An eye for an eye will leave Malaysians blind

Malaysians must exercise restraint following the tragic death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.

I refer to my earlier article entitled “Adib’s death calls for sober reflection, not inflammatory emotions” carried by FMT on Dec 19, 2018.

Following the publication of that article, I received all kinds of responses and comments. The majority were generally in agreement with the theme and thrust of my message, which is about a call to all Malaysians to exercise restraint following the tragic death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.

However, some Malays took a very hard stand and called for retaliation and retribution against the people whom they perceived to be responsible for Adib’s death. Not surprisingly, their attention turned to the four arrested assailants. But Pakatan Harapan MPs P Waytha Moorthy, Gobind Singh Deo, Xavier Jayakumar, M Kulasegaran and assemblyman V Ganabatirau were also roundly criticised and vilified. Some pressed for the immediate dismissal of Waytha Moorthy from the Cabinet.

I too was condemned by a few of them for being too much of a softie, apologetic and lacking in understanding of the psyche of Malays.

Emotions and temperatures are now running high within the Malay community, what with some parties continuing their acts of provocation and incitement. There are even calls for another rally akin to the Dec 12 rally against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). These are ominous signs of a brewing political upheaval and disorder if the authorities fail to nip the threat in the bud.

Under the circumstances, I feel it is necessary for me to comment further on this developing story.

Adib is now gone for good. As tragic as the situation and circumstance are, there is nothing we can do to bring him back. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his fiancé and friends during these difficult moments. But Muslims are taught to accept what is ordained by God with patience and perseverance.

Allah says in the Quran:

“Verily We have created everything to a determined measure”. (Quran 54:49)

However, let us ensure that his death will not be in vain. Whilst we should pursue justice for him and his loved ones till the very end, let us also take time to reflect on the larger picture and ramifications for the country. And let us emerge from it wiser and more enlightened about the politics and dynamics of race relations.

The government must act fast and decisively

The government must be decisive and show strong leadership in handling this issue. It has to act swiftly against those responsible for the heinous crime and tragedy.

It has to send clear signals to all and sundry that it will neither tolerate nor condone extremism in religious or racial politics. The public, the opposition parties and most significantly the Cabinet ministers and component parties must be made to understand the firm stand taken by the government. Let it be known that it will not take kindly to acts or actions which can threaten public peace and racial harmony.

The attorney-general must quickly commence prosecution proceedings for murder against the four assailants who were alleged to have assaulted and caused Adib’s death. The court too must expedite the hearing and disposal of the case to assure and pacify the public that the legal system is in good working order.

Islam as mercy to the world

While the country mourns Adib’s sad demise, the Muslim Malays can turn it into a golden opportunity to showcase to all Malaysians and the world at large the glory and beauty of Islam, as a religion of mercy to mankind.

Yes, there are those who are calling for revenge and retribution. These self-appointed avengers are filled with hatred and hostility. The Prophet taught us tolerance and understanding. These avengers preach intolerance and animosity. The Quran tells us to reach out and get to know one another but these bigots sow discord and division among the community.

The Quran explicitly says that:

“And not equal are the good and the bad. Repel evil by something which is better and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity will become as though he was a devoted friend”.
(Quran 41:34)

And according to a tradition of the Prophet, when his opponents greatly increased their persecution of him and started to act unjustly and cruelly against him, his companions asked him to curse them. At this, the Prophet replied,

“I have not been sent to lay a curse upon men but to be a blessing to them.”

His heart was filled with intense love for all humankind irrespective of caste, creed, or colour. Once he advised his companions to regard all people as their brothers and sisters.

So there is no textual authority to establish that Muslims should avenge and retaliate against a perceived enemy. Instead, Islam abounds with messages of mercy and compassion.

Let us all be reasonable and act rationally

As for the public at large, let us all act rationally and reasonably.

The Malays need to stay calm and must not succumb to provocations and incitement to exact revenge for Adib’s death against innocent parties.

Let us not make generalisations by blaming the Indian community for Adib’s death. Nor are we to treat it as a crime committed in the name of race or religion. The focus should be on the assailants. They have to pay for the crime. But let the law take care of that.

Equally important, the Malays must not listen or be misled by political parties calling them to attend rallies in the name of Adib, the Malay race or Islam, which to all intents and purposes are to serve their narrow political agendas.

At the same time, the Malays must appreciate the hard fact that the numbers, the might and the political power are overwhelmingly in their favour. Do not use the said strength to unleash vengeance, hate and anger against other weaker communities. Nor use it to give vent to blind rage. Instead, let us use it with great compassion and wisdom to show the better way to do things.

Retaliation will not serve any meaningful purpose if we wish to maintain law and order. We need to remember that an eye for an eye will leave Malaysians blind. And a tooth for a tooth will leave Malaysians toothless.

How then are we to survive as a nation when so many Malaysians are blind and toothless?

The non-Malays too, must show great restraint in dealing with issues that affect race relations. Be more measured and circumspect when raising issues that directly or indirectly touch the rights and privileges of the Malays.

On the other hand, the Malays too must accept and recognise that the non-Malays have to be given the room and space to articulate and advance their legitimate rights and interests.

Let everybody recognise and accept that our nation-building effort has to be done based on the trust and confidence of its citizens. We can only achieve this if we are able to foster greater understanding and unity between us, the people and citizens of various religions and races. And provide them with room and space to engage and partake in the agenda of national development. There can only be lasting peace if we are able to care for our religious and ethnic minorities as much as we care for ourselves. Let there be justice for all under the new Malaysian sun of Malaysia Baru.

Wan Haron Wan Hassan is a senior practising lawyer, active in civil society movements.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.