“To die hating them, that was freedom.”
- George Orwell, 1984
Donald Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, except those Muslim-majority countries that are in an economic “sixty-nine” with the plutocrat class that the Potus represents, has brought out the worst in people, which is a good thing as far as I am concerned.
Well, maybe not “worst”. Maybe it has brought out the pent-up feelings of hate that are sublimated beneath the feel-good rhetoric that oppositional types love to spew against the Umno hegemon. As someone routinely accused of being “anti-Muslim/Islam” - maybe DAP leader Lim Kit Siang and I should bring a case together - I am gratified to see the real visages of anti-Muslim sentiment in the various readers’ comments section of Malaysiakini.
Take this delightful example, where an anonymous poster wrote that all Muslims are potential suicide bombers and gleefully awaited the addition of Malaysia on the list because of the “hudud” law. This of course is merely one of many anti-Islam/Muslim examples of free speech exercised by some of the upstanding citizens of this country, [the same folks] who blather on about equality and change.
I am obsessed by how the security apparatus often times acts as an instrument of oppression of the state. Chalk it up to my previous profession. Here is an extract of Lt Gen JL DeWitt's letter of transmittal to the Chief of Staff, US Army, June 5, 1943, of his ‘Final Report; Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast 1942’.
“The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil possessed of U.S. citizenship have become “Americanized” the racial strains are undiluted. It then follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today. There are indications that these were organized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity. The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken...” - DeWitt’s Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast, 1942, and the government’s brief to the Supreme Court defending Ex. Order 9066.”
The last sentence always gets me. With the so-called “war on terror”, sentiments like the above become the new normal in a community which so far has been struggling with the idea of inclusion and diversity all the while manipulated by cynical politicians from both sides of the divide.
I would argue that the so-called Chinese new villages (here in Malaysia) is analogous to the Japanese internment camps. Although we could argue about the differences between the two, the world is divided into those who would always find some sort of utilitarian value in such endeavours and those who realise that such enterprises are merely the state propagating a specific agenda under the guise of security.
Maybe comparing Japanese internments camps to a mendacious travel ban is not exactly kosher, but then again neither is comparing Muslims to cockroaches. There will always be people who think such actions are justified. Many non-Malays in this country support Trump and his war against Islam.
Remember this is the Potus who publicly acknowledged that he would give priority to “Christian” (Syrian) refugees because they were “horribly treated”. So if you are a Christian in Malaysia and you think that you have been “treated horribly”, maybe a good strategy would be to move to Syria and then apply for refugee status.
Do some Muslims come to Western countries and attempt to subvert the democratic principles of the country with their Islamic dogma? Yes. However, those democratic principles are in danger every single day and in every single election by Christian extremists who would do the same.
Here's the late author Christopher Hitchens on the death of Christian extremist Jerry Fallwell - "I think we have been rid of an extremely dangerous demagogue who lived by hatred of others, and prejudice, and who committed treason by saying that the United States deserved the attack upon it and its civil society on September 2001 by other religious nutcases like himself.”
(When alive, Fallwell apologised for those statements but really his dogma and those of diverse Islamic extremists out there has never really been all that different).
While Islamic terror groups have publicly acknowledged that they are hiding agents amongst desperate refugees, there are already stringent venting process in place to root them out. Indeed, radicalised home-grown terrorists are more the danger instead of desperate refugees claiming asylum in places where Western corporate and political interests having been meddling for decades.
But why would Muslim refugees want to go to the West instead of those Islamic paradises in the Middle East? Because for many of them, they want to escape the harsh glare of Islam. However, they are painted by the same brush by disingenuous hacks who lump them in with those troublemakers who wish to subvert Western values. Those same hacks who have no problem with Christian extremists subverting democratic process to align it with the dogma of their death cults.
Using religion to maintain hegemony
While I understand why some non-Muslims who have been subjected to the Islamic provocations of the Umno state would react favourably to any provocations against the worldwide Muslim community, I have no idea why they would support a manufactured culture war that is the main means of communication and oppression of right-wing demagogic hegemons.
I suppose it is the same kind of thinking leads them to support Muslim political parties merely because they are part of the “opposition” even though these same parties and their non-Muslims allies eschew any form of secular and egalitarian principles in favour of anything that is politically expedient.
I have no wish to delve further into the American experience because historically the American polity have been able to work out their issues, and I see no evidence that this will not be the case in the era of Trump.
In articles such as these, I always make this qualifier about what I mean by “moderate Islam” - "Let me be very clear. There is no empirical evidence to support the claim that there is ‘moderate Islam’. There is only evidence to support the claim that some Muslims believe in secular practices and democracy. The same goes for the other two religions in the Abrahamic mode."
Beyond the latest Trump fiasco, the idea that Muslims worldwide are under siege by Western imperialism is the biggest hogwash since the meme of the “religion of peace”. The only people who are oppressing Muslims are the theocratic regimes that use the religion to maintain hegemony.
The hypocrisy of Malaysian oppositional voices in dealing with this issue demonstrates a profound lack of integrity and moral character. When someone from the opposition says, "Malaysian should protest the Muslim ban because it is against religious freedom and human rights”, where is the same indignation when the “Islamic” Umno state (in no particular order) argues:
1) For limiting religious pluralism.
2) When the Islamic personalities advocate the slaying of those religious minorities that are enemies of Islam.
3) When establishment (opposition and BN) politicians claim that only Muslims can lead this country.
4) Where is the outrage when Christians are slaughtered in Muslim lands? Where is the outrage when cultural landmarks are destroyed?
5) Where is the outrage when Muslims are given special privileges over the rest of their fellow citizens?
6) Where is the outrage when non-Muslims are banned from using certain words?
7) Where is the outrage when non-Muslim are subjected to unilateral conversions?
8) Where was the outrage when the state security apparatus refused to carry out orders declared by the court of the land?
How dare these politicians from Umno and opposition attempt to point out American hypocrisy when in this country, the establishment (Umno and the opposition) have used Islam for political purposes, and those who support them plead pragmatism when confronted by this mendacious agenda.
If you are a non-Muslim in this country this passage applies to you - “Malaysians are warned about observing religious sensitivities. Religious sensitivities are especially important we are to maintain peace and harmony. It is so important that non-Muslims are constantly warned that they are ignorant of Islam and that they should not comment on matters that do not concern them. We should not insult their religion. We should not trespass on their places of worship. However, does this apply to Muslims?”
Whenever Malaysian politicians, especially those from the opposition react to world events when it comes to Muslims, there is always this agenda of playing to the Malay/Muslim polity. Instead of worrying about Muslim overseas, I would worry about the racial and religious dynamics of this country.
Islam has been weaponised the world over by theocratic regimes. Do not act surprised when Western hegemons weaponise their own religions or ideologies.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.- Mkini