“The difference between fundamentalists and moderates - and certainly the difference between all ‘extremists’ and moderates - is the degree to which they see political and military action to be intrinsic to the practice of their faith. In any case, people who believe that Islam must inform every dimension of human existence, including politics and law, are now generally called not ‘fundamentalists’ or ‘extremists’ but, rather, ‘Islamists’.”
- Sam Harris
Prime Minister Najib Razak described (an example of) the beauty of Malaysia as the Chinese waiting (uncomplaining) for Muslim potentates while they prayed when an official function was about to begin. This really sums up the concept of “moderation” in this country. The non-Malays/Muslims do not complain and indeed make pacts with Islamists, and life carries on as usual as long as there is money to be made.
In this country, “tolerance” is a one-way street. It is a street only used by the non-Malay population. The claim that the constitution guarantees certain rights is a complete sham. Mind you, the word “tolerance” is in itself a loathsome word. It is a word lacking empathy, simpatico, goodwill or camaraderie. The word implies, “enduring” instead of “accepting” and “understanding” - all those sentiments that denote a sense of belonging.
When it comes to race and specifically religion, I wrote – “…The reality is that the only people who find themselves disturbed by another religion are the non-Muslims. If there is a disparity in treatment, a lack of fairness, outright persecution or double standards, it is faced by non-Muslim communities.”
The post-69 history of Malaysia is the history of non-Malays non-complaining, as we allowed our country and our politics to be hijacked by charlatans who promised security, stability and prosperity if we continued tolerating everything that deep down inside we knew was destroying this country.
When the prime minister of this country claims that “The federal constitution stresses that we must respect our difference in diversity in terms of culture, language and religion”, I double up in laughter because the constitution is meaningless without people who actually believe in discovering and enforcing the intent of the constitution.
Honestly, this is the same regime where a minister in the Prime Minister’s department wanted to crack down on religious pluralism (amongst others) because “They are trying to do this by putting pressure on our country to surrender and adhere to what they said as 'international standards and laws' to allow total freedom of human rights, which contravenes the principles and teachings of Islam, the cultures of our multiracial people, and the spirit of the federal constitution.”
This has never been about a government of equals. This has always been about creating a monolithic community under the yoke of Umno. Always remember what the Pahang mufti said after he backtracked form his genocide comment - “We are not forcing but I call on non-Muslims to convert to Islam to be safe in the afterlife and for unity in Malaysia. There will be no more chaos and we can focus on development" - which is the canard that Muslims shove down one another’s throats in attempt at solidarity.
So yes, we are a “tolerant” people. And if you are Malay and feel the same way about what non-Malays have tolerated, then perhaps you understand the situation deeper than the average establishment supporter.
We tolerated a great many things. Here are some of things I think we tolerate.
We are tolerant that a specific race is defined in our constitution. We are tolerant that race determines privileges. We are tolerant that a religion is deemed superior and this is codified in our laws and constitution. We are tolerant that the security apparatus in our country determines which laws to follow. We are tolerant when our religions are mocked and we are branded traitors because we defend our rights which are supposedly enshrined in our constitution.
We are tolerant when religious personalities imply that oppositional political parties are the enemies of Islam and thus open to war-like retribution. We are tolerant when our public spaces are invaded by a state-sanctioned religion. We are tolerant when we are warned not to interfere in the state-sponsored religion even though it has been objectively proven that the same religion interferes in our rights.
We are tolerant when our children are indoctrinated in our public schools. We are tolerant when our politicians play the race-and-religion card at every opportunity. We are tolerant when men convert to the state’s religion to vindictively attack their wives and children. We are tolerant when public spaces are raided by religious officials and our fellow countrymen and women are dragged out and humiliated. We are tolerant when the propaganda organs of the state lie and disseminate fake news vilifying Malaysians as “racist”, “chauvinist” and “anti-Islam”.
We are tolerant when members of the so-called opposition claim that they have to use the same tactics as Umno to remove the current grand poohbah. We are tolerant when voices tell us that we should be grateful for being allowed to live here. We are tolerant when our history is distorted.
We are tolerant when foreign Islamists came to this country and mock our religions. We are tolerant when we are warned by the mainstream political establishment that we can never assume to lead this country because this would hurt the sensitivities of the majority. We are tolerant when the natives of this land are abused and expelled from their ancestral homes.
We are tolerant of unilateral conversions. We are tolerant of attacks against the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. We are tolerant of attacks against liberalism and progressive ideas. We are tolerant when our education system is used as a petri dish. We are tolerant of quotas in our education system. We are tolerant of quotas in our civil and security services. We are tolerant of deaths in custody. We are tolerant when laws are created that would give the executive unlimited powers.
So yes, we tolerate a great many things.
The Umno state understands that the non-Malays/Muslims would not do anything about it. Sure, a majority of non-Muslims would like to see Najib go and they would be joined by Muslims with the same cause, but ultimately the Umno state knows when the chips are down, the opposition will not do anything to challenge Umno hegemony on race and religion.
Indeed, the regime is extremely confident that the Malaysian non-Malay/Muslims will tolerate this too.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.-Mkini