A male individual is stopped by security at the Kuala Selangor Municipal Council and ordered to put on a sarong over his not-very-short pants before he is allowed to enter the premises and conduct his business.
An older male wanting to visit his hospitalised relative in a Penang public hospital is refused entry because he too is wearing shorts.
A woman is rushed to another public hospital, this time in Perak, because she experienced acute abdominal pains while playing badminton. She is refused entry because she is wearing shorts which, presumably, she had on because she had been rushed there straight from her badminton game. It was an emergency.
All these incidents happened within a matter of months, just this past year.
Indeed, in many public premises, as in the case of the Kuala Selangor Municipal Council, posters at the entrance depict the ‘right’ forms of clothing that visitors and clients must wear in order to be allowed entry and provided service.
We are seldom, if ever, told who makes up these rules. We are left to ponder and worry who these little Hitlers are.
These incidents have persisted even after ministers, like our current health minister, step in and rightly say that serving the people should be the priority – not this disgusting obsession with being unqualified and abhorrent ‘moral guardians’. And self-appointed ones at that.
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But these moral guardians seem to turn a deaf ear to ministers’ comments or public objections. It is as though they are a law unto themselves; they believe they can go on with what they are doing because no severe action will be taken against them. A light rap on their knuckles, they believe, is the worst punishment that will be meted out. More often than not, they are right.
We often can’t help but feel that despite their leaders, even ministers, chastising them, these goons often feel protected.
These ‘leaders’ appear unwilling to comprehend that this is a trend – and has been so for some time now – reflecting increasing intolerance and a deliberate attempt at imposing undemocratic and prejudiced regulations on otherwise law-abiding folk.
There is nothing innocent or accidental about these actions. There is also nothing funny or comical about them, as some liberals try to explain.
These little Hitlers and their actions are not funny. What they do must not be accepted, however reluctantly, as ‘the way things have become’. There is nothing automatic, normal or acceptable (biasa) about all this.
Intolerance, prejudice, bigotry, racism – in whatever guise – must be called out, the victims be given support, and the culprits and perpetrators admonished and indeed punished.
We can’t, on the one hand, talk about the dangers of exploiting the “three Rs” (race, royalty, religion) yet allow these clear – and even subtle and institutional – cases of bigotry to continue.
As with combating corruption, cakap tak serupa bikin (the words do not match the deeds) unfortunately. We must walk the talk.
We need to address the strong probability that this sad state of affairs has come about because of policies of segregation – like separating ethnic Malay- Muslim Malaysians from other ethnic groups in the country through policies on education and housing.
Nothing happened spontaneously, naturally. We – or rather the leaders who designed these policies – also created these communities with particular mindsets ‘learnt’ from cradle to grave. And passed down to the following generations – through formal education, through particular religious indoctrination, and through being made to live separately from others in Malaysia.
In the meantime, the nation burns, the economy suffers and we fall further behind as a civilised people.
We need to break this vicious cycle of separatism and hate. We cannot simply leave it to those leaders who started it in the first place to end all this nastiness. They, with some exceptions, wish to capitalise on all these created divisions.
It really is up to us to say enough is enough and this must stop!
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
21 December 2023