Now everybody can slap one another?

That’s the kind of conclusion that some might draw from the flippant response of Home Minister Zahid Hamidi recently towards the antics of the so-called Council of Islamic NGOs, notes Mustafa K Anuar.

Photograph: Malaysiakini.com

Photograph: Malaysiakini.com

Now everyone can slap one another?

That’s the kind of conclusion that some might draw from the flippant response of Home Minister Zahid Hamidi recently towards the antics of the so-called Council of Islamic NGOs. Zahid insists that this loud group’s offer of RM1,200 in cash to anyone who dares to slap Seputeh MP Teresa Kok doesn’t constitute a threat. A death threat, unlike a slap threat, would constitute a threat, he said.

The so-called Islamic group, comprising Pertubuhan Permuafakatan Majlis Ayahanda Malaysia (Permas), Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam dan Dakwah (Pekida), Pertubuhan Kebajikan Insan Bakti Malaysia (Perkib), Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia (PPIM) and Martabat Jalinan Muhibbah Malaysia (MJMM), earlier slaughtered chickens and smeared their blood on a banner featuring pictures of Teresa Kok, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang and the Penang state assembly member for Macang Bubok, Lee Khai Loon.

This was supposed to be the group’s angry response to what they strangely considered an insult to “Malay leadership, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Islam and Malay dignity” arising from Kok’s recent Chinese New Year greeting video, entitled “Onederful” Malaysia CNY 2014. Incidentally, one wonders about the kind of motley groups that make up this “council”.

It is noteworthy that after this chicken-slaughtering and slap threat incident, the police went after the actress who was involved in Kok’s CNY video – not the threatening mob.

Needless to say, such a response coming from no less than the Home Minister can only be read as condoning the senseless action of the rowdy group. Indeed, it only reinforced their stand subsequently. Obviously, many concerned Malaysians have been terribly disturbed by this dangerous and provocative act especially in the larger context of ethno-religious tensions that are sweeping across our multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. That is why civil society groups, particularly the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality, have rightly expressed their displeasure.

Equally troubled by this situation, Aliran decided to have a meaningful chat recently with one of the few proponents of inter-faith dialogue in the country, Parit Buntar MP Mujahid Yusof Rawa of Pas, to discuss matters of mutual concern staring at us squarely in our face.

But to give due credit to ordinary Malaysians, as observed by Aliran assistant secretary Henry Loh, many of them are also standing up to be counted on the issues of the day, especially when the country’s leadership seems inclined to be coy about the things that matter most to Malaysians.

The double standards practised by the powers that be in protecting law and order in the country as well as in their discriminatory practices in other areas of life, such as education, health care and human rights are clearly have a divisive and polarising effect. Such unfair and undemocratic treatment of the citizenry is, as pointed out by Aliran member Syerleena Rashid, one of the major factors that have driven certain groups of Malaysians, mainly the young and the talented, to leave their beloved country for greener pastures.

High price to pay for speaking out

But expressing oneself in public in Malaysia, especially when speaking truth to power, can be fraught with danger, as found out by air force pilot Major Zaidi Ahmad who merely alerted the public about the Election Commission’s purported indelible ink, which was easily washed off hours after voting in the 13th general election. He is now facing a military court on multiple charges.

This court case, apart from the Teresa Kok video, suggests that merely expressing opinions in Malaysia, especially those that contradict the views of the powers that be, is something that is not looked at kindly by the authorities. The BFM radio station terrestrial channel, for instance, was recently barred from airing an interview with PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim. Then there was a ban slapped on a number of books considered a threat to “public order and morality”. So it is hardly a surprise that the latest press freedom index for Malaysia has gone southward.

Enslavement to feudal mentality

The issues that animate a group of Malay-Muslim NGOs these days often revolve around what is considered as a threat to the “Malay community, Islam and the royalty”. This constant referencing to “the Malays”, the Malay rulers and Malay culture prompted scholar and ex-Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin to delve into the question of servility of certain groups of Malays.

Kin Woon as Bersih 2.0 Vice Chair

We are pleased to announce that Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon, an Aliran member, has assumed the position of Bersih 2.0 Northern Peninsula Vice-Chairperson.

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In solidarity,

Mustafa K Anuar

Co-editor, e-Newsletter

18 February 2014

Mustafa

Dr Mustafa K Anuar, the honorary secretary of Aliran and co-editor of our e-Newsletter, is concerned about issues of press freedom and freedom of expression in our society. He is also a Fellow at the Penang Institute.

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1 Response

  1. The home minister forgot to tell you is the administrators can do, write or even act in anyway they want. These freedom is not applicable to anyone else, except Perkasa, which are demonstrated daily and are getting worse.
    Perkasa can express anything and everything they want including very seditions expressions yet nothing has been done about them. So are the Umno members yet to date, what actions have been taken by the police
    from doing so ? What is impeding them, clearly the answers to these anomalies are that the police (are perceived by some to be) part of Umno !
    Everything in life has a limit and haven’t these assumptions gone past the limit of the Malaysian’s acceptance and tolerance ? Yet Najib came up with the excuse that it was the Chinese tsunami that is responsible for his government being minority elected !
    To blame the Chinese is truly a flection of what he is, especially when the Chinese who voted were only a small fraction of the total number who voted. Surely he would have no difficulty checking these figures with the EC, therefore stop blaming the Chinese for all your downfalls. The sooner you face up to the real problems a better man you will be !

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