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.