Ioannis Gatsiounis

Resisting the Impulse, Reviving the Spirit

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2010 at 7:21 am

February 2, 2010

The pig heads left at two mosques last week in Petaling Jaya were a blatant and tasteless attempt to provoke the Malay community. So far the Malays have collectively taken the high road, resisting the temptation to respond in kind.

Let’s hope, not just for Malaysia’s but the Malays’ sake, the trend continues. This would help redeem the community’s image, which took a blow after the recent church attacks. It would also reaffirm the Malay value of restraint, which has been challenged over the years amid a messy socio-political and racio-religious landscape and geopolitical tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Malay resentments have grown as an affirmative action program for them has not achieved its aims 20 years after its initial expiration date; as their race-based “parental” party, UMNO, has failed to deliver principled, visionary leadership and edify the Malays; as Malaysia’s other races haven’t exactly adopted a pro-active stance toward healing racial friction – and as more Malays turn to race and religion to redress their anxiety about the cold, competitive realities of the modern world.

Evidence of this resentment, that nasty abrasive that threatens restraint, can be found in everything from that retreat toward a more conservative Islam to the mat rempit phenomenon; in the racist conduct of some quarters of UMNO; in the reportedly 250, 000 people who have signed an online petition on Facebook protesting the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims; and in the number of cases involving groups of Malay youths attacking lone foreigners.

Now, there will be those Malays who add the abhorrent pig-head(ed) crimes to a list of slights against Muslims (first Christians demand the right to use the word Allah, now this!) to rationalize a violent response. There will be those who point to verses in the Qur’an to stake their revenge. There will be those who claim anything short of retaliation will make the Malays appear weak; the Malays must never appear weak, lest they be colonized once more.

To internalize the perceived offenses this way and act out on them will further isolate and damage the reputation of the Malays. It will obscure the community’s many redeeming qualities. It will impact the community’s self-esteem and thus its trajectory.

Moreover, it will further tarnish the image of Muslims worldwide.

By contrast sustained restraint will deliver a powerful message – to Malays, to Malaysians and the Muslim world: there is another way, and we will lead by example.

I am not suggesting here that the radical actions of a few should shape opinions about the Malays and the feelings they hold of themselves, just that they will, and this will influence their destiny.

Nor am I implying that Malays should take the acts of hate lying down. They along with their fellow Malaysians should press to bring those responsible to justice. Same goes for the temple and church attackers.

Preserving the collective restraint, though, will be a small but important step to securing a positive future for the Malays, and for Malaysia.

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  1. “There will be those who point to verses in the Qur’an to stake their revenge” – there is not a verse in Quran that allow the use of violence against another beings except which is outlined in the Quran as justifiable.

    So far, the government has successfully curbed the act of violence among people of different races. One must admit, this is a very difficult (if not impossible) task to be undertaken.

    I am proud to be Malaysian for, the attacks could be more damaging than what it appears to be. One cannot disregard the racial friction (as you suggest) but, it appears that Malaysians agree these attacks and other issues are only small matters that one can overlook for the sake of maintaining harmony and trust among each other.

    Further, being an Islamic country, the government has every right to defend the honor of the religion it upholds.

    The people of Malaysia’s collective restraint is undeniably very strong, though many irresponsible quarters try to shake this restraint, so far, they have not succeeded. Let’s just hope, Malaysia will stay peaceful.

    • Farhan,
      Thanks for your comment.

      However, a few points should be clarified. Malaysia is not officially an Islamic country. It has a majority Muslim population, with sizable minority communities, and the constitution is essentially secular (with a dollop of monarchism thrown in). It is the government’s responsibility to uphold the rights of all citizens regardless of their racial and religious orientation – as outlined by the secular constitution.

      Secondly, your comment implies that violence that the Qur’an justifies is not in some instances revenge. Revenge is, simply, retaliation for a perceived wrong. And the Qur’an allows for that in a number of instances. A few examples are contained in the following link:
      http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/023-violence.htm

      My hopes are aligned with yours – that Malaysia stays peaceful. So far, fortunately, Muslims and non-Muslims are helping ensure that, but the work ahead, amid increasing tensions, cannot be underestimated. Nor can the urgent need for change, in attitudes among the rakyat and leadership, for peace and prosperity to be ensured.

      Thank you for your comments and interest.
      Peace,
      I.G.

  2. thanx for responding..

    It is clearly written in Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution states that ‘Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation’.

    What is the meaning of peace and harmony? It means, other people who profess different faiths are still allowed to practice their religions here. In addition to this, there are few conditions outline: 1st, those who profess other faiths must not break the law, second, they must not try to compete with the Islamic status being the religion of the federation, and thirdly, they must not interfere with the Islamic affairs of the country.

    Next, there is this Social Contract that has been for some particular reason being ignored. It is stated that: (1) Islam as the federation religion; (2) Bahasa Melayu is the national language; (3) Absolute Monarchy; and (4) the Malays and bumiputeras have special privileges.

    I must also agree with you with regards to the increasing tension among the Muslims and non-Muslims. What would you suggest then, would be the best formula to unite these Muslims and non-Muslims who comprise of different belief systems, languages, cultures, and educational backgrounds?

    Rgds

  3. Hello there,
    It’s interesting that Farhan brought up the social contract into the discussion. I’ve did some reading and what was written above on social contract is actually true.
    Now, what happened in Malaysia nowadays doesn’t reflect the agreement made in the social contract by the Malays and non-Malays. One can easily see why. 10 to 20 years after Malaysia’s independence, Malaysian had lived in peace and harmony because the people then understood the social contract quite well. They respected and adhered the contract.
    But now, the young Malaysian generation doesn’t even know the existence of the social contract, causing more and more trouble for Malaysia. Really hope Ioannis could go to further discussion on regards of the social contract.
    Thanks

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