Countering youth apathy, saying ‘no more’ to minority-bashing

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Irene Handono is scheduled to speak at Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor (KUIS) on ‘Understanding Christology’ - Facebook

Surely to `berdakwah’ is to spread the good word about Islam and Muslims and not hit out at innocent groups and individuals, writes Rom Nain.

Barely a day seems to go by these days in Malaysia without there being stories of discrimination, arrogant entitlement, and, more recently, apathy among Malaysian youth.

The young, indeed, appear restless. A recent survey by Merdeka Centre illustrates how disenchanted many appear to be about the political situation

Of course, given a political elite that appears to only serve itself itself and not the people, this despair and disdain among our youth is quite understandable.

Indeed, as a generation, Malaysian youths – like those in many other countries – for quite some time now have been called numerous unflattering names.

The terms snowflake and strawberry generation come to mind, both implying a whole generation of young people who are overly-sensitive, needing to be waited upon and pampered and protected.

Yet, despite the surveys and comments implying that Malaysian youth have gone `that way’, the recent declaration by one group of – largely middle-class – youth that they are out to question established Malaysian politics and counter the dominant narratives of hate, exclusion and even racism does perhaps bode well for the future.

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How this `movement’ will pan out – or even fizzle out – will, of course, very much depend on how willing they are to work with other groups and not simply see the `toxicity’ in (Malaysian) society as being caused by another, older generation.

Simplistic assumptions about generational blame will get all of us nowhere fast. Or the holier-than-thou belief that we – and only we – know the way forward. It needs to be pointed out that many of Jamal’s Red Shirts are also young, often disenfranchised and lacking conscientisation.

Just as there is a need to reach out to the marginalised in the rural areas (Umno’s much-discussed `vote bank’), so is there a need to reach out to the working-class youth in a language that they would understand – instead of just dismissing and denigrating them.

Progressive youth aside, everything else in the news, unfortunately, seems to be about hate. And it is hate that very clearly is being spewed by some Islamic groups with the assistance and possible patronage of government institutions.

This is not only a sad trend, but it also disgraceful and must be condemned. The most recent has been the proposed two-day Christology – the study of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels and the letters in the New Testament – meeting by the little-known Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor (KUIS). (Where this KUIS got its `antarabangsa’ accreditation, only heaven knows.)

It is good to hear that the event has now been cancelled, surely because of the negative publicity it garnered. But the point is, it should not have been organised in the first place.

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A similar Christian-bashing hate-fest of this nature had been held in 2014, with the same fake Indonesian ex-nun being invited to speak out against Christianity.

Two questions – out of many – instantly come to mind.

First, why were clearly fakes being invited, evidently to speak bad of Christianity to a group of Muslim participants?

Second, and perhaps more importantly, why was an Islamic university college organising a two-day Christology event without Christian experts being invited to speak (apart from this fraud Ibu Irene Handono)?

Imagine a Christian group organising a two-day conference discussing Islam and Prophet Muhammad – with no involvement of Muslims. Now, that would really set the cat among the pigeons and raise an uproar, with many Muslim `NGOs’ and government departments kicking up a fuss and threatening to raid the venue.

So, if it is seen as not proper for one (non-Muslim) faith group to organise a two-day binge about the Muslim faith, why isn’t it wrong for a (Muslim) university college to do the same thing about the Christian (or other) faith?

Indeed, the shameful 2014 event in UiTM was, to all intents and purposes, a Christian-bashing exercise. Why is it then that another one was allegedly being organised?

Why spend time, effort, energy and emotions hitting out at weaker groups (last I heard Muslims make up more than 60% of the Malaysian population – a percentage that, by all accounts, constitutes a significant majority) and preaching hate?

What satisfaction does it give these people to be seen as hate-mongers and bullies? Do they realise that they give Islam a bad name? Surely to `berdakwah’ is to spread the good word about Islam and Muslims and not hit out at innocent groups and individuals too weak to defend themselves?

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Indeed, wouldn’t all that time, effort – and money – be better spent helping flood victims in the North?

The buck really must stop here. And it will be best stopped if Muslims say in unison “no more of this nonsense, no more of this bashing, no more of this hate”.

Rom Nain
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
29 November 2017

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