ union policy of “no platform for racism, fascism and sexism”.

The policy was adopted democratically by the Union General Meeting and thereafter, it was ratified by the Students’ Representative Council. It meant that we would not allow any freedom of speech in the students’ union at any meetings or in any of our publications which had any racist, fascist and sexist slant or remark. No “ifs” or “buts” about it.

As overseas students, many of us were then facing racist abuses when we complained about and protested against the discriminatory tuition fees imposed on us with some racists telling us that “if you don’t like it here in Britain, please get out!” (sounds familiar?)

I remember an incident during a students’ general meeting when a white student was making a racist remark against overseas students in his speech.

Many of us (including white students) quickly jumped to the platform to remove the microphone from him to stop him from speaking and we escorted him out of the meeting hall and told the guards not to let him in again. We were merely enforcing an official students’ union policy.

The white chairperson of the meeting then explained why we were doing this, to the loud applause and cheers of the students in the hall, who were mostly white students.

The solidarity and support by many white students to fight alongside us against racism, made a lot of difference to our anti-racist cause. It meant that many (enlightened) white students were prepared to fight their own racist kind and to defend and protect us in any way they could.

If the “no platform” policy can work in a smaller but complex “eco-system” of students, why can’t it work or be applied successfully in a country like ours, with some modifications of course?

Our leaders from across the political, religious and racial divides must continuously seek to identify and implement any innovative, radical and effective ways to seriously address the escalating ethnic problem in a sustainable manner.

The extremists must be made to understand that their hate speeches are actually hindering our collective efforts (of all Malaysians) to develop the country fairly for all and ultimately, they are also undermining the very interest of the race or religion which they claim to represent.

The writer, a think-tank analyst, believes that racialism, extreme religionism and sexism need to be combated by providing real facts and knowledge of issues, so that we can win over the hearts and minds of all Malaysians to support national unity. Comments: