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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Merdeka(?) Message

Merdeka and the Cow-Head Lesson
Many Malaysians of all faiths and race were shocked, angered
and saddened by the “Cow-Head protest” in Shah Alam last Friday, 28
August 09, against a proposed Hindu temple in Section 23 of the city.

The carrying of the head of a freshly slaughtered cow, a sacred animal to
Hindus, and blatant threats of shedding blood on the eve of the nation’s low-key
Merdeka celebrations suggest that all Malaysians need to reflect deeply
about our 52 years of nationhood, and whether the Barisan Nasional’s new slogan of 1Malaysia has any meaning at all in the context of such incidents.

This criminal act led and perpetrated by irresponsible UMNO division and branch level leaders must NEVER be seen as a conflict between the two faiths or the
two faith communities. All major spiritual traditions, Islam and
Hinduism included, uphold peace and human dignity as their common and
core values. These core values certainly include an affirmation of peace, mutual respect and universal love concomitant with an abhorrence of all expressions of hatred and violence.

The Shah Alam incident shows again the ugly politics of violence and hate that has previously been displayed by UMNO leaders. It shows us yet again that in the UMNO moral compass, such tactics are still legitimate for their immediate political purposes – in this case, to put pressure and attempt to destabilize the Pakatan Rakyat Selangor government.
Malaysians must unite to condemn and delegitimize violence and hatred to prevent any individual or grouping from resorting to intimidation or provocation when faced with such town-planning or similar disputes.
Such disputes in civil society must be resolved through
peaceful means such as peaceful demonstrations, rational dialogues,
extensive consultations and legal suits, if all the previous methods fail. The Selangor State Government’s plan to hold a town hall meeting to facilitate
communication and engagement with all stakeholders is highly

It must be pointed out that the fact that a particular area has a majority population of one religion cannot and ought not be advanced as a reason per se to prevent the building of places of worship for other religions. Such an approach would destroy the fabric of our multi-racial and religious nation. Such an approach would only be championed by persons who intend social conflict – not social resolution. Leaders such as Nik Aziz have repeatedly pointed out that it is the duty of those who govern to ensure protection and freedom for other religions and faiths whilst upholding their own.
Our country has numerous examples of mosques and suraus in areas with non-Muslim majority populations. Similarly, there are equally numerous examples of places of worship of other religions in areas with large Muslim majorities. We take pride in the fact that in Malaysia, different places of worship can line up on the same street as a testament to the universality of man’s spiritual needs.
We must all jointly condemn in the strongest possible language any act to humiliate and intimidate any ethno-religious community, in this case the irreligious and irresponsible display of a cow head. In the Shah Alam incident,
not only are Hindus hurt and insulted but also all right-thinking
Malaysians of other faiths – Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Sikh, those of other
spiritual traditions and also atheists.
These bigoted perpetrators must be identified and condemned. Every racial and religious bigot should be shamed and distanced not only by the general public but also especially by their own religious community they seek to represent.
UMNO must therefore take disciplinary action against all its division and branch leaders involved in inciting such hatred and violence. This would deprive them the pleasure and gratification of self-righteousness and heroism that they may be misguidedly seeking. If no such action is taken, UMNO cannot complain when it is inferred that the party condones such irresponsible and criminal behavior.
Legal punishment alone may prove inadequate because it may instead grant the offenders the self-perceived honour of martyrdom. Police prosecutions for unlawful assembly or sedition miss the point completely and are also oppressive in themselves. Any prosecution should only be for incitement of hate and violence against another religion which is provided for in the Penal Code.
We appreciate that the Shah Alam police force have expressed regret, albeit somewhat belatedly, that their officers stood by and watched when these shocking acts were perpetrated in front of their eyes. However, there must be accountability for this serious omission.
An independent investigation must be held on why such a shocking omission took place. Was this because UMNO division leaders were present during the incident? Why were the police providing immunity to such persons? This incident among others further highlights the dire importance and urgent need for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). The IPCMC is a must if the Najib Administration is genuinely committed to peace in Malaysia.

All Malaysians must join hands to completely delegitimize
violence and hatred and to strive towards its elimination from our
public life. Let this be our joint resolution today for our nation’s 52nd
Merdeka anniversary.

Sivarasa Rasiah
Vice-President, Parti Keadilan Rakyat
Member of Parliament for Subang
31st August 2009

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