The Power Of SMS

Can we ever rise above race and religion?

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 12, 2009


James Chin
JUNE 12 — It has been said a million times, race and religion dominate Malaysian lives. Everything political in this country is somehow connected with race and/or religion. In the past two decades, things that were once non-political are now caught up with race and religion. I can’t remember the last time a public issue was looked at from a Malaysian perspective. Three recent items really spooked me into thinking that we have now reached the height of looking at every issue through the prism of race and religion.

The first item came from Bernama, about a well known Malaysian who will graduate with a philosophy degree from Oxford University. We should all be proud that a fellow Malaysian is able to pursue a PhD from one of world’s top universities. But guess that this DPhil said: “There have been very few Malaysians who made it to Oxford, fewer still who obtained DPhil and even fewer among them are Malays.” Why does it matter that a Malay obtained a DPhil from Oxford? Did Oxford check the Malay quota before awarding the DPhil to him? Can an Oxford DPhil be so uneducated that he has to spin a racial angle on this newly acquired DPhil? I really hope he was misquoted because if he was quoted correctly — God help us — even an Oxford DPhil living in Britain cannot escape this racial disease.

You really have to wonder about the standard of academics in Malaysia when a senior academic can come up with such a remark: “The boldness of non-Malays of late is beyond control and if left unchecked can destroy the nation.” This sort of race baiting by people who are supposed be the smartest in the nation really makes me wonder if there is any hope for the intelligentsia in this country. It is almost fashionable to be a racist nowadays. There is no shame in being a racist. How can there be shame when Utusan prints racists’ statements on a daily basis? Racism is now the norm after years of indoctrination by political parties and newspapers like Utusan. In fact people think there is something wrong with you if you are non-racial.

The second is PAS’s recent resolution that Sisters in Islam should be banned for allegedly promoting liberal Islam and, worse, not understating Islam at all. PAS asked the National Fatwa Council to investigate and hopefully ban the NGO. An MP from PAS’s ally PKR rubbed it in and equated the SIS with a sewerage company. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad does not agree with SIS but defends its right to have its say. SIS is made up of highly-educated Muslim professional women, and if they can’t take part in a debate on Islam, then who can? Nowadays, the moment you mention the word “Islam” it’s like walking in a minefield. Only the extremists are allowed their say while everyone else has to shut up.

In today’s Malaysia, you simply cannot talk rationally anymore. You can be accused of being a racist or chauvinist at any time. Worse, you can be accused of being anti-Islam or a traitor. There is no avenue for an intellectual debate since the extremists make the loudest noise. The “silent majority” remains silent.

I want to end this short commentary by quoting directly from a reader who wanted to rebut Dr Mahathir’s claim that he cannot speak for the Malays lest he be accused of being a racist. This letter writer is typical of today’s generation where racism is “on” 24 hours a day, seven days a week because we cannot move beyond 1970. The sad truth about Malaysia today is that both are right. Dr Mahathir is right and so is the letter writer.

By Dr Mahathir Mohamad on June 10


1. Why is it that when I defend Umno or the Malays I am labelled a racist but not when others speak up for Chin Peng?

2. If speaking up for the Malays is considered racist then are the Malays to be denied their right to speak for themselves?

3. Liberalism is fine but it should not benefit only certain people and not others. By definition not benefiting certain people contradicts the very concept of liberalism.

4. I really don’t think openly slugging it out on racial issues in Malaysia is healthy. But if that is what Malaysians want then they should be prepared to slug and be slugged.

By GreatGooner on June 10

Well Tun, the answer is simple.

Communism is an ideology that transcends race. China is NOT the only communist country in the world. Rashid Maidin was a Malay and he supported the Communist efforts.

When you talk about Malay rights, you do not transcend race. You bring it to the fore. The idea that one race should be promoted at the expense of others is an idea that is NOT agreeable to ANYONE. Which is why so many Malays get all worked up at the prospect of a DAP government. They are afraid that the Chinese will promote only themselves.

I think this is paranoid behaviour. DAP has shown willingness to work with other races. Karpal Singh is not Chinese, yet he is a party leader. So is his son. PKR, for all their criticisms, have got non-Malay members and supporters, because they are attracted to an idea of fighting for issues that transcend racialist divides.

When you talk of Umno and Malay rights and this outdated Social Contract (a vague notion to begin with), you marginalise all other Malaysian races because you focus ONLY on the needs of one race. Surely these exclusionary views based on race have no place in modern society. Even the US, for the flak it gets on racial issues, has made tremendous strides forward in civil rights. Obama is the first black president. Only 40 something years ago, blacks were being hosed down in the streets.

It has been 52 years since independence, Tun. Maybe at some point at the beginning, the Social Contract made sense due to the struggles of the Malays in gaining independence (although I would argue this was also a multiracial effort). It has been 52 years, and Malaysia has got to where it is now, whether you like or not, through the combined efforts of the Malays AND non-Malays (as Umno likes to classify us). Surely 52 years is long enough that the Malays can acknowledge the efforts of the non-Malays and make us feel that this is our home too. Because it is! Don’t call us Pendatang or whatnot. Don’t tell us that we are still second-class citizens who have to pay more for houses and be second or third preference for scholarships and university places, because we are not of a certain race. That is racism.

It has been 52 years. Let us move on and make policies that transcend RACE and focus more on SOCIO-ECONOMIC standing. Malays are no longer poor across the board. There are very rich Malays, the same way there are very rich Chinese and Indians. And there are poor Malays, Chinese and Indians. If we focus our policies on pulling up the poor (regardless of RACE) then surely everyone wins.

But no, Umno wants to talk about Malay rights and its other racist policies. Meritocracy goes out the window. What about getting a fair go? You often mention that “Melayu mudah lupa”. If Umno’s racist policies continue for much longer, the Malays may “lupa” that in a globalised economy, everything is based on merit and competitiveness. For 52 years, every other race in Malaysia has had to become competitive and survive on merit, EXCEPT for the Malays — because Umno’s policies have fostered this behaviour. For the sake of the Malays and the non-Malays, racialist policies must go.

Let’s start talking less about Malay rights and more about human rights.

Of course, I think Umno finds it easier just to stoke the fires of Malay nationalism. It has kept them in power all these years. Why change that for something that may actually do some good?

James Chin is a Malaysian academic. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the views of institutions he is associated with. He can be contacted at

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