Minister both racist and elitist

comments     Subashini     Published     Updated

I refer to Abdul Kadir Azhari's letter, JJ didn't meant to insult student . I am in awe of the intellectual sophistication on display in this particular letter, especially the way in which Kadir manages to conflate two issues that are particularly controversial within the Indian community - skin colour and class.

After confirming that Jamaludin Jarjis did indeed make a crass and insensitive remark by associating (however ludicrously) skin colour with economic standing, Azhari says, 'All that is written above is true, and I will not dispute that.

owever, I'd like to mention that there is no distinction between light-skinned and dark-skinned Indians. Can you say that lighter-skinned Indians are more prosperous than darker-skinned Indians? You cannot. If you believe so, then you are misleading your mind from the truth. In Malaysia, we do not have that kind of distinction with the Indians'.

So what is your point, Kadir? The fact is, your 'honourable Minister' did indeed make that distinction; it is obvious to anyone with a brain that Jamaludin, at least, views Indians in terms of binaries like fair-skinned - upper-class; dark-skinned - lower class. I do not want to reduce my intellectual capacities to rubble by deigning to argue this point by further scrutinising the complex racist beliefs that underlie those remarks.

My comments should be reserved for this particular gem: 'And you should see Sheena and the other Indian guy - both of them are equally fair. JJ did not make his statement based on their skin colour but instead on the way they dressed and represented themselves. Neither did he make any remark based on their skin colour or race. He has even clarified it was meant to be a joke, though it may sound rude. I believe he had no intention to offend anyone including Sheena'.

Jamaludin did not make his statement based on skin colour, but instead on the way they dressed and represented themselves? That makes complete sense. So what Kadir is saying is essentially this - Jamaludin didn't mean to cause offence by being a racist dimwit, but instead, by being an elitist dimwit. Okay, point taken.

Kadir continues: 'During the dinner, the Indian guy was wearing a very nice collared shirt, unlike Sheena who wore a simple and dull black shirt with a skirt (which I would say doesn't suit her at all)'.

So if a person is viewed as wearing unflattering clothes, for whatever reasons (it could very well be that she couldn't afford better clothes, or it could very well be that the choice of garment was not unflattering to the person wearing it), it is perfectly acceptable for someone like Kadir to write and publicly ridicule the person by making a comment such as 'which I would say doesn't suit her all', (I'm sure Kadir's fashion sensibilities are far superior to anyone else's).

And then by some strange twist of logic, he uses that very reason to defend the 'honourable' Jamaludin, exempting both himself and Jamaludin from accusations of racism and class prejudice.

And to top it all off? After hearing Jamaludin's remarks, 'the students were not surprised at all with his speech'.

Brilliant. My faith in Malaysian politicians (our esteemed leaders) and Malaysian students (our bright hope for the future) has been duly restored. Am I glad to be Malaysian.

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