Clear and present danger?

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We should band together, certainly at the next general elections, based on a common desire to respect each other and to live together peacefully in this place we call our home, writes Zaharom Nain.

Many Malaysians surely must be sick to death – I know I am – of the latest ploy by hateful people, many within this regime, to split this country even further, to cultivate distrust at a time when they themselves have lost the trust of the people.

I am talking, of course, of this pathetic ‘strategy’ of churning out one bogeyman after another to frighten Malaysians, especially Muslims, presumably in the forlorn hope that we will all run back into the exploitative arms of this regime and its underlings.

Nasharuddin Mat Isa’s latest diatribe and Utusan Malaysia’s latest sojourn into the realm of lies and fantasy are illustrative of this desperation.

First, Utusan, not for the first time, in its Sunday edition, Mingguan Malaysia, brings up the topic of the Christian community and talks about a couple of Malaysia’s top church leaders apparently criticising Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng.

The report, titled ‘Jangan heret gereja’ (Do not drag the Church [into politics], quotes two top church leaders as apparently reacting negatively to an earlier call by Lim.

Lim’s call, at a dialogue with about 300 church leaders, was for the church to stand up against injustice and to build a better community.

Nothing wrong there, I would think. Indeed, if we were to recall the work of the liberation theologians in Latin America and even in Marcos’s Philippines, these church leaders were certainly right out there fighting injustice. Closer to home, Father Paulino Miranda, parish priest of the only Catholic church in Shah Alam, comes to mind.

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Islam, too, is resplendent with tales of leaders and scholars speaking out, even rising up, against injustice and tyranny. Among the more ‘acceptable’ scholars in Malaysia, Perlis mufti Dr Juanda Jaya and USM Islamic scholar Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, have indeed spoken out against wrongdoing and misrule, Asri famously speaking up for street demonstrators awhile back.

Be that as it may, certainly in an attempt to make Lim look bad and, perhaps, in an attempt to emphasise to the Christian community – can you imagine anyone from that community reading Utusan? – that they should keep their houses of worship free of politics, the paper paraded this nonsense on their front page last Sunday.

But, of course, the church leaders have now come out openly to say that they had said no such thing, that they were misrepresented and that the report “is a complete lie”.

In response, quite predictably if I may say so, Utusan’s reporter comes out, guns blazing, saying that she stands by her story.

It is a mere coincidence, I’m sure, that she should say this a day after the two church leaders reportedly said they would not take legal action against the rag because they had other things to do.

No apology, no retraction

So, it looks as though there will be no apology, no retraction, by the paper since, from past experience, these niceties only happen when such disputes end up in court.

This doesn’t say much, of course, about the integrity of the paper and its reporter. But we must remember that this is the same rag whose deputy chief editor not so long ago declared that the paper is willing to ‘spin the truth’.

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Nasharuddin’s recent outburst also concerns the Church and Christians. His is a more toxic, hate-filled accusation that Sarawak DAP had “held prayers seeking the formation of a Christian state during its thanksgiving dinner after the 2011 Sarawak state elections”. For him, “this was a strategy being planned by Allah’s enemies”.

His is a nasty presentation that could easily be seen as attempting to drive a wedge between the political parties in Pakatan, especially the DAP and Pas, and also between their members and supporters.

At a wider level, it certainly seems like an pathetic attempt to drive a wedge between Muslims and Christians in Malaysia. It is the latest in a long line of conspiracy ‘theories’ hatched by irresponsible, certainly divisive, people and parties uncaring about the implications of their outbursts.

Rightly, both Muslim and Christian leaders have come out to speak up against Nasharuddin’s unsubstantiated and, for me, despicable, allegation. However, I believe that the rest of us too need to speak out against these hateful allegations that are manifestly untrue.

Indeed, first, there’s the ongoing rubbish being churned out about the purported rise and ‘threat’ of a really-innocuous and often oppressed LGBT community. Then, next, we’ve been asked to beware the continuing menace of the Jews.

And, now, as many times before, we are supposed to heed – and halt – the ‘clear and present danger’ of the Malaysian Christian community (all 9.1 percent of the Malaysian population, as compared to the paltry and invariably weak 60.4 percent Muslims that make up the Malaysian population).

As one bogeyman after another, one moral panic after another is unleashed on us all, there are clearly two ways we could address these preposterous lies.

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We could, of course, rubbish them, as one veteran ex-journalist is bravely, and humorously, doing in his blog, uppercaise.

But when, clearly, they are just venomous creatures looking out for themselves.

Zaharom Nain, a long-time Aliran, is a media analyst and academic based in Kuala Lumpur.

This commentary first appeared in Malaysiakini.

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Kaki Pulau
14 Nov 2012 8.45pm

When did Utusan ever act responsibly? Not for a long time, if ever. By not extending an apology for the rumors and gossip they publish as news, they must imagine that they’re off the hook, just because the Church and Christians won’t waste time or money pursuing a possibly dead-end legal action. With the courts, being un-independent, the wiser course to take is not to rely on them to dispense justice. They may only dispense injustice at the bidding of the ruling party. Isma aptly calls Utusan ‘rabid’. Perhaps, what we should do is treat them like the rag they are and stop enriching them by buying their newspaper, like action that was taken against the STAR, a few years ago. Perhaps, publicize this protest on Fb, Twitter etc. to reduce their readership. Some food for thought.

Isma
Isma
13 Nov 2012 9.39am

Utusan is the mouthpiece of increasingly rabid mad … Should we listen to them or should we take the necessary actions to put them out of their misery?