When laying claim to patriotism becomes downright divisive

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Putrajaya must set the record straight about the contributions of the non-Malay during the independence struggle, writes Mustafa K Anuar.

At a time when Malaysian society is increasingly polarised by ethno-religious elements, a spurious claim that only the Malays fought against the Japanese occupiers and British colonialists should be condemned in no uncertain terms.

The controversial statement made by Ismail Mina Ahmad, chairman of Gerakan Pembela Ummah, the umbrella group for Muslim organisations, not only denies historical facts but is also divisive and unjust as it demonises a particular ethnic community.

Equally worrying, the timing of this publicised claim makes us wonder whether certain elements in our society are consciously trying to milk certain ethnic sentiments to serve their vested interests prior to the general election.

Let’s be clear: an act of patriotism is not necessarily the preserve of a particular ethnic group in a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious country such as ours.

As rightly pointed out by both the National Patriots’ Association and the Malaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association (MACVA), non-Malays, particularly the Chinese, had indeed fought for the country.

To push aside in a cavalier fashion the important contributions of these gallant soldiers from communities other than the Malay is completely mean and causes unnecessary pain to the loved ones of those who had put their lives on the line.

It is also outrageous that such hate speech should come from a religious person such as Ismail, who is expected to do the opposite, that is, to foster mutual respect, understanding, love and compassion within the larger society – when Islam is often professed by most believers as a religion of peace. And it is especially so when Islam in principle abhors racism or tribalism.

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Given the serious implications of this claim, it is therefore incumbent upon Putrajaya to set the record straight not only for the benefit of the soldiers concerned and their loved ones, but also for our future generations to learn a useful lesson or two from our collective past.

For Putrajaya to stay silent is for it to be read, unfortunately, as being acquiescent.

That said, an act of patriotism need not be confined to periods of war or armed conflict. It can and should be committed during times of peace.

A person is patriotic if, for example, he or she works selflessly and tirelessly for the better future of orphans or for the marginalised in society.

Similarly, a patriotic act revolves around a person who encounters and grapples with serious challenges in an effort to reduce, if not eradicate, ethnic and institutional discrimination for the betterment of the country.

Just as patriotism has no ethnic face, an unpatriotic act also defies ethnic identity. For instance, the mismanagement of the national economy may involve members of any ethnic community in Malaysia.

To be sure, such an act is detrimental to the interest of the nation and an abominable act that no one – both the perpetrators and their respective communities – should take pride in.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

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Joe Fernandez
17 Jan 2018 10.42am

Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.

Politics is the last resort of scoundrels.