The four fingers pointing back Part 2

graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD

THERE was an interesting letter published in an English daily yesterday which demanded that the word “mamak” used on South Asian Muslims should be categorised as derogatory and those using it subjected to consequences, no different than how the nation had reacted to the slur recently used against a Malaysian badminton player.

Whether the writer’s contention will influence the national psyche to agree that “mamak” is a slur is anybody’s guess, but he or she may face some resistance from the Minangs who refer to their uncle as “mamak” and he is revered in the matrilineal community.

But slurs, especially those deemed racist and derogatory, are easy as they’re outright and in the face, with minor twists involving who says it and in what context.

More insidious is when individuals portraying themselves as champions against racism resort to racialising every act of another race or equating such act to the established labels of racism when, in the first place, the act had nothing to do with racism at all.

For example, when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob addressed the United Nations General Assembly and equated the systematic oppression of the Palestinians to the crime of apartheid, an editor with a local news portal immediately took issue.

He linked some developments in Malaysia to apartheid in the same breath and in essence blaming it all on Malay-rights parties and the fact that “every single premier of the country” came from these parties and not ideological ones such as the conservative, liberal or social-democratic parties.

He raised the issue about Malaysia’s inability to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), sitting idly by as one Indian after another suffered mysterious deaths in police lockups, among others.

For good measure, he lamented that he had not seen his sisters as they live and work in London and Washington DC, and that close to 80% of his generation had already migrated, largely due to the outdated racist system.

As uninspiring as Ismail Sabri’s speech was, he wasn’t the first Malay Muslim leader to be denigrated when criticising the oppression in Palestine.

In fact, in so far as the editor and his ilk are concerned, no Malay-Muslim leader has any moral right to criticise racism, apartheid and oppression abroad.

In not so many words, it is a communication strategy of using “sound bites” or labels to hide the flippant and simplistic nature of the conclusions, while freely spewing hatred at Malay leaders.

By any standards, the oppression in Palestine is not equal to any nation and regime, and to state it in the same breath with the Malay-Muslim leadership in Malaysia is definitely racist and intentionally done.

An easy giveaway of how racist the writer is one of his examples — the custodial deaths of Indians in police lockups.

Firstly, if the editor had taken time to read articles published in his own portal and had pointed out that the majority of deaths in police custody are Malays, though Indian cases are most frequently reported in the media.

In short, it is about police brutality and crime, and it should not have been linked to race just because the majority of the police force are made up of Malays. In fact, in one particular case of an Indian who died in custody, the perpetrator was an Indian policeman and the police were ordered by the courts to pay substantial damages.

As such the concern should not be racialised, but instead should weigh in on the crime itself. No Malays agree nor support it, regardless if the victim is Indian or of any other race. But to imply that it is tolerated because it involves Indians is as prejudiced as it comes.

Since there is a tendency to link apartheid Palestine to Malaysia, surely there is no Palestinian employed by the Israeli forces and if any Palestinian died in police custody, the Israeli policeman responsible for it will most likely end up being decorated and promoted.

Racism, admittedly exist in Malaysia as in any other nations, but to paint it the same as apartheid South Africa and Palestine, perpetuating segregation or equating it to the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis is xenophobic by itself because the equation is unacceptable.

Since Washington in the USA is one of the preferred cities instead of any in Malaysia because the latter is accused of being antiquated in racism, one should probably refer to an article in The Times of India in June this year when it published an article that one in two Indian-Americans reported being discriminated against.

For that matter, the struggle against segregation in the US before it was outlawed had been used as an example of what is happening in Malaysia.

But such contentions are actually baseless. A Rosa Parks bus ride would never occur in Malaysia, as since before independence, bus lines are mostly owned by Malaysian Chinese.

There was never any Jim Crow legislation here as in the US and was only repealed in the late 1960 whereas, in Malaya and later on, Malaysia, the non-Malays enjoyed all the rights the blacks were denied in America.

Surely, affirmative actions and privileges accorded to the Malay Bumiputeras cannot be equated to that of Jim Crow’s. Indeed, there has been abuses and excesses, but it is greed and corruption and abhorred by the Malays themselves.

In fact, if segregation is the point of discussion — the AfricanAmericans wanted to be included in mainstream America including schools and universities. But in Malaysia, the minority insists on having their own schools.

Any attempt to question the continued existence of such schools by Malays and like-minded non-Malays would trigger outrage and backlash.

Even an attempt to bring together the race-based schools into a complex alongside the national school is rejected, but none of the champions who opposed racism would want a prolonged debate on the subject.

Then there is the convenience of blaming Malay political leaders for failures in matters beyond their “pay grade” such as the ICERD and the Rome Statute.

On one hand, the deception of transferring the blame without having to address what lies beyond reflected the acknowledgement of the Ketuanan Melayu of the Malay Sovereignty kind.

The editor avoided placing the blame on the Malay Rulers, at least one had publicly decreed that ratifying ICERD and the Rome Statute is against the Federal Constitution, as the reason behind the non-ratification.

As of now, Ketuanan Melayu is to be acknowledged by both the Malays and non-Malays.

Or at least for as long as they have not moved out to Washington or London or Tel Aviv or anywhere else outside Malaysia.

 

Ed’s note: For the first part of this article, CLICK HERE


Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.