COMMENT | IT is that time of the year when almost the whole country is engrossed in the word “unity”. They walk for unity; run for unanimity; cycle for harmony; and there are those who are also making a living out of creating sports activities in various guises of good ethnic relations.
Our leaders have been part of it. I heard the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak lecture a crowd in Oxford on racial tolerance five years ago. Declaring that he had read the Thora, the Bibles, the Quran and other religious scriptures, Najib claimed Malaysia was an outstanding society where multi-culturalism was thriving.
Really? Weeks later, back in Malaysia, the religious zealots and racists were spewing their hatred, egged on by narrow-minded bigots who believe that every issue has to be seen through their blinkered eyes of race and religion.
It has not stopped, but takes a break once a year to have the “feel good” sensation just because we want to celebrate our independence as “a united nation”.
“We do not identify ourselves as Malays, Chinese, Kadazans or Indians. We are all Malaysians,” some of the leaders would say and the entire crowd would rise and give thunderous applause.
Around the corner, yet another of their colleagues would talk about his special rights and label part of the population as “pendatang” and add yet another order: “Balik Tongsan”.
Each has its own agenda, sometimes personal, most of the time materialistic - to advance such messages. These examples have been chronicled and can be traced from the archives of newspapers or news portals.
These are not restricted to our leaders. Anyone who has just that little power wants to impose his or her values in the name of race and religion. From heads of government departments and local councils to headmasters and retirees, all want to dictate how the ordinary Malaysian should lead his or her life.
Seven years ago, I visited my alma mater – Klang High School – after a student complained that “the guru besar had dissolved all non-Muslim religious societies” in the school, which I later found out, was not true. The decision was not made by the headmistress – it was made by the Selangor Education Department.
At that time, it was suggested that efforts be made to identify and punish the religious zealot in the Selangor Education Department. Could it have happened then and will it happen today? Who cares to punish, let alone identify the culprit because such decisions were made in the name of “maruah agama and bangsa”?
To cut a long story short, the matter was resolved, but racism, religious bigotry and extremism continue unabated until today. Occasionally, we hear of this and that, but to what extent such fanaticism exists...