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"Above all, this is not against other races." – Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak

COMMENT | Late last Friday night. “So, you’re coming for our rally tomorrow, right?" asked an old PAS friend who handles “logistics” for PAS. “C’mon, you go for all these rallies. Bersih, Hindraf, LGBTQ and who knows what else? You have to come tomorrow”, he rambled on before going on a rant about how the state security apparatus should stop scaring non-Malays about rally.

Truth be told, I was pretty bummed out. The fact that Suhakam was told to stand down and the little love fest of Abdul Hadi Awang and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was given the go-ahead, irritated me. However, I always relent in the end. I always say that this rally will be the last rally I will attend. My legs, although weak, still have a few miles in them, so as usual I relented and went to the rally in defence of bangsa dan agama (race and religion).

I have no idea of the experiences of other people when they go to rallies, but I have always been pleasantly surprised at how a sense of community quickly develops among the rally goers. This was no different. Young people went out of their way to help this senior citizen navigate his way through the crowds that enveloped normally quiet places.

Everyone I met was friendly and never once stopped to ask, why a non-Malay would attend this rally. This was a “Malay/Muslim” rally and they were there to protect their race and religion but had no ill-will towards the non-Malays.

Everyone I spoke to said that the Icerd issue was the “bad deeds” of politicians who want to stir up racial and religious issues among the peace-loving Malaysians.

Since I’m normally on the giving end of this spiel, I just went with the flow and listened to people, even though some of them knew that I disagreed with them on the Icerd issue but agreed with them that politicians were doing “bad deeds”.

Indeed, many of them did not seem to realise that they were part of a grand scheme of incitement, but rather, they believed that they were a line in the sand when it came to race and religion.

They assumed that Icerd was an existential threat and, while some of them could speak very knowledgeably about Icerd, most did not seem to understand how this treaty affected them as Malaysians, only that it would affect them as Muslims and Malays.

I spoke to young people whose only “education” came from tafiz schools and who were making a living beneath the tall buildings which were monuments to the capitalist imperatives of those leading them.

They seemed happy enough, but I detected an underlying resentment against those “Malays” who were not interested in their race or religion. Those “liberal” Malays who were “traitors” working to undermine the legitimacy of their claim on this land. They drew a distinction between Western technology and culture and wondered why non-Malays would not just leave them alone...

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