For those Malaysians who had hoped for UMNO Youth leaders to sober up and to take a wider world-view in their political approach would have enough reasons to be dissappointed. Not only that some of the leaders, especially UMNO Youth Chief Hishammuddin Hussein, wanted the Malay special rights and the position of Islam not to be challenged, they also demanded for the Bumiputera corporate equity to be raised to 7o% instead of the current 30%.
Hishammuddin made some atrocious demands:
- On Syariah courts should be allowed to hear and judge cases involving Islam, not the civil courts. What about in cases which involve a non-Muslim as a party? At present, there is no avenue for them to seek justice. This is contrary to a just democratic system. Malaysians must reject theocratic rule!
- No to Interfaith Commission. UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott came to Malaysia to 'study' Malaysia's model of IFC which he said was a success! He must have gotten the wrong information from his embassy.
- No to any debate on race and religion. The irony is some of the UMNO Youth leaders made racist statements at the gathering.
Read what Farish Noor's view on this issue
At a time when the nation should be thinking of new ways of re-imagining itself and its place in the world, it is sad - nay, pathetic - that such narrow-mindedness should prevail among some of its political elite. While the younger generation of New Malaysians are looking for ways and means to bridge the divisions of race, ethnicity, language and religion, the old guards are still harping on about the good old days and the good old ways when this land was referred to as 'Tanah Melayu' (Land of the Malays). So once again we are brought back to the homespun colonial fictions of the not-too-pleasant colonial past.
How long can this fragile balance be maintained before the very socio-cultural fabric of Malaysia rips itself asunder? Faced with the realities of a globalising world where parochialism of any form - be it religious or ethnic-racial - would be detrimental to the health and future of a nation-in-making, the falsehood that is at the heart of Malaysia's racialised political culture has to be exposed for what it is.
Ethno-nationalist politicians will undoubtedly find it hard to change their spots and stop themselves from playing to the gallery. The clarion call of'the Malays in danger' rings sweet in the ears of those conservative ethno-nationalists for whom the keris is a potent symbol of power and hegemony.
But Malaysian society today is more complex, plural and hybrid than ever; and it is the complexity of Malaysia that may well save it in the long run, opening up cultural and historical bridges to other countries (not to mention the rising Asian economies of India and China) in turn.
Malaysians must use the ballot box to determine the kind of government they want for themselves and their children. Ethno-nationalism is a deadly political tool. Play with it and it burns you.
SAY NO TO RACISM!