Is violent surau incident another lesson about who we are?

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

It's a universal law - intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I have no idea if by writing about the “surau violence” incident, I am stirring up trouble but when threats are made to ensure silence, then I really think it is important to speak up.

However, what exactly is the issue here? That a Chinese Malaysian honked his horn in annoyance when blocked by Malay Malaysians engaging in their religious obligations? Did this warrant an assault and property damage?

Let us interpret this incident in two ways. The first, an inconsiderate man who is “taught”, either through socialisation or through experience, that Muslims are sensitive and he incurred the ire of some people who attacked him because of his inconsiderate act. The second, that violence against a minority is something that has always been a part of our political and social landscape and this incident merely confirms that minorities should be careful in their dealings with the majority.

Okay, there is a third interpretation. This incident is merely an aberration that does not define the gestalt of Malaysian social interaction. Maybe there is some truth in that, but the first and second are what dominates the discourse for good reasons. People always say do not turn things into a racial incident but the problem is that no matter what anyone says, “race” is rubbed in our faces every single day. The system is set up to ensure that we look at things through a racial lens and any attempt to argue otherwise is futile.

However, what really got to me was when Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said this - “Besides, the opposition used to say ‘do not try to scare people by racial conflict’, but what we saw yesterday did show that it can occur easily.”

What the opposition says is that the establishment always attempts to use the threat of violence in lieu of debate to maintain hegemony. This is the opposite of a group of ruffians who use violence because they think they can get away with it or that they will receive minimum censure from the state for their actions...

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