Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Shaking Things Up

When things get shaken up, we really see where the chips fall.

Najib and Abdullah end up supporting two concepts: that Malaysians just aren't civilized enough to sit and discuss things freely, and that the Bar Council is somehow responsible for offending the feelings of bigots and racists. Sad, but not exactly surprising.

The real change is that progressive Malays are able and willing to stand out from a silent majority, like Karim Raslan. It's a brave stance to take, but if I could add a little something on the idea of "Malay supremacy" that keeps getting placed in the picture. People who are confident in their "supremacy" tend to be confident enough not to be threatened by free speech. A farmer with enough cows doesn't worry if his neighbour has fatter cows, ok?

Speaking of livestock, Farid A. Noor came up with an interesting piece of satire, focusing on the racial slur "Babi... balik Cina" ("Pig... go back to China). The amusing side of the whole pathetic affair is that while the forum had little to do with discouraging conversion to Islam, the protest will end up having backfired. Think about it - the next time someone of Chinese ethnicity is put in a position to decide on whether to convert to Islam, he or she will remember where "Babi... balik Cina" came from - a extremist and extremely vocal part of the Islamic community whose views and actions are supported by our dear PM and DPM.

People like Ong Ka Ting and Chua Ju Meng are going to get a few political points for being able to break away from their Umno counterparts on this issue. It remains to be seen whether this is the start of some real independence within the Barisan Nasional ranks, and whether their voices will still ring out if the Home Ministry acts against the Bar Council.

On the other side of the political fence, it also remains to be seen whether Anwar will suffer from sitting on the fence on this issue. After all, he has so many of us roused up with his "angkat Melayu, angkat India, angkat Cina" (raise the Malays, raise the ethnic Indians, raise the ethnic Chinese) theme, and his lukewarm response on this thus far leaves much to be desired. He may save some of the votes in his upcoming by-election in a predominantly Malay constituency, but perhaps at the risk of losing some confidence of voters in the larger picture. Eyes will also be on whether voices like those of Lim Kit Siang's will be sufficiently influential to ensure that the stance of the Pakatan Rakyat as a whole remains faithful to their large non-Bumi support.

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