An open letter to non-Malays
by: Dato' Salehuddin Hashim | Mar 12, 04 8:57am
So according to Umno die-hards, the party will definitely be making a comeback among the Malay electorate in the coming general elections because Anwar Ibrahim is no longer a relevant election issue. That is understandable coming from the very people who had wrongly opined that Malays forget easily. How they wish that both are true.
No sir, we have not forgotten Anwar or the way he has been treated. If we are seen to be a bit muted in our expression of anger and regret, it is only because we are convinced that it is futile to reason with people whose opulent lifestyle depends solely on the plunder of public funds in the name of ‘ketuanan politik Melayu’.
The Malay grassroots are now acutely aware of the excesses of Umno politicians, both of their material self-interest and their desperation to silence critics. And for a brief moment in the aftermath of Anwar's trial, Malays sensed the commonalities in the sufferings of the various races, and that had resulted in a multi-racial opposition front. That sensibility still lingers awaiting the leadership of its cause celebre.
This time around, Malays will not be voting purely out of anger. In many ways, the Anwar saga has reminded us of the things that in reality have always mattered to us - human decency, the transient nature of life, and the frailty of human existence.
Others need not fear these holistic undertones. That it may transgress the rights of others is the favourite bogeyman of Umno stalwarts whose claim to civility includes prolonging the ISA, OSA, UUCA, Printing Presses and Publications Act, which in reality are already curtailing the civil liberties of Malaysians.
Non-Muslims are rightly apprehensive of a doctrine that is yet to have a chance to be presented to them with clarity. That is understandable. But the Malay polity must first find its own level before others may pass judgement. It is part of the process of philosophical reassessment that we need to go through in order for us to look to the future with dignity and earn the mutual respect of fellow Malaysians. It is a re-awakening which even Umno cannot stop.
In any event, inasmuch as the more extreme of us would prefer a theocracy, the electoral numbers are just not there. What is even more glaring is that even among most Malays, it is not a considered option. Let not the proliferation of headscarves and skullcaps scare you. These do not require deep Islamic jurisprudential thought to adopt.
In Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia, among many other Muslim-majority countries where the percentages of Muslim population are far greater than in Malaysia, theocracy remains
on the backburner. Iran is one, but by default - excesses and brutality of the Shah era had compelled them to resort to a convenient escape route that many Iranians are already regretting.
So perhaps, non-Muslim Malaysians would be doing us all a favour if they help us to stop Umno-bred diseases before despondency tempt us to look for unthinkable alternatives.
One way to do that is to allow us the space to seek a comfortable Muslim identity. Let the discord that normally accompanies such fundamental soul-searching be confined to intra-community discourse, lest it be misunderstood as interference by the ‘enemy’. Who knows? After all this, other Malaysians might even like us better. And for the right reasons!
That is part of the Anwar legacy. He could have easily been accepted into the highest echelons of PAS leadership but he chose to build from scratch a multi-racial and multi-religious platform that is Parti Keadilan. That is truly why the establishment fears him. A re-inventing of Malay modern political thought based on Islamic integrity would render obsolete the BN's collusion of convenience and connivance of neo-colonial elites.
For those who have chosen to listen, Anwar's call is for mutual respect that is based on Malay-Muslim political leadership. However, the ‘M’ in his ‘Muslim’ has little to do with malaise, mismatched materialism and the maligning of others - symptoms from which many Malays now believe that Umno is suffering.
With all that gerrymandering highlighted by malaysiakini, BN's victory in this general election is a foregone conclusion. But let's not chalk that up to Malays having forgotten Anwar. Try tallying the Malay votes that Umno will be receiving with the votes when Anwar was an Umno leader.
For as long as Anwar remains an icon for reforms, he will never be forgotten. Neither will his call for justice and a civil society be divorced from the everyday life of fair-thinking Malaysians. Because of Anwar's expose, Malays will never look up to Umno the way they did before. Because of the Anwar saga, the Malays have dared to shed the docility that plagued them before.
It is poetic justice that it is the man who was the prime cause of the rot in Umno that is almost forgotten already, as if the public can't wait to be done with his extravagance, arrogance and hyperbole.