The boycotting campaign and new ‘Malaysia Narrative’

The campaign makes people more susceptible to the idea of protecting one’s narrow self-interest instead of the nation

graphic by MZUKRI

YOU must be living in a jungle or a cave with no Internet to miss the ongoing boycott campaign against non-Muslim traders and products.

The campaign started in social media about two weeks ago and it has gained traction like a forest fire after a long dry summer. It is one of the side effects of the Khat proposal, which had snowballed into a racial debacle.

A planned rally over the Khat objection by Muslim extremists was cancelled. But that did little to douse the fire of some Malay-Muslim groups who perceived these actions as threats towards Islam and the Malays.

One of the boycott pages on Facebook has almost one million members despite it was a “closed group”. Among the topics discussed are how to avoid purchasing products from non-Muslim traders and alternatives goods from Muslim producers.

The most popular discussion revolves food. When critics pointed out that the campaign was mobilised on a Jewish-founded platform and non-Muslim manufactured devices, members responded that they were leveraging on any platforms to get the message across.

They even linked the campaign to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had proposed a boycott of British products many years ago. But they failed to see Dr Mahathir’s proposed boycott was due to the high fees imposed on foreign students including the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, etc. There was clearly injustice. Those reasons are now academic for those who care to read.

There is no telling how long this campaign will last and who will be severely impacted. Federal ministers and politicians have urged the public to reject such calls.

From an economic standpoint, a drop in business translates to slower sales growth and lesser revenue generation.

Jobs may get slashed in the long run and such job firing does not recognise race and religion.

Although the government said the campaign has little to no impact in general, still, it has made people more susceptible to the idea of protecting one’s narrow self-interest instead of the nation.

Dr Mahathir called on the group responsible for the campaign to stop as it only fans anger and discomfort among Malaysians.

Opposition leader and MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong described the act as an economic sabotage, suggesting that Malaysians could prioritise local brands and products instead.

“Let’s not hurt each other or hurt ourselves because no rational businessmen would choose their customers based on race and religion,” Wee said.

But Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan called for a new “Malaysia Narrative” — one that puts an emphasis on Malay-Muslim standing in the country.

“The rise of extreme racial and religious tones in Malaysia’s political sphere has shown that any construction or deconstruction of the ‘Malaysia Narrative’ must be in tandem with the aspirations of the Malay-Muslim population in Malaysia,” Mohamad, or better known as Tok Mat, wrote on his Facebook page.

“This Merdeka is for us to acknowledge the fact that the politics of race and religion have always played a huge and significant part in Malaysia’s political discourse, and that they are critical in carrying forward the interests of different ethnicities,” he added.

Anyone can understand the sentiment of Umno leaders, a party defeated after six decades in power and trying to claw back some dignity. Its close alliance with PAS and its ambition to create a “Bumiputera, Muslim-dominated” government is no secret.

Although Umno denied any role in the boycotting campaign, unfortunately for many, Tok Mat’s statement served as an endorsement for them to “reclaim Malaysia” economically, while political parties work their way to garner enough support from the public to form a new government in the 15th General Election.

The supportive remarks from some religious leaders also lent the campaign some credibility among the impressionable on its “noble cause”.

The Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Shah recently criticised some leaders who continue to instil hatred between the races and religions. He said the situation presently is like a ticking bomb and people are becoming more restless and fearful.

“Beware! The splinters from such time bombs do not discriminate their victims. In fact, the grandchildren and other family members of those who set up such time bombs are also exposed to the dangers due to the action of those with shallow minds,” Sultan Nazrin said.

Politicians and their ego are the designers of the current time bomb. It is unclear how this will pan out. But one thing for sure, a bomb spares no victim, nor does it distinguishes between race, religion or age groups.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.