They must take a hard look in the mirror to see whether they are morally qualified to castigate others, writes Mustafa K Anuar.
Race, that indispensable factor often abused in Malaysian politics, rears its ugly head again in the run-up to the Rantau by-election. This time, however, its abuse has been refreshingly frowned upon – or so it seems.
Incumbent Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Mohamad Hasan expressed concern over the recent use of a racist term in electoral campaigning. Banners, bearing words in the Minangkabau lingo, called on voters in Rantau not to vote for “keling” candidate Dr S Streram, a derogatory reference to the PKR candidate.
Tok Mat, as the former Negri Sembilan menteri besar is fondly called, warned certain quarters not to play the race card as this supposedly would wreak havoc to ethnic relations and peace, as what happened in the May 13 racial riots.
He gave an assurance that his BN coalition was not complicit in this heinous electoral stunt, implying instead that it could have been the handiwork of Pakatan Harapan (PH) itself.
The culprits of the racist banners may well be the hit-and-run types without a care for long-term political strategy. But they are living testimony to the racism that is entrenched in politics, and educational and religious institutions, among other important areas of contemporary Malaysian life.
In other words, the racist banners helped to give voice to those who all along have been flaunting their racial prejudice as well as to closet racists.
To be sure, racism is nurtured in an environment where ethnic exclusivity and supremacy is encouraged and pursued, particularly by ethnic-based political parties. For instance, Umno has among its leaders those whose narratives are generally informed by elements of racist ideology.
That is why it is pleasantly surprising to learn of Tok Mat’s chastising certain quarters for having used race as political leverage – the kind of political worldview that is shaped by the professed love for one’s ethnic community, right or wrong.
Such ethnocentrism can corrupt the minds of even so-called educated people to the point of losing their moral bearings.
Blind to the prized principles of truth and justice, these people – drenched in ethnic sentiments – would even offer excuses to those in their ethnic community who have committed wrongful deeds. For example, certain Malays have indeed “reasoned” that it is OK for certain leaders to have committed embezzlement, such as looting national coffers, simply because they are of “our own kind”.
Never mind that such a warped attitude stands opposed to the pillar of justice that is held firmly in Islam, and even though its followers are time and again instructed to seek justice to the extent of applying it against their own kith and kin. Although justice may not often be emphasised in many religious classes or sermons in the country, Islam is very clear on this.
Given the toxicity of racism, politicians and political parties generally must take a hard look in the mirror to see whether they are morally qualified to castigate others who use racist language and ideas for self-preservation. This is because such politicians could somehow find themselves involved in undermining certain noble goals through the abuse of race and religion.
The hysterical protest against the signing of International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination recently is a reflection of how warped minds of mischievous intent can drive an angry crowd to the street. In a sense, this protest was a public admission of those, politicians included, who don’t care two hoots about racial discrimination and other forms of exclusivity.
Similarly, the noisy objection against the ratification of the Rome Statute of Rome – particularly among those who have been dogged by the mantra of race and religion, including self-serving politicians and reportedly some seemingly clever academics – makes a mockery of them as well as the nation as a whole.
Withdrawing from ratification of the international treaty would result in Malaysia, for example, not having a leg to stand on when it comes to castigating perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity as in the case of Palestine, Bosnia and Myanmar. The sense of justice is obviously perverted here.
So, what we’re saying is that to criticise people who make ugly use of race and religion for their vested interests is a moral act indeed. But it has to come from a heart that cannot sit well with racism.