Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Behind the "Allah' spat in Malaysia

GuamDiary strongly recommends reading Kevin Brown's 'Global Insight' contribution 'The 'Allah' spat masks ethnic Malays' feelings of insecurity' in the 13 January 2010 edition of 'The Financial Times of London'.
Mr. Brown is that rare journalists who parts the curtains of confusion and vanilla pudding analysis of the recent bombing and burning of churches and a convent in Malaysia, over the use by non Muslims of the word for God in Bahasa Melayhu, which is 'Allah'.
Scratching away the religious veneer to these latest troubles which set one ethnic group and against other ethnic groups [Chinese and Indian who profess belief in Christianity], Kevin Brown puts his finger on the politics of the matter.
As GuamDiary has noted, the Malay discontent lies in the challenge to the monopoly of power and privilege enshrined by the UMNO [United Malaysia Nasional Organization], yea these 50 years since Malaysia became independent of British rule.
'Bumiputra ism', favouring the Malay [read Muslim] majority, in a mild form of apartheid, was the brainchild of the UMNO elite, principally by the former prime minister and father of the current Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.
The loss of control of parliament and 5 key states suddenly looked to Malays that the years of positive discrimination which favoured them in all phases of political, economic, social, and cultural life, as an assault on what they considered writ in stone, sanctified by the gods that be, and with hardly a thought that seemingly impregnable fortress of privilege and comfort, would ever be breached. And such is the perception which led to the bombings and threats against the non believers, although of the Abrahamic faith.
Suddenly, the long oppressed Chinese and Indians are through alliances with moderate and progressive and yes Islamic Malay parties, are pushing for a place in the political sun, and one which the original architects of the union of Malay states thought of a harmonious nation of ethnic groups. This went by the wayside after the 13 May 1969 racial riots which released government documents lay at the feet of UMNO's youth wing. In the aftermatch, prime minister Najib pere erected the Malaysian form of apartheid which is now for Malays under siege, and which newer political forces are calling for modification if not total scrapping.
And Kevin Brown's article is, as stated above, a ray of sunshine in the obtuse cloud of explanations as to the whys and wherefores of the 'Allah' contraversy.
As a foil, let's look at Jaime Metzl of the prestigious US Council of Foreign Relations. Highly photogenic, he spouted the usual pap with an emphasis on the positive side of waiting for the brouhaha to blow over. It won't since the 'Allah' spat goes to the heart of what type of society will Malaysia become, one which, it seems, is distancing itself from the Islamised model originally proposed and now repudiated perhaps by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, and the harsh long rule of Mahatir Mohammed who roils and moils against UMNO the party he led for decades, for offense to his ego and the patronage system that he re enforced and populated with his cronies.
Already capital has taken flight. Foreign investment is holding back, testing which way the wind is blowing, as Malaysia is trying to make up its mind. Malaysia has move up three notches among a corruption index, and as a result, the 'Allah' spat is skewing economic if not political development. Many now fear outbreaks of racial strife.
The ball is in prime minister Najib Razak's court. Has he the political will to dismantle the poison legacy of discrimination and apartheid his father left him? Or will he muddle through?

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