The Spectre of Malay-Muslim Fascism in Malaysia
Every so often, whenever I feel positive about Malaysian politics, I'm soon brought back to earth, ususally by non other than my favorite sub-human species; the Malay-Muslim fascist.
First, let's be clear: I'm not talking about all Malays, Muslims or in this specific case, Malay-Muslims. I'm talking about a sub-sample of them who have a vile and narrow view of the world. A view whereby they sit proudly up top, subjugating others with their vision of what is right and what is wrong. Their world is not one where contrary opinions can be freely heard; their world is one where only their view can be heard. It is inherently anti-democratic.
PAS itself is not immune to this spectre-claims that it is a Muslim party can surely now be blown clear out of the water. Make no mistake, Islam is only part of its agenda. Its on-going discussions with UMNO make clear that Malay unity is also paramount to its interests. Just which part of Islam places one race on a higher pedestal over others I cannot find-probably because it does not exist. Perhaps I am being harsh on PAS; perhaps it is just engaging in realpolitik in order to remind PKR and DAP not to forget them, but the damage has been done. When next will non-Muslims or non-Malays vote for PAS again? When PAS decides to talk with the Malay-Muslim fascists in UMNO, it has bitten off more than it can chew. PAS must decide if it is a Muslim or a Malay party; it cannot be a Malay-Muslim party if it thinks itself an Islamic party. The religion does not allow for racial discrimination.
The uneasy mix of Malay nationalism couched in terms of religion can also be seen by the behaviour of the protestors against the Bar Council meeting about the uneasy meeting together of secular and syariah laws. The bar council were denounced as questioning the supremacy of Islam in Malaysia-make no mistake, while some protestors were indeed angry about what they perceived (rightly or wrongly) as a slight to the religion, they were plenty there mixing the notion of Malay supremacy with Islam. That is why plenty of racial slights against the Chinese and Indians were uttered-this was not simply an issue of religion; race also had a lot to do with it. In other words: anti-Islam = anti-Malay.
Now UiTM students are angry that the MB of Selangor proposes that 10 (just ten...) percent of spots at the university be allocated to non-bumiputeras, when a good third (if not more) of the population is made up of non-bumiputeras (the bulk of which are BORN and BRED in MALAYSIA but are apparently not 'sons and daughters of the soil...'). Apparently this university is not theirs. So who are the 'owners' of this university (one where I believe foreign students are present, just not non-bumiputera Malaysians....)? Surely the 'taxpayers' own it? And these taxpayers consist of non-bumiputeras, not just bumiputeras. In fact non-bumiputeras tax payment is greater than that of the bumipuetras. But they cannot share in UiTM-it is only for a select few-selected on the basis of race (and let's not kid ourselves, religion). Neither should we pretend for a second that this notion of a bumiputera university has anything to do with non-Muslim bumiputeras. Perish the thought. No, they are even worse than the second class non-bumiputeras. They are traitors. Sure, the odd non-Muslim bumiputera is paraded around here and there, now and then, just for show. No, the protests against Khalid Ibrahim is led by certain sections of Malay-Muslims who continue to preach their apartheid view of the world.
If he were alive I wonder how Edward Said would view this. He argued that Palestinians and Israelis should co-exist in a nation where diversity can still be valued; one where we can vive le difference (if you pardon my dodgy French). He said what we should avoid is a separation of peoples (i.e. a two-state solution) or one where we have one state with first and second class citizens, like in present day Israel).
I wonder where he thinks Malaysia is today. To a certain extent there is no doubt we co-exist and live and let live. We co-exist peacefully enough, but I fear that space of 'freedom and tolerance' is being steadily eroded by the inexorable hold on power of the Malay-Muslim fascists. The shocking election result only served to generate optimism among fair-minded Malaysians, one now being steadily eroded by the Malay-Muslim fascists' counter-attack, led also by certain quarters among the Pakatan Rakyat.
The parallels between Israel and Malaysia are frightening. How many countries define race in their constitution? I know of three: Apartheid South Africa, Israel and Malaysia. And in the last two, the concept of race and religion intermesh spectacularly. Is a Jew a race of a person of Jewish faith? Apparently it is both. Once I embrace Judaism, I can move to Israel as a Jew. In Malaysia a Malay is a Muslim, and thus we have the concept of a Malay-Muslim; no separation there. Thus, to push for Islamic rights is tantamount to pushing for Malay rights. This is why some people embrace Islam-in order to be seen as being a 'Malay' for once you're a Malay, the doors of wealth and opportunity await you if you're lucky enough to be a 'chosen' Malay (and to hell to all those working hard in the paddy fields or fishing boats in the villages). But one still has to be seen as becoming 'Malay.' A Chinese-Muslim convert who continues to speak Chinese, keep a Chinese name and wear traditional Chinese styled clothes can be Muslim but not Malay. That's obvious-but all those Pakistanis who in next to no time have become 'Malay' and obtained bumiputera status is frightening indeed.
It is unfortunately the second of Said's observations that is becoming the new Malaysian reality. An Israeli-Arab is a 2nd class citizen excluded from certain national institutions. A non-bumiputera Malaysian faces the same barriers (only thing being that the Malay-Muslim fascist has to allow some non-Muslim bumiputeras to share in the spoils to keep up appearances). A newly arrived Jew to Israel (even a recent convert) can share in these institutions; as can recently arrived Muslims in Malaysia once they 'Malay-ise' themselves (like the Pakistanis). Hence Khir Toyo being a former MB with a recent family background from Java (I believe, could be wrong). Hence Mahathir becoming PM for so many years despite his father being from India! Why, because their religion was only part of the story-they also had to become Malay, and this they managed to do.
If indeed, Islam is what is being fought for, then why is it so difficult for Chinese-Muslims to get mosques built to proselytise in Chinese? Why are certain sections of Indian-Muslims fighting to be given bumiputera status? Because while Islam may well be a pre-condition for attaining power and domination over others, it is on its own, an insufficient condition. More to the point, one must also be seen as being a Malay (which automatically confers Islam). Thus we have the Malay-Muslim being; not quite a race, not quite a religion but a mismash of sorts, exactly like the Israeli Jew.
Israel and Malaysia are one and the same. 2 Nations ruled with a concept of a racial-religious supremacy which allows for the subjugation and the closing of 'space' of those who do not 'belong'. An enfranchisement of some at the expense (disenfranchisement) of others written in law, or if silent in law, carried out in practice by various means, be it power persuasion, fear or sheer brute force (the last specifically an Israeli tool, but one which may be unleashed in Malaysia, as on May 13 1969).
The power of the Malay-Muslim fascist is strong, and can only be broken by the opposition of other Malay-Muslims with help from non-Malay-Muslims, and non-Muslims together. This is where I am somewhat optimistic. Malays are human beings like everyone else. As a group who in Malaysia are politically privileged, we should not expect them to simply give up their privileges. Who among us will freely give up power? That is why the Malay-Muslim fascist is powerful-he feeds on the fears of this loss of privilege. Nevertheless, I am confident that the majority of Malays will eventually see that their interests are best served by fighting these Malay-Muslim fascists and aligning theselves with forces that believe in the equality of humanity irrespective of race and religion. It won't happen anytime soon, that is for sure. But the longer we wait, the worse the eventual outcome for this country for if we continue down this path, I foresee the a significant fall in social relations and a fracturing of the country with negative social and economic repercussions-and how is that beneficial to the Malay-Muslim?