Friday, 30 November 2007

My Response To The HINDRAF Campaign

I know I promised to come up with a response to Resolving The Malaysian-Indian Issues much earlier.

But I had to ponder deeply on how a Christian Malaysian of South Asian origin, whose ancestors settled in Malaya over six generations ago should respond to issues pertaining to a faction of Hindu Malaysians who have finally voiced their dissatisfaction.

Frankly, I have never experienced much government-institutionalised discrimination. I am reasonably well-educated, wealthy (though I hasten to add, not of TAK-ish proportions), have been places and seen things.

By proxy, HINDRAF marginalises me. But it's not about the group or its leader Uthayakumar, though his leadership has obviously inspired thousands to brave the FRU and its neighbourhood-friendly water-cannons and tear-gas.

He has a following that Samy Vellu can only dream of. That's scary.

Because no one has ever spoken up for the Malaysians of South Asian origin (I deliberately refuse to say 'Indian'. You'll understand why in just a bit). And they sorely needed their cause championed.

Because, like Nate says, "When you’re small, you become a punching bag." And yes, I can appreciate that that was why he walked on that day.

HINDRAF's brand of racist rhetoric is no worse than that of the violence-propagating Kerismudin or the benignly stupid Jamaluddin Jarjis or even the mufti of Perak, Harussani Zakaria.

While those guys may have been ridiculed by the blogosphere, they did not provoke the outrage of the public like HINDRAF did. Why the double standard? Why the calls by Malaysians to send their fellow Malaysians back to India?

Why are the Hindus considered to have gone overboard for their walk and their memo when the Muslims have threatened to start riots and go on killing rampages simply because their rights were questioned?

Why didn't anyone call for the ISA to be used on Kerismuddin for his subtle call to violence when so many want Uthayakumar put away for a long time?

It's racism, and it didn't even start from HINDRAF.

Perhaps no one better sums it up than Farish Noor, who (being in Berlin) is so far in terms of location from Malaysia, yet understands the situation better than anyone else living here.

In The Other Malaysia, he freely admits that:

While the leaders and supporters of Hindraf may have resorted to the politics of race and religious-based communitarianism to further a specific goal in mind, we should not really be surprised if they had done so. This is Malaysia, remember: the same multi-culti country that has been run and governed by the same tired and worn-out coalition of ideologically bankrupt right-wing communitarian race and religious-based parties for half a century. Those fellow Malaysians who marched on Sunday are the children of a nation-building project that has failed utterly and miserably, and they merely reflect the racialised mindset of so many Malaysian politicians today who are no better.

So while we may disagree with the tone and tenor of Hindraf’s communitarian political-speak, let us not miss the wood for the trees. Hindraf did not invent racialised communitarian politics in Malaysia, it was the component of the Barisan Nasional parties that did, and continue to do so.

Hindraf did not begin a new trend of race and religious-based political association and collectivism in Malaysia: it was the older race and religious-based parties and movements like UMNO, PAS and ABIM that did, and continue to do so.

Hindraf did not invent the language of racial and religious identification in Malaysia, for these terms were already hoisted on them and the minority communities of Malaysia by the state, the mainstream media and the conservative reactionary forces in this country long ago. It was the politicians, political analysts, media commentators and communitarian activists who referred, for instance, to the Hindu temples of Malaysia as ‘Indian temples’; and who continue to refer to Malaysians of South Asian origin as ‘Indians’ or the ‘Indian community’.

For the information of all and sundry, those temples that were bulldozed were not ‘Indian temples’ but Malaysian temples, built on Malaysian soil, frequented by Malaysians, paid for by Malaysians and they were part of the Malaysian landscape. There are no ‘Indian Temples’ in Malaysia- Indian temples exist in India and if you don’t believe me then fly to India and check them out yourself. Likewise the only ‘Indians’ in Malaysia are the tourists, expats and workers who come from India and happen to be Indian nationals bearing Indian passports. Those Hindus who marched in the streets of Kuala Lumpur on Sunday happen to be Malaysians like you.

And because I too am Malaysian, I will champion the cause of the downtrodden and those who have been kicked around for too long.

Not because the blog-lords or their commenters approve, but because it is only the right thing to do.

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