‘We’re a country which encourages anti-Semitic narratives at every turn.’
“Why don’t we just… wait here for a little while… see what happens?”
– MacReady, ‘The Thing’, 1982
A reader wanted to know what my Christmas message was to Malaysians this year. Considering that I have never really written a Deepavali message, Chinese New Year message, Hari Raya message, (insert cultural/religious holiday practised in Malaysia) message, I really did not intend to write any message to anyone. Besides my articles are not messages – SOSs really – to anyone interested.
Then I read about this Christian group, which I have never heard of and apparently have no internet presence – notwithstanding my meagre Google skills – joining the rally to save Jerusalem, and suddenly I was writing a Christmas message. Well, a Christmas misgiving actually.
Here is the thing. I realise that I am going to get into trouble with liberal and interfaith types by saying this, but it has to be said. If you are a non-Muslim in Malaysia and you support these types of rallies, what you are supporting is actually anti-Semitism but more importantly, racial and religious supremacy.
When the prime minister claims that he will not back down from the Jerusalem issue even if his body is cut into pieces, did anyone else think of the “It’s just a flesh wound” scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Maybe it is just me.
Anyway, where were the BN component parties in this ‘Save Jerusalem’ rally? Where was the MCA leadership? Where was the MIC leadership? Where were the other component parties that make up the BN establishment? If this was really a Malaysian issue, should not the establishment bring forth all its multiracial and religious political accoutrements?
This was not a rally to ‘Save Jerusalem’, this was a rally to ‘Save Umno’. Furthermore, those Muslim leaders who chose to attend this rally merely did so to burnish their Islamic credentials. Let there be no doubt that the people who attended this rally have never ever wanted a just and peaceful resolution to the Palestinian conflict.
This is a country that does not recognise the state of Israel and which encourages anti-Semitic narratives at every turn. Every time the state wants to demonise their political opponents, they claim that these people are “pro-Jewish”. Every time the state wants to rationalise victimisation in the Middle East, they point to “Jews” as the cause and never hold the theocratic regimes accountable for atrocities committed on their citizens.
Remember five years ago, when the state decided that political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim was “pro-Jewish”, I disregarded my own rule about not writing about international issues because I want my articles to be about the issues facing Malaysians. However, since local Muslim NGOs were involved in the debate and I have a bit of experience when it comes to international aid, I thought it would be worthwhile to offer my perspective where normally I would demur.
“Local Muslim NGOs are left pondering who to support – Fatah or Hamas – all the while aid which is supposed to elevate the horrible conditions the Palestinians are living under becomes the prize for the internal squabbling in the Palestinian Authority. In a multiracial/ethnic country like Malaysia, which prides itself on being on the moderate Muslim path, the middle ground means having a nuanced domestic and foreign policy opinion on the Palestinian conflict.”
I also took the opportunity to examine the anti-Semitic narratives promulgated by the state and how they applied these narratives to non-Malay citizens.
“Consider the hate speech of Muslim convert Ridhuan Tee Abdullah (photo), a lecturer at the National Defence University, who has taken anti-Semitism to a new level by comparing his Chinese brothers and sisters to the most obscene stereotype of Jews, pleading special knowledge about their community since he was a ‘kafir’ (like them) before embracing Islam.”
Defending the sanctity of Islam
When the prime minister claimed that “I would never sacrifice the sanctity of Islam”, my question is, what is the sanctity of Islam worth? How far would you go to defend the sanctity of Islam and by extension, Jerusalem? How far would Malaysia go to show the US that this country is willing to defend the sanctity of Islam?
Look, even Saudi Arabia, the bastion of the kind of Islam that Malaysia seeks to emulate, has more or less washed their hands of the Palestinian issue. The kingdom has bigger problems and perhaps loftier ambitions than merely being exporters of Wahhabi-influenced extremism.
Malaysian Muslim potentates can talk about all the rallies they wish to hold in all the mosques all over the country but the reality is that everyone knows, from low-level diplomats to intelligence operatives operating in Malaysia that this is a charade to shore up Malay Muslim support for a hegemon which is afraid to lose political power.
More importantly, rallies like these pose a danger to autocratic Muslim regimes. When you ratchet up the rhetoric when it comes to Islam, there is always blowback. Now the Umno regime may not intend for non-Muslims to be targeted, but the reality is that there will be some Muslims in this rally who are truly brainwashed by propagandists who think they are just serving a regime which wishes to retain power and retaliate against non-Muslims believing that they are defending the sanctity of Islam.
Furthermore, rallies like these are soft targets for non-state actors working in concert with local Islamists to destabilise Muslim regimes who they believe are not a part of the New Islamic World Order. If you think that these security concerns are unwarranted, then by all means continue.
I will end this Christmas misgiving with a passage from my piece about losing much as an authenticate Islamic state.
“Malaysia becoming a hotbed of Islamic intrigue by rushing into alliances because of the weakened state of the ruling coalition is a dangerous position to be in. History has shown us that situations like this do not end in a whimper. They end with a bang. Most probably, a series of bangs.”
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.