It is most unfortunate, if not dangerous, if the Malay-Muslim community as a whole is driven into ignorance and arrogance by those who profess to champion their cause, says Mustafa K Anuar.
The rally on 4 May 2019 had promised to give voice to a supposedly “growing sense of fear and isolation” among the Malays and Muslim community.
Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin had put it rather bluntly and emotively: Muslims are being bullied under Pakatan Harapan rule.
Either way, the big picture painted here is of victimhood of the Malay-Muslim majority in Malaysia – which presumably necessitates urgent protection and an iron-clad defence against the purported threat by those outside the said community ie the non-Muslims.
Indeed, these accusations are serious in nature as they could give rise to suspicion, frustration, distrust, fear, anger, hatred and even raging madness – not necessarily in that order – among Malaysians.
Needless to say, the above emotions and state of mind in a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious society such as Malaysia are potentially combustible.
A collective mentality that perceives itself under siege faces the risk of being conveniently exploited, especially by those with hidden agendas and vested interests that are not in line with the people’s hopes and aspirations for a new, inclusive and progressive Malaysia.
To be clear, certain issues raised by segments of the Malay community (which may have also been included in the rally’s agenda) such as the rising cost of living, unemployment and the housing problem, are legitimate grievances.
But surely these are problems faced by all Malaysians, particularly the bottom 40% of the population, and not just the Malays in general. Hence, the rally should have been more inclusive.
In other words, this kind of universal issues should not be given an ethnic spin as these challenges, just like poverty, do not discriminate against people in terms of their ethnic origin and creed.
Also, it doesn’t help in racialising such issues at a time in our society when race and religion have been exploited to the detriment of trust and harmony between the ethnic communities and of progress of the entire nation.
Incidentally, encouraging ethnic-based political parties, particularly Umno and Pas (as well as Bersatu and PKR), to participate in the rally to champion the cause of the supposedly aggrieved ummah would only raise the political temperature.
Giving such universal issues an ethnic flavour can be construed as being mischievous at best, or diabolical at worst.
Additionally, these bread-and-butter issues should not be conflated with those of the Rome Statute, the teaching of science and maths in English and the Unified Examination Certificate controversy – because to do would give the Muslim-Malay community the false impression of colossal number of challenges that confront and overwhelm it within the larger Malaysian nation.
This then begs the vital question: how is it possible that a majority community – in this case the Malay-Muslims – can be bullied into a corner by minority communities in the country, when almost all of the major institutions in the country are dominated and mostly led by the former – ranging from government agencies to the army and police to state religious institutions to the royalty?
To top it all, the special position of the Malays and other bumiputeras, the status of the national language, the sovereignty of the Malay rulers, and Islam as the official religion of the federation are all guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
Depicting the non-Muslim communities as bullies is a convenient smokescreen for those who employ ethno-populist strategies. It also diverts public attention away from issues that have largely caused problems and challenges to the Malay-Muslim community in the first place.
Let’s take the humongous 1MDB scandal, which involves key personalities, many of whom are Malay and Muslim at the same time. It has created havoc to our nation’s economy and the general welfare of especially the poor. It has also sullied the name of Malaysia on the international stage.
Another case, Tabung Haji that is entrusted to facilitate the religious obligations of would-be pilgrims. Who were involved in its financial embezzlement? Non-Muslims? Isn’t this a betrayal of the pilgrims’ trust, which directly or indirectly smudges Islam as Muslims appear to be irresistibly corrupt?
Who were involved in the financial scandal associated with Felda, a scheme whose primary objective is to promote the economic standing of the predominantly Malay settlers? Non-Malays?
It is most unfortunate, if not dangerous, if the Malay-Muslim community as a whole is driven into ignorance, arrogance and diffidence by those who profess to champion their cause.