No kafirs here, only citizens

Elections always seem to bring out the worst in some politicians. Bankrupt of real ideas and meaningful policies, they wallow in the gutter of racial and religious bigotry and appeal to the worst of human instincts. They cannot run on their own sordid record of corruption and incompetence, so they play the race card.

According to Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub, Umno-PAS campaigners are justifying their appeal to Malay voters in Tanjung Piai to vote for the BN candidate (who is from MCA) on the grounds that the MCA are “kafir dzimmi” (non-Muslims who have submitted to Islamic rule) as opposed to the DAP who are “kafir harabi” (enemies of Islam).

I’m sure no one is surprised to hear such drivel coming from Umno-PAS; after all, they have a long history of bigotry. PAS, in particular, has grown increasingly extremist, calling for non-Muslims to be barred from holding high office and constantly twisting every issue to make it sound like Islam is under threat.

After Umno and PAS signed their so-called “Piagam Muafakat Nasional” (national unity charter), they talked about how it will be non-discriminatory and of benefit to all Malaysians. Now we see their true colours: their charter is nothing more than a thinly disguised scheme to divide the non-Muslim population into those who have submitted to Umno-PAS (dhimmi) and those who do not (kafir). Those who submit will be accorded limited privileges; those who do not will be demonised and excluded. It takes the Ketuanan Melayu ideology to a whole new level, doesn’t it?

It will be interesting to see how the MCA will respond to this characterisation of their status as dhimmi. If they have any decency and self-respect, they would immediately end their cooperation with Umno-PAS. Better for them to die in the political wilderness than live in vassalage to Umno-PAS. To stay would be to acquiesce in this ghastly plan to subjugate the non-Malays.

Whatever MCA may decide, and I don’t expect much from them, Umno and PAS should know that the constitutional position of Islam does not give them the licence to divide the country into Muslims and kafirs. In Malaysia, there are no kafirs, only citizens. Whether they like it or not, non-Muslim Malaysians are citizens with equal rights and privileges and we categorically refuse to accept dhimmitude or second-class status in our own country.

What is disappointing, however, is that such bigotry is no longer confined to the ranks of Umno-PAS politicians as Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu recently demonstrated while campaigning in Tanjung Piai. Speaking informally to a group of voters, he was videotaped saying that he was in a “desperate battle” against the DAP in defence of the Malays and to champion Islam. He also thanked his Umno friends for standing with him in this battle. It was a shocking statement coming from a state-level leader of a multiracial coalition, a rank betrayal of the very ideals upon which PH is premised.

Instead of using the occasion to promote the PH agenda to the voters, Faizal took the opportunity to push the detestable and false Umno-PAS narrative that the Malays and Islam are under threat from the DAP. Clearly, Faizal, a long-time Umno member before switching to Pakatan Harapan, still carries the Umno DNA, still thinks and acts like a Umno member.

This is the wider problem with PPBM; too many of its members still behave like the Umno men they once were, never mind that they would not have come to power on the strength of Malay support alone.

There’s no question that Faizal should immediately be removed from office. At the state level, PPBM with two seats is a mosquito party that depends upon PKR and the DAP for its political survival. Instead of being grateful to the DAP (which won the most seats in the state assembly yet graciously stepped aside for him) for being given the opportunity to lead the state government, he bad-mouths them behind their backs and hobnobs with the opposition. Perak PKR chief, Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak, is absolutely right to call for his removal.

If PPBM is to retain its credibility among PH supporters, it now needs to act on this latest racist remark coming from its own ranks. It’s not enough to dismiss Faizal’s comments as “his personal opinion” (as PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin suggested) or that his remarks were “taken out of context” (as PPBM Youth chief Hafez Mubin stated). Anyone with such a view ought not to lead a multiracial government, period. I dare say, in any case, that having done nothing of any significance thus far as MB, he won’t be missed.

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, the youth and sports minister, for his part, once again reminds us all why his earlier pretence of standing up for all Malaysians irrespective of race or religion was just cheap sloganeering. When pressed on the issue, he refused to take Faizal to task for his remarks. He has so little spine that even asking Faizal to apologise for his clearly racist remarks is to ask too much of him. And this from the same guy who was ready to go to war with the DAP when one of its members criticised the prime minister.

PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad now needs to show some leadership. His own remarks at the Kongres Maruah Melayu and his failure to rebuke the slew of racist comments that were made at the event are clearly encouraging others in his party to play the same racist card. Enough is enough. In Malaysia, there are no kaifrs, only citizens with equal rights.

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