Loyal Followers

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The symptoms and the disease

I would like to congratulate the police force for a job well done in arresting 8 suspects for the church attack. Granted, the police had had a lucky break when one of the arrested person sought treatments for burns on his chest and hand, but the arrests would not have been possible without diligence on the part of the police force. Well done.

On the same footing, I hope these people would, upon completion of a thorough investigation, be immediately charged under section 436 of the Penal Code for causing to destroy a place of worship by fire. That section carries a penalty of 20 year imprisonment.

And I do hope the AG Chambers would successfully prosecute these persons, if a case has been made out against them in the investigation papers.

I am sure the Home Minister would be pleased to note that the police has done a great job. Congratulations to him too for under his tutelage the police has managed to solve this utterly ugly crime.

We must not forget however that the attacks on the churches are but just symptoms of a far more malignant disease in our society. We cannot continue to focus on treating the symptoms all the while without giving attention to the debilitating  cancer that our society is patently suffering from. Without that treatment, we would soon descend into a deep and dark pit of racial disharmony, disintegration and religious intolerance.

First of all, the attacks are symptomatic of a society which is scornful of valuable discourses and civil disagreement. It is a display of a degree of shallowness and obvious disability to articulate on an issue in order to put forth a viable position or stand  on that issue. The obvious reaction then would be to resort to our primordial instinct, namely, to stamp our authority by inflicting fear and show of strength.

Secondly, the attacks reflect a culture which is lacking in civility, humility and good manners. Contrary to what Minister Rais said recently, I do not think this erosion of civility from our cultural vocabulary is caused by facebook, twitter, myspace, the blogs (this blog included) or the Internet generally.

The erosion of good manners and civility is a result of years and years of social neglect in our schools, our work place and  our homes led by the behaviours and mannerism of some of our so called leaders. One of our so called elderly statesman - I am sure about the "elderly" part but am not too sure about the "statesman" part - reflected this neglect a day or two ago by claiming, among others, that the holocaust had failed as a final solution. I do not have to elaborate more on this. As we lawyers say in Courts, res ipsa loquitor, the facts speak for themselves.

Thirdly, the attacks are the culmination of ultra-nationalistic - read, racist - stance taken by some of our so called leaders. Racism in Malaysia is insidious. That is because it is tacitly supported or even encouraged by governmental policies and actions or at the very least quietly acquiesced by the powers that be.  It is further muddied by the equation of a particular religion to a particular race. Thus we have a situation of interchanging nationalistic-pseudo-religiosity stance whenever certain issues are raised.

Issues which are perceived to be against Islam would be viewed as against the Malay race. And vice versa. This inter-play between religion and race gives racism in Malaysia a deeper and more insidious effect on our society. Suffice if I say that the fuse has been lighted and we should not wait to find out the exact length of that fuse.

When I was in the university, the concern was racial segragation and polarisation. That has however transformed into a full blown racial intolerance and marking of racial (and religious) territory. Soon, if not treated, hatred would set in. And God helps us in that event.

There must be an honest approach to this problem. And a fully consistent one. It does not help for a leader to cavort and emphatise with the plight of some cow head stomping group on one hand and on the other to set out to spray acid laced water on peaceful demonstrators against the ISA. It does not help for the police to arrest some candle carrying men and women sitting in some car parks while at the same time a threatened demonstration in some mosques were deemed alright unless "national security is threatened."

That kind of inconsistencies result in credibility deficiency. And when the authorities lack credibility or is perceived as lacking in credibility, no amount of earnestness or even honesty could make up for its credibility crisis. That is why nowadays many have grown cynical about every actions taken by the authorities, especially the police, the MACC and even the Courts.

At the core of our social cancers is our school and education system. We are so deep in our misplaced emphasis on getting as many A grade as possible that we forget to imbue our little ones with the concept of nation building and racial integration in our schools. A famous person once told me that a school in Bangsar even had a racial profile on the games played in school where the Malays would play football, the Chinese, basketball and the Indians, hockey not long ago.

Back in Pengajian Islam classes, we have ustaz and ustazah who see absolutely no problem in prying into the privacy of a student's family by asking students whose parents do not pray at home to put up their hands. This actually happened to a neighbour of mine who actually went to the school to complain to the ustazah for doing so.

Racial segregation and polarisation are further made worse by a culture of exclusionism perpetrated by our religious authorities. The banning of the usage of certain Arabic - and I choose the word Arabic deliberately as these words are not Islamic words but Arabic - words from being used by non-Muslims is but an example of this culture of exclusionism. That serves to isolate the Muslims from other religions and consequently the Malays from other races.

Day in and day out, Muslims - and hence, the Malays - are reminded that we are different from the others. That we have different - and more - rights than the others. That we are always weak and under siege. That we have to unite so that we are stronger. Day in and day out we have this imaginary bogeyman following us, always trying to confuse us, always trying to take our rights and what is ours, always waiting to exploit our weaknesses.

We are a threatened race. We are a besieged  race. And we have to be aware of this. And we have to treat "them", the bogeyman, with extra caution.

This is the disease permeating the air which we all breathe now.

The attacks on the churches are just but a small symptom of this disease.

The police, the MACC, the FRUs, the RELA and whatever NGOs that we have are not in a single position to treat this disease.

It is in us to do something about it. And it is for the government to take an honest lead.


Kris said...

Hear hear my friend. Well said as always.

Cruzeiro said...

It isn't just leaders but also "Intellectual prostitutes" who further damage this country .
Take Shad Faruqi for instance - this Pakistani portrays himself as an expert on Malaysian "norms", and says that "sometimes, (constitutional) rights have to give way .... (to emotions/sensitivities)".
When we have people like him pandering to thuggery, instead of standing up for the Federal Constitution, in is obvious that we're in dangerous territory.
I'd Pick Azmi Sharom over Shad Faruqi- Anyday .......http://cruzinthots.blogspot.com/2010/01/id-pick-azmi-sharom-over-shad-faruqi.html

Salambangi said...

Dear Tarzan

It is quite inaccurate to say that racial segregation and polarization are aggravated by religious authorities. They are not compounding the racial problem but merely putting forth their theological interpretation of what reality is.For Muslims, there is no compromises on this. Deliberating or acquiescing the legalistic way is not the proper mechanism to adopt.

These authorities are not practicing exclusionism as accused when they restrict the use of some so called Arabic words in the Malaysian context.They are merely pointing out the religious semantic aspect of the context in a particular situation. This is NOT promoting the culture of exclusion.This is to make sure that they are used in a proper manner and context. A lawyer like you might not have enough Islamic credentials and experiences to elucidate religious matters.

If you had read SI Hayakawa Language in Thought and Action you would have realized that words have an extraordinary power to inluence people.Dont ever underestimate the power of words.

On another note,sad to say that your writing has become more like Jeremy Clarkson's but still eruditely acceptable. Hope that not your attitude still remains religiously positive.

Anonymous said...


Much as I am impressed and humbled that another Malay brother has articulated what a non-Malay couldn't in this country, I wonder if perhaps such articulations should have reached a wider audience of the Malay community who do not read English blogs.

A large section of the Malay community who cast their vote in each general election are the very ones who are in need of such information and "education", if I may use this word.

Failure to get the message across to them will not result in any change in the way Malaysians behave towards each other.

And that is surely very very sad for each and every one of us, isn't it?

Perhaps it is time to really reach out to the rural heartland, where it matters most.


art harun said...

Dear Anon @ 13:87,

I do acknowledge what you stated. However frankly I have neither the ability nor the time to translate ( I am real lousy at translation)my articles. I will try writing in BM more.
Perhaps Assoc Prof Salambangi could help me translating some of my articles pro bono.

art harun said...

Dear Assoc Prof Salambangi,

Thanking for reading my article and taking the time for commenting on it.
As for Jeremy Clarkson, well, as you know, every writer has his or her Clarkson moment and I am no exception. Glad to find out that you still find my article "eruditely acceptable" as I for one don't think Mr Clarkson's writing even remotely eruditely acceptable. But then again, I know that you love car magazines. Each man's for himself then.
On exclusionism and your point that the religious authorities are just putting semantics in context, I can't help but notice that only Muslims in Malaysia seem to have a problem with Allah being used by non-Muslims.
I hope it doesn't become a trend of sorts because I really do not want to see Christians claiming the tasbih/rosary belongs to them and therefore ought not to be used by Muslims for fear of confusing them. I also do not want to see Christians protesting against the Muslims usage of the word "Amin/amen" at the end of a prayer.

Anonymous said...

Salam, Encik Harun,

It would be nice to have your esteemed opinion added to the following link:


Terima Kasih !

Fahri said...

Eloquently expressed as always bro. Spot on about how the political elite Malays are quite happy to use communal(Malay) and religious (Muslim) interests to perpetuate their hegemony. Am glad that you pointed the hypocrisy UMNO where this is concerned - they are Malays when it suits them and Muslim when it doesn't, and actually don't come any closer to either. If at all, UMNO appears to have improved on their colonial masters strategy of divide and conquer. Before we have even untangled the racial mess, they have got us all into a religious mess.

I just wonder when the majority of the disenfranchised, non-cable connected, and ordinary Malays are going to wake up to the fact that their leaders have betrayed them in the worse possible way. When are they going to realize that their leaders are actually worse than the English! At least they left us a superb civil service, a respected and admired judiciary (pre-1988 of course), a solid foundation for an education system, etc. These fellas are dismantling all that leaving only its illusion.

The British may have left, but colonialism has not left Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

The chicken are coming home to roost,
This should give you a hint of things to come, How all Malaysians will be tarred by the same brush.
Forbes article titled;

Anonymous said...

bullseye..every point. However, if we are to depend on our so called leaders to take the cue i guess we can forget it as we have time and time again seen one leader after another dismantling and ruddering this nation to destruction.

Anonymous said...

The powers that be keep talking about the tolerance issue. But shouldn't Malaysians be talking about Acceptance? Tolerance is usually associated with having to put up with nuisance or discomfort, whereas Acceptance is what an ideal family practices, a saying in the christian good book mentioned "Love covers a multitude of sins". We as anak anak bangsa malaysia should accept each other - in our sub-cultures, in our personal beliefs, etc, in all common civil existence.

Anonymous said...

As has been noted among the comments, a shallow inarticulate governmnent cannot be expected to take the lead!

Can you perhaps suggest what we can do about this without waiting for the government or the next GE!


Anonymous said...

dear art,
every post is an enlightenment for me. good writing and choice of words.
keep it up!

rob said...

Dear Aunty Art

Some people with headgear told me that i cannot use the word "Allah".

This morning i passed by a school, stopped because i had to sing along the state anthem. I paused because there is a line with the "A" word.

Will the Government deport me or do i lose my citizenship for not singing the state anthem and hence "derhaka"?

what shall i do?

Shah Alam

teo siew chin said...

Art Harun's flair for the language is perhaps a tad simplified in this particular article - and so it should be, considering the targeted audience.

Simple sikit lagi, manglish aje bleh jugak and mayhaps Art's profound messages will reach all and sundry. His movie-star looks helps too ^^.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Suess' "The Sneetches" should be required reading in all Malaysian Primary schools.

eiling lim said...

Very well expressed. There is indeed more than meets the eye. I find the inconsistency of image that Malaysia is trying to potray to the world appalling. First of all, we claimed that M'sia is truly asia, we from different races live in harmony, friendly and all. Then we were reported to have people burning churches and the cow sacrilege drama. I wonder what others were thinking when they see our tourism ads? It's indeed a calling for us Malaysians to wake up and start teaching our younger generations what racial tolerance & respect is all about!

Anyways, you spoke very well at the SABM forum yesterday. It was an eye-opening experience for me.

Joshua said...

Let's face it, Art. The truth is simple and concise, deep and profound at the same time.

Only people of sound intellect and spiritual insight (such as a 6 year old child or a 70 year granddad) can see it:

Apart from the problematic definition of Malay=Muslim, the reason politics and Islam have become so intertwined is also because there is a great chasm between the clergy and the laity in Islamic Malaysia.

We have the Uztaz pronouncing their God-approved wisdom from their pedestals while the layman followers just listen and do not make them accountable. In such situations, you can have a religious guy pray five times a day but mistreat his wife/children.

Hence, authoritarianism in religion has merged smoothly with political facsism and cultural chauvinism.

I agree with you, the change must begin in us. If we, of the 1940-1960s generation, give up out of fatigue or moral defeat, then how will the younger children cope with this two-headed monster called facsist-theocracy which has risen its ugly head so many times in recent times?

The birth of a new nation beckons .. whether it is a painful or a joyful one is up to us citizens.

ajoyly said...

Right on. This is a negative and destructive culture. In the end it would retard Malays from excelling in all fields of human endeavour and instead becoming an insular race.

Like China and the Chinese before Deng Xiaopeng introduced the concept of an 'Open Society', China was inward looking. Everything must be done the Chinese way, culture, commerce, industry etc..

At what price! China's development was way behind Malaysia's. Then China changed, it became a cosmopolitan nation and within a decade its economy is second only to the U.S.A..

Malaysia can also do the same, our country need revamping. And we have already got the instrument, 1Malaysia/Bangsa Malaysia to help us.

UMNO must understand that the other races also have aspiration in wanting to improve theirs' and their families' position financially or otherwise.

UMNO must therefore ensure that more opportunities are given to non-Malays in education, senior and top posts in government agencies as well as in the police and armed forces.

Their skills, experiences, knowledge etc. must be tapped and utilised to help the country move further up in the status of a developed country. These resources should not be ignored. As there are reports stating that non-Malay Malaysians are playing a crucial role in the economic, industrial and commercial life of their adopted countries.

UMNO must realised as pillars of the government, it plays a very important part in determining the survival of Malaysia as an economy and as a nation.

In the same manner,the best brains of the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Bajaus, Ibans, Melanaus etc. should be heads of both governmental and private enterprises. Smartness and capability are not the monopoly of any particular race.

UMNO must be realistic that Singapore has benefitted from recruiting qualified Malaysians into their society. Giving them privileges and citizenship. It is a fact that Malaysians has contributed greatly to Singapore's position as a regional power house.

During the British era, the non- Malays also contributed to the economic boom of Malaya.

What is being said here is that UMNO must acknowledged the role of the non-Malays in contributing to the robust financial health of the country both pre and post independent period and up to the present time.

If there are elements within UMNO that are against this pragmatic policy, then the UMNO leadership must take a firm stand. And ensure that practicality and reality must win.

Because Malaysia is a plural society, it cannot afford to create a discord among the different races.

UMNO's foremost responsibility is to make certain that the brightest, the cream of all the different races, Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Bajau, Iban, Melanau etc. are given prominent function to ensure that Malaysia's financial position remains strong and viable.

This is UMNO's Leadership greatest challenge and if this is achieved UMNO would have redeemed itself.

It will not only become the champion of the Malays but also the non-Malays.

And the key to such success is UMNO's multiracial concept of making sure, every Malaysian has the opportunity to better themselves in whatever area of industry.

Anonymous said...

Politics (symptom) and Religion (disease) makes a BAD concoction. Too volatile, and should certainly be avoided!

This is happening in both, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Politics should be scorned and Religion revered.

victor chin said...

you may like to check out this saya anak bangsa Malaysia video


Anonymous said...

Bila church kena bakar,… bertempiaran umat yang kononnya Islam macam kau ni mintak maaf pada pihak Kristian bagi pihak aku.

Bila masjid aku kena baling dengan kepala babi, ada umat Kristian mintak maaf pada orang Islam yang tengah berapi menanggung marah ni…..?

Ada mintak derma?

Ada mintak maaf?

Sial betul.


p.s. kalo ko tak nak back up aku pun takpe..

Raison D'etre said...

Dear Art,
Permit me to answer a post by Azhar:

Ok la cam tu: Kita tunjuklah kata umat Islam punya "standard of tolerance" macamana.

Tinggi menyayup.

Nak mengharap orang lain stand up untuk umat Islam, buat apa?

Tak payah nak mintak - mintak. Kalau sapa2 express sokongan / bantah apa yang lahant2 tu buat, kita terima.

Apa payah kita nak mintak2 pulak?

Umat Islam cuma mintak pada satu Yang Esa. Yang lain sama taraf.

Tak gitu, Har?

Thanks, Art.

BTW: I've always pondered on this facet of our community:

"We are a threatened race. We are a besieged race. And we have to be aware of this. And we have to treat "them", the bogeyman, with extra caution."

Isn't this trait so much like that loved so much by a much maligned group of (global) people?

(Not naming them, though, but you should catch my drift, I hope...)

Anonymous said...

Your writing is crystal clear and logical. I feel it would appeal to some young non-English speaking Malays. This should be your target audience.

I have been following your blogging and cannot help but notice that most of the people who comment appeared educated and broad-minded. They already share your views (so do I).

To be impactful you need to reach those who would one day paint the Malaysian landscape. These are the BM-speaking lot!

The same with Marina, she is bipartisan and has good ideas but sadly, like you, she does not reach the target audience.

I really hope someone conversant in both English and BM will come forward to help translate for you.

merdeka2 said...


I'd say...wait a moment please.
Yes.. Art writings (Yes sir, your writing are quite impressive) but on the other hand - we (the malay masses speaking)are not. A lot still thinks UMNO is right... even when their admit some action taken by the govt lead by UMNO .. is WRONG.

As an example ..

When the oil price went up, why the govt+UMNO still get away with it? And how about all the STUPID act/law that the govt enforced liked the 3rd Red Light on vehicles, selt belt is compulsory for passengers (why only cars and not busses?) And the recent one involving chip built-in fish container... This UMNO tank-team really do know how to raise money .. the easy way around. Just make a new law whom their spouses make the item/service, and then let loose (and we regardless of races or religion..need to dig deep into OUR pockets.. paying with our hard earned money)

To sum it all, get a better audience first.. then the rest will follow...

p/s - forgive me for my long rambling (or was it mumbling?)