Two of Malaysia’s most outspoken Malay leaders found themselves in the doghouse after careless and insensitive speech against the other races in the country.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz for underestimating the intelligence of the people by hiding behing “free speech” to avoid taking action against the other garrulous but pro-establishment leader Ibrahim Ali.
As for Ibrahim, an ultra-Malay rights rabble-rouser, he tried to douse the fire lit by his controversial call for a crusade against Christians in the country by insisting that he used the word jihad (or holy battle) for “shock” effect.
But his clumsy and half-hearted efforts to retract part of his extreme speech made last Saturday failed to appease, drawing even greater contempt from his non-Muslim peers.
“We are happy to note that Ibrahim Ali does not intend to kill the Christians in the country, but when did the Christians demean Islam. Only Utusan and the Umno bloggers said such a thing. For the record, DAP and the Christian leaders had already completely denied the report, yet Ibrahim Ali still used it to curry favor with the crowd even though it can incite hatred and spark riots,” Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming told Malaysia Chronicle.
In his statement issued late on Thursday night, Ibrahim had sought a way out of the predicament he brought on himself and his self-styled ultra Malay-rights group Perkasa.
“Jihad does not only mean perang salib or crusade, it does not mean the killing of Christians and Muslims, but it includes acts of prevention using one’s hands, mouth, writing and other means,” said Ibrahim.
“Everyone lost their cool but they don’t realise what they do sometimes also demean Islam, and when this happens no one is reprimanded.”
There was no apology at all.
‘Be careful what Nazri is actually saying’
Meawhile, as expected, Nazri has stood by his much criticised decision not to prosecute Ibrahim, citing freedom of speech as his rationale.
“But it has been days since he made the statement and yet, we do not see any riot on the streets. People are no longer as sensitive as they were before. Now, people just laugh at Ibrahim and call him a clown. So you cannot even say that Ibrahim’s words have caused the Malays to rise against the Christians,” Malaysian Insider reported Nazri as saying.
Nazri also pledged the same liberty for other Malaysians in similar situations in the future.
But his words and new-found affinity for new politics convinced no one or comforted anybody.
“Nzari and Umno are trying to take advantage of peaceful nature of the non-Malays who will think twice about any physical action because they are outnumbered. In this case, it is Ibrahim, a Malay, saying bad things about Christians. Of course, the Malays and the Muslims won’t riot against him. The Christians also won’t – their protest comes in the verbal form through letters, their leaders, in the social media and so forth. Just because Christians don’t take to arms does not mean they don’t feel as strongly as if they marched 10km and screamed and shouted,” PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
“Conversely, if a non-Malay and non-Muslim said bad things about the Malays and the Muslims, some of the Malays especially the Perkasa types will surely go haywire or pretend to go haywire to stir things up. They will protest and demonstarte. Will Nazri then turn around and say, this is different. It is different because the words of the non-Malay actually caused a physical reaction and that is jailable under the Sedition Act or the ISA. We have to be very careful because we are now dealing with Umno elite who twist and turn everything. They cannot be trusted at all.”
As for Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, he opposes using draconian laws to charge Ibrahim Ali but insists that Ibrahim can and should be punished under laws other than the Sedition Act and the Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial for indefinite periods of time.
“I do not condone the use of these laws even as a temporary measure. But should a civilised country, after half a century of independence, condone these sorts of sentiments?” Malaysiakini reported Anwar as saying.
“There are (other) laws to investigate Ibrahim, but how do investigate when you know it is being promoted and supported by the ruling establishment?”
At a rally last Saturday, Ibrahim had attacked the Christian community, which forms 10 per cent of Malaysia’s 28 million population versus the Muslims’ 60 per cent.
Based on an unsustantianted news article in the Umno-owned Utusan daily that Christians wanted Christianity to replace Islam as the country’s official religion, Ibrahim had threatened bloodshed against them.
“If they want a crusade, so be it. If they say that the peace that we enjoy is not good enough we shall take up the challenge. Don’t take the silence of Muslims as a sign of fear,” Ibrahim had boomed in his controversial speech.
“Before our followers fall in this battle, Perkasa leaders will first lay down their lives and die sprawling in blood.
Dear President Barack Obama,
Along with many American Muslims, my family and I listened to your speech today on the Middle East and North Africa. While I appreciate your encouraging statements to the people of the Muslim world — particularly to those who are currently fighting for dignity and civil rights in their own lands — I also couldn’t help feeling that many Americans are not setting the example of which you spoke when it comes to our own Muslim citizens.
Currently, 20 states have introduced anti-Muslim legislation, with more pending. Some of our country’s lawmakers and politicians have made very bigoted inflammatory commentsabout Muslims and Islam. Very recently, Tennessee, under extreme pressure, rewrote a bill that would have made it a crime punishable by 15 years in prison for Muslims to worship together in groups of two or more. Organized groups are staging hate rallies against Muslims building houses of worship around the country. Local municipalities are playing the zoning game by zoning Islamic schools and mosques out of the community. Mosque playgrounds are being torched. Muslim family homes, property, and mosques are being vandalized. Children are being bullied and harassed because they are Muslim. Shockingly, last week the Editor of the Gainesville Times in Florida published a letter that called for the expulsion of all Muslims from America. Recently, several Muslim clerics, and also a young Muslim woman were pulled off airplanes for no other reason other than they were dressed in recognizable Muslim attire. This is all being seen through the modern technology’s “window into the wider world” that you mentioned in your speech, but like all windows, you can also look from the world outside and see what’s happening inside. What does it say to the world when our President speaks about rights for people in the Muslim world that “include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion” when our own people are being hindered from building mosques, and schools, and our right to worship freely is even being threatened?
Mr. President, Muslims in America know that you do not stand with this kind of bigotry and hatred. During your announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden you said,