Move on my dear fellow

The latest spat between UMNO and PAS in Kelantan reminds me of the dear blonde who was hogging a vending machine. Many were waiting behind her. She had taken ten cans out, but continued to put in coins and get out cans. When someone said “hey, get a move on,” she said “I can’t stop, I’m still winning.”

The UMNO (opposition) leader in Kelantan is Datuk Alwi Che Mat. The PAS (ruling party) leader is Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.

Alwi has been railing against Nik Aziz because the latter is reported to have said that there is no dominant race in Islam, and even if there were one, it would be Arabs. According to the 20 September 2010 issue of the Star, Nik Aziz said that when he accepts an invitation to speak at a ceramah, he does it as a Muslim, not as a Malay. The same article reports Alwi as having said “Nik Aziz should be responsible with his statements and concentrate on managing the state rather than angering the Malays with his insensitive remarks.” Alwi called Nik Aziz an ulama, a religious teacher.

We hear this type of thing often in Malaysian politics, especially in Kelantan where UMNO can’t get it’s own house in order and so very vigorously plays the Malay privilege card. Conversely, PAS plays the Islam card. Politicians put in the speeches, get out the media reports. They don’t stop because they think they’re winning. Meanwhile, the rakyat are waiting for the dawn of equality, political compromises and strategies for real change.

Lim Kit Siang (LKS) is demanding Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders declare allegiance to 1Malaysia. LKS wants BN ministers to line up behind their chief, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, and declare that they are Malaysians first and Malays, Chinese or whatever next. LKS’s expectation is reasonable – he’s saying that 1Malaysia is sloganeering, is cosmetics, is disguise and is not commitment. LKS is saying 1Malaysia only serves to deceive the non-Malays into thinking they will experience equality “soon.”

When the PAS leader says he is Muslim first, why is it LKS does not ask Nik Aziz to say he is Malaysian first? Would Nik Aziz say he’s a Malaysian first?

I can understand Alwi not challenging Nik Aziz to say he is Malaysian first; Alwi wants to play the race card and side-step the Islam card. Alwi’s Islam is an UMNO version in which the chosen people are Malays, and Islam is the glue that binds them together.

Once it was so in South Africa: the Afrikaaners were the chosen people and Christianity was the glue that bound them together. Just as a majority of Afrikaaners in South Africa interpreted Christianity independently of the rest of the world, UMNO interprets Islam independently of PAS and the rest of the world. In South Africa, it is so no longer.

Fortunately for the silent majority, East Coast Malays seem aware that Islam is supposed to be an international, missionary, race-free religion. [Perhaps we have the sekolah pondok to thank for this enlightened understanding on the East Coast.]

But the 1Malaysia challenge remains. Are the religious “religious” first, i.e. like Nik Aziz declaring that he is Muslim first? Or are we Malaysians first?

Christians believe every human is created in the image of God, and that the church is called to be an outpost of heaven, God’s abode. A consequence of this belief is that there is no room for discrimination in the church. It also follows that there is no room for discrimination outside the church – this is mainstream Christian teaching.

Christians also believe God desires that people remain wherever they are and develop a reputation for doing good – just look at their contributions to schools, hospitals and orphanages. They are good citizens because they believe God has called them to transform society for the better. They have a bias toward the poor and the weak. They mobilize to help victims regardless of race or religion: the Lord Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. They mobilize for political action – recall the abolition of slavery, foot-binding and widow-burning. The Kingdom of God is worldwide, not just local.

I won’t sign up for a slogan or just the local. I am tired of slot machine politicians who are like the proverbial dear blonde. I long for politicians with a vision of unity and a program of actions to prepare and enable Malaysians to contribute to the world, not just our own backyards: to bring peace, discover great science, lead the United Nations.

Move on my dear fellow.

Rama Ramanathan maintains the blog Rest Stop Thoughts

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