The long fuse leading to the church fire bombings

Written by Dr Lim Teck Ghee
Sunday, 10 January 2010

Allah says: “Had not Allah Check and Balance the aggression and excesses of one set or group of people by means of another, there would surely have been destruction of monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundance…..” (Hajj, Chapter 22, verse 40).

A long lighted fuse led to the fire bombings. These were not isolated events done on sudden impulse. This was a part of the political calculus of racist and religiously bigoted leaders to drive home to their opponents that they can at any time incite their followers to whatever actions necessary to demonstrate their might and power.
This was a result of the long time pandering by Umno leaders to the extreme religious right wing. This was a predictable outcome given the mantra fed by some of the country’s leaders to the Malays Muslims that they are a privileged and protected community, not subject to the laws and norms of our country when their ‘interests come under threat’.

This will continue to be a burning fuse kept alight by extremists feeding the public the delusion that Islam in Malaysia is faced by all kinds of imaginary enemies.
In the next few days and weeks, I have no doubt that the Umno and Government spin machinery will move into overdrive. At one level there will be public denials of any Umno involvement and responsibility for these acts of religious intolerance and hostility against Christians. Appeals for calm and reassurances will follow prominently in the non-Malay papers. In the Malay vernacular press and Malay electronic media though, other messages will be subtly and not so subtly articulated. Among these that no one s hould mess around with the Malay guardians of the Muslim faith and the primacy of Islam and that no one should question the special position of the Malays and Islam – these are sensitive issues best left to Umno and its proxies to implement as they see reasonable.
The art of doublespeak will undoubtedly be raised to higher levels. This time though, Umno and its minions will not get away so easily. The long reach of the Internet and its indestructible memory power enables us to construct this roll of dishonour of those leaders who through their individual or collective acts – knowingly or unknowingly – are bringing the country to the brink.

In Roll of Dishonour

Dr Mahathir for shifting the political goal posts in 2001 by pronouncing Malaysia as an Islamic state at Gerakan’s 30th National Conference in September 2001
Dollah Badawi for his empty Islamic Hadhari rhetoric and spurning of the inter-faith dialogue
Minister Syed Hamid Albar for signing a directive on March 1, 2009 prohibiting the use of the word ‘Allah’ in Christian publications and withholding Herald’s publishing permit to gain political points for himself and Umno
Home Affairs Minister Hishammddin Hussein for lowering the bar further in applying the rule of law equally
Mukhriz Mahathir for following in his father’s footsteps of opportunism on race and religion when it suits his political agenda
Khairy Jamaluddin for being a keris-waving copycat and generally following in his father-in-law’s footsteps of promising much and delivering little
AG Gani Patail for exemplary political sycophancy in support of Umno’s agenda whatever the costs to the country
Awang Selamat, Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah and Utusan Malaysia propagandists for driving a wedge between the various races
Umno Youth’s New Media unit Facebook administrators and cybertroopers for attempting to poison the minds of young Malays and Muslims about the threat to the Malays and Islam
Various notable Islamic intellectuals for their deafening silence which has allowed the rabble rousers to dominate the religious discourse
Barisan Nasional Cabinet members and leaders who have turned the other cheek not because they believe in the pacifist doctrine of responding to an aggressor without violence but simply for political opportunism and self-gain
The Star, New Straits Times and other mainstream papers for lack of journalistic ethics in the failure to draw attention to the rise of political party-related religious and right wing extremism

In Roll of Honour

On the bright side, we have good leaders and many good people who have tried to promote harmonious and equitable relations between the various religions. In this list below, we pay tribute to some for their courage in standing up and speaking out on behalf of the rights and freedoms of all religions and the universal values that bind them.

## Moderate Muslim leaders such as Khalid Samad, Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad, Dr Mohd Nur Manuty and others who have spoken out individually or have lent their support to various parties and civil society groups in decrying Islamic intolerance and extremism.

PAS must hold on to its Islamic principles to stand for ‘Justice for All’ and now fight to defend the sanctity of places of worship as demanded in the above quoted Chapter of Pilgrimage (Al-Hajj), verse 40.
Rather than championing the exclusive usage of the name of ‘Allah’ for Malay-Muslims, PAS together with her Pakatan component parties must wage an all-out attack on Umno on the narrow racial approach of Malay hegemony, perversion of power, the spread of corruption, the plunder of the nation’s wealth and the repression of the people’s rights, which are all in total contradiction with and diametrically opposed to Islam.
Herald editor Father Andrew Lawrence and publishers of the newsletter for holding firm to the freedom of worship for all Malaysians through their refusal to knuckle under despite enormous pressure from the state and its extremist allies
Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism for refusing to give up on their efforts to establish an inter-faith dialogue
Marina Mahathir for her constant advocacy of religious good sense and tolerance
Sisters of Islam who have not been intimidated by the numerous police reports made against them by religious extremists bent on pushing their rigid and intolerant version of Islam
PKR and PAS leaders for refusing to put political expediency ahead of higher principles of morality and ethics
Activist bloggers including those who have stepped into the lion’s den of Islamic activist mobilizers using the Facebook to correct the misinformation about Christianity and Islam posted there
Hindraf for its path-breaking efforts in mobilizing the Indian community and other Malaysians in standing up for religious and minority freedoms and rights

What next

PM Najib Razak may have been accused of many failings but he has not in the past been faulted for religious intolerance or for hiding behind a false religious front to mobilize political support. One of the cornerstones of 1Malaysia if it is to survive has to be religious peace and harmony. This requires him not only to reassure all Malaysians that the government does not practice double standards in the nation’s religious rights and freedoms but also to act immediately to purge extremist and intolerant religious and racist hardliners and opportunistic leaders who are engaged in torching his vision for the country.