MALAYSIANS, for the longest time, have always been divided over issues of race, but never more so now. The propensity to quibble about the most trivial to the most controversial, be it in politics or social relations, is particularly trying. In recent weeks, a metamorphosis of sorts seems to have occurred.
Almost everything has a racial tone to it, from religion and education to culture and tradition. The “us-versus-them” mentality has taken over, and some Malaysians are acting with reckless abandon.
Values dear to our forefathers are set aside — we don’t acknowledge the differing views and we’ve stopped all manner of decorum. Of course, communal tensions are nothing new. But fanning them repeatedly with subliminal messages is dangerous.
How have we come to this? Where is the respect and honour? Inflammatory utterances by controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik, for instance, have further fuelled the fire of racial antagonism and diluted the cohesive unity of post-Merdeka Malaysia.
He should have known better. As a strong advocate of peace, he should remain tactful, especially when confronted with a sensitive social construct such as ours.
True, Zakir’s crusade is as sincere enough as it is with other Muslim missionaries, but it is that sincere message which is mistaken and potentially dangerous. It may be necessary to remind Zakir that Malaysians are born here, hence, he should not be allowed to offer views on our affairs, or compare Malaysia’s political landscape with India.
To cite an example, a well-known acupuncturist from Kuala Terengganu, who had been toiling Malaysian soil as one of her sons for seven generations, would be devastated at such a brazen attack, moreover by a foreigner who has taken asylum here.
To deport Zakir or strip him of his permanent resident status will lead to more controversy in the Muslim world. Malaysia has done much in providing a safe harbour for Zakir, so it is only common decency for him to keep his tongue in check.
Otherwise, a gag order may be warranted, especially on combustible issues. Let this serve as a reminder to other permanent residents that peace and harmony are essential to a nations’s security and should be protected.
And what of Dong Zong? The educationist group should live up to its name as a proponent of education, culture and development. Over the years, the group has morphed into a Chinese hardliner, insensitive to the interests of other races.
Indeed, times are exciting for Malaysians with such mercurial issues for media organisations to deliberate and publish, but industry players must bear in mind that we have a duty to disseminate fair and unbiased information, as well as good and happy news and as purveyors of peace in line with journalistic ethics.
Racial disunity will lead to a volatile climate and not only affect peace and public order, but the economy will be the hardest hit. Let our commonalities prevail over our differences and let not the introduction of Jawi or other matters divide us. Accept and embrace.