By Dennis Ignatius
With elections around the corner, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang continues to rant and rave about all sorts of fake threats and false accusations to advance his political ideology – a toxic mixture of religious extremism, bigotry and hate.
It’s the kind of agenda one would expect from a politician bankrupt of ideas and with nothing else to show for all his years in politics.
In a recent speech, for example, he accused DAP of being unfit to rule because it is “not clean” and “not Muslim”. He also reiterated what has become a central theme of his extremist ideology: since Malaysia is an “Islamic country”, only Muslims should be allowed to rule.
DAP is, of course, not without its flaws. However, to accuse it of not being clean is simply disingenuous, especially coming from someone who has gone out of his way to give Umno and its cronies a free pass despite their sorry record in office.
One has only to listen to what little he has said about the 1MDB issue, the biggest corruption scandal ever to taint our nation, to appreciate the staggering hypocrisy of his criticism of DAP.
Why is it that mere “reports of irregularities” by the DAP-led state government are sufficient to condemn them as corrupt and disqualify them from office while the many documented cases of corruption associated with Umno-led administrations which have cost taxpayers billions of ringgit are papered over?
Umno-PAS can apparently do no wrong despite their dismal record in office while DAP (read non-Malays) can do no right despite their sterling performance in office thus far.
Is corruption and the abuse of power okay if one is careful to make all the right noises about defending the faith and championing the race?
Hadi’s insistence that non-Muslims have no right to participate in the leadership of our nation is just as asinine. Whether Hadi likes it or not, Malaysia is a multiracial, multi-religious nation with a secular constitution that guarantees all its citizens fundamental political and civil rights.
And he rubbishes his own argument that “only Islam is fair to all” by insisting that non-Muslims should be excluded from leadership positions. How is that fair to non-Muslims? How does it generate trust among non-Muslims that they can expect to be treated fairly and decently in an Islamic state? Is all the venom, hate and prejudice towards non-Malays and non-Muslims that people like Hadi spout even consistent with the lofty faith principles that they simultaneously proclaim?
This is not Islam, at least as I understand it, but an argument for a politico-religious Malay-supremacist apartheid state that is contrary to everything this nation stands for.
But such is the sordid political culture in Malaysia today that Hadi’s remarks resonated even with MCA, a pro-government Chinese-based party.
Ignoring the racist context of Hadi’s remarks and parroting the Umno-PAS line that Lim Kit Siang is scheming to seize power, MCA president Liow Tiong Lai warned that it would be “detrimental” to the nation if Lim became prime minster. He also warned that Lim was “an unprincipled politician clever at sowing discord”.
Given the context, Liow’s remarks will only feed the anti-Chinese narrative that Hadi and his ilk are busy stirring up.
How low is Liow willing to stoop to score a few brownie points with Umno and PAS? Instead of standing up for the fundamental rights of all Malaysians, instead of defending our cherished multiculturalism and our secular constitution, the MCA chief played along with a racist demagogue who wants to exclude non-Malays from high office and reduce them to second-class citizens in their own country.
No wonder multitudes have lost faith in MCA. After this, Liow might as well disband MCA and join the PAS Supporters Congress.
And one more thing: MCA doesn’t get to lecture DAP on the qualities of a principled politician. After all, who is busily chasing after PRC money for dubious projects that will leave Malaysian taxpayers burdened for decades? How well have MCA ministers and cronies managed their cabinet portfolios or projects like the PKFZ? And how many MCA politicians have had to endure years of harassment, imprisonment and racist taunts for the sake of their principles and in defence of the rights of all Malaysians, as Lim Kit Siang or the late Karpal Singh have?
Of course, in order to gain support for his agenda, Hadi has to persuade the Malay-Muslim community that the Chinese are an existential threat, that they are about to seize power, sideline the Malays and undermine Islam. And so, he repeats the lie, with the unthinking support of MCA, that Lim Kit Siang is secretly scheming to seize power.
No rational person would believe that a Chinese could become prime minister, especially given that DAP is a minority in an overwhelmingly Malay opposition coalition. It is all nonsense, a non-issue really, but then such things matter little to racists or those without scruples.
And, given that Malay-Muslims already helm all state governments except one, Hadi’s remarks suggest that even one non-Malay state chief executive is one too many for him. Such is the extent of his racism and bigotry.
Real dangers and imaginary fears
PAS leaders and their colleagues in Umno-BN are constantly warning Malaysians of the terrible catastrophe that would befall the nation if the opposition took power. However, it is the disastrous situation we now find ourselves in – the massive corruption and mismanagement, the racial bigotry and religious extremism, the slow death of our democracy and the erosion of our fundamental freedoms – all courtesy of Umno-BN-PAS, that worry the electorate far more.
And to that, they have no answers except yet more denial, deception and division.
Dennis Ignatius is a former ambassador.
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.