While defending suppression of minority rights, PAS leaders bully reporter

It’s a patriarchal reaction by those used to making stupid statements.

COMMENT | It’s been stressful lately if you’re a minority in Malaysia, trying hard to stick to the multi-racial liberal line and not resent the silent majority.

For there are unmistakable signs that we are being squeezed yet again so that the Malay right-wing can score points – and we know deep down that not many of the majority race will speak up like Zaid Ibrahim and Hassan Karim have.

In fact, Pasir Gudang MP Hassan just called for a review of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution so that affirmative action policies can be revamped to be more needs-based rather than race-based.

“What is the point of helping wealthy Malays who own stocks and are able to stash money in offshore accounts when poor Chinese, Indians, and indigenous people (Orang Asli) are struggling?” he asked while debating the Supply Bill 2022 in the Dewan Rakyat last week.

Not content with taking our tax money and redistributing it in an overtly racist manner through the budget, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s regime has started clamping down on our freedoms which violate its ideas on moral policing.

First, there was a fiasco over the name of a whiskey followed by some very real infringements and curtailing of freedoms involving gambling and alcohol.

There was Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) prohibition of the sale of liquor in grocery stores, convenience stores, and traditional Chinese medicine halls beginning Nov 1.

Incidentally, a strongly worded statement against the ban was signed by seven Kuala Lumpur MPs – Tan Kok Wai, Teresa Kok, Fong Kui Lun, Tan Yee Kew, Hannah Yeoh, Lim Lip Eng and P Prabakaran.

The signatures of Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad and Fahmi Fadzil were conspicuous by their absence. Sadly predictable, especially as I keep telling people they are among our best hopes for the future.

Next, Kedah’s PAS Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor announced that his state would be enforcing an effective ban on the operations of all 4D gaming shops by not renewing business licences issued by the local councils.

This tells every non-Muslim Malaysian what we need to know about the false promises that Act 355 and Syariah law will never be allowed to affect us. It’s just another hypocritical lie, and we already knew that.

And by the way, if we use the logic of drunk driving for clamping down on alcohol, should we close certain types of schools because they sometimes produce terrorists?

Mind you, I’ve never bought 4D in my life, but I do like my alcohol. What I really resent is the ketuanan (supremacy) of race and religion.

Yes, a few bad apples made these decisions, but most of the rest did what they do best – pandai duduk diam (clever at keeping silent) when the heat is on.

Reporter intimidation

It was in this context that another trademark move occurred. Free Malaysia Today reporter Minderjeet Kaur came in for some intimidation yesterday when she tried to ask PAS vice-president Idris Ahmad, a senator who is the religious affairs minister, about the ban in Kedah.

Idris asked if she could tolerate her husband being a gambler, while his party colleague Awang Hashim, who is deputy human resources minister, insisted that she ask the question in Bahasa Malaysia.

After listening to the audio recording, it was clear that the two men didn’t like being challenged when Idris first said that the policy on banning gambling had been implemented in Kelantan and Terengganu, and was well received by the non-Muslims in the two East Coast states.

Awang even asked if Minderjeet was a Malaysian, saying that she should ask questions in Malay.

To me, this is clearly a patriarchal reaction by those who are used to making stupid and sweeping statements and not being challenged.

The shameful bullying reminded me of various incidents in the past involving former ministers Rais Yatim, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Mohd Redzuan Yusof all of whom used language or race to challenge non-Malay reporters who were asking them questions.

Redzuan’s reaction to my colleague Ng Xiang Yi was outright racist as he went so far as to ask if she knew the Constitution and then posted a social media post referring to her as a “Chinese reporter”.

I suppose some of them are not so fluent in English and don’t want to be embarrassed, but that’s exactly what happens when they try to step onto the global stage – they look like country bumpkins and let well-educated Singaporeans run rings around us. They are the ones who need to improve, not the reporters.

There are other instances of Umno politicians Zahid Hamidi and Khairy Jamaluddin also using their position to intimidate Malaysiakini reporters, although that was when they were busy defending former premier Najib Abdul Razak over 1MDB, so perhaps it is understandable.

Anyway, to my reasonable but meek Malay friends, of whom there are many – I say this, learn to speak up and out against bigotry.

If the good-natured and good-hearted majority is silent, the right-wing minority will push their agenda and one day this country will become unliveable for your sons and even more so for your daughters.

Take a look at the Afghanistan that PAS leaders like Abdul Hadi Awang so admire. One day brutal laws for apostasy and blasphemy could be upon us. All someone has to do is accuse you, and you’re finished.

Incidentally, some people try to play the “whataboutism” game in Malaysia’s racial politics, but it’s not a balanced equation – one group holds all the cards.

Just look at Hadi’s hardline view of religion (essentially that his views are superior and others are inferior) and the casual racism of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Malay Dilemma – all that has been mainstreamed and shaped our society and its policies. It cannot be compared to the writings of people like Siti Kasim and even Malaysiakini columnist S Thayaparan, who represent a small fringe.

I am reminded of the poem by German pastor Martin Niemoller about how the Nazis purged their chosen target, group by group, while others did nothing to stop it.

First they came …

First they came for the communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a communist
Then they came for the socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

By : MARTIN VENGADESAN (Associate editor at Malaysiakini) – MALAYSIAKINI

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