In response to the question below, my answer without hesitation, is YES.
Standing up against tyranny of the majority
This isn’t a commentary about how the actions of a group of Malays in Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya on Sunday is un-Islamic.
This is not about another Muslim reeling in embarrassment or anger over the protesters’ antics because really, I don’t need to join the growing chorus of apologetic Muslims.
It is not that piece, not because I don’t think what happened on Sunday was acceptable. In fact, I think the protestors were off their heads and are deplorable.
You don’t need to be a Muslim to know that telling a church to take down their cross is un-Islamic. Indeed, you don’t have to be anything but a decent human being to know that telling people to hide symbols of their faiths is a pretty disgusting thing to do.
The reason I refuse to write this ‘Muslim condemning an un-Islamic act by other Muslims’ piece is that it is greater than that.
What happened on Sunday was not about a bunch of rabid Malays or Muslims, but about a bunch of tyrants and their sense of invincibility as the majority.
What happened last Sunday is the tyranny of the majority, and this is a cause I would rather raise my voice against.
Muslims not the only tyrants
While it is true that Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, and in this Taman Medan instance, the ones guilty of such tyranny are Muslims, Muslims are not alone in pushing their weight around on the basis of their numbers.
Across the South China Sea, Christian residents in Penampang, Sabah may ironically find a sense of camaraderie with the Taman Medan anti-cross protestors.
While protestors say “the cross sign should be removed” in 95 percent Muslim (or so protestors say) Taman Medan, residents of Penampang say the 12.3 percent Muslims who live there should not have a neighbourhood mosque.
They say the yet-to-be-constructed mosque - actually they cannot confirm if the construction within the compounds of local police headquarters will indeed be a mosque - is not a necessity.
Taking up the cause, local elected representative Terence Siambun in a statement said there is a mosque 10 minutes’ drive away so Muslims can just pray there.
"I cannot see how questioning the construction of a mosque in the middle of an area which is predominantly Christian tantamount to being racist or anti-Islam. This is purely a question of necessity,” the PKR rep for Moyog said.
Like Muslims in Penampang, Christians living in Taman Medan also have a church not too far away.
A man met by my colleague at Taman Medan the day after the protest said he now goes to a church about 15 to 20 minutes’ drive away. And to have one set up just three minutes from his doorstep is a delight.
I have had the pleasure of reporting from the lovely seaside city of Kota Kinabalu many times in the past few years.
Once, speaking to locals about the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Illegal Immigrants, one man recalled how his relative’s scholarship was frozen after the takeover of the PBS government.
He attributes it to PBS being a Kadazandusun/Murut-based party, and his relative not the same race or religion of the majority.
There is no way to truly verify if this is true, but several witnesses who testified at the RCI cited “oppression” by a “Christian government” as impetus for the mass issuance of ICs in the so-called Project IC.
Could it be just fear mongering by bigots unhappy that Christians are in the seat of power? Or could there actually be truth to discriminatory practices against minorities under a state government of and elected by the majority?
Peddling horror stories seems to have led to the Taman Medan protest, as well.
Going by self-style mediator (and protestor?) Abdullah Abu Bakar’s version of events, Taman Medan residents are fearful that the newly-established church just a stone’s throw away from their homes will start spreading the gospel to Muslim youths.
I am inclined to dismiss this fear of proselytisation. In fact, logically, if proselytisation is what is feared by the locals, they should welcome the massive cross sign. I imagine that covert conversions are more likely to happen in unmarked places, not one that screams it’s a church.
And truly, if someone really wanted to convince you to leave the faith you were raised in, it would take more than a cross sign.
Likewise, the residents of Penampang can sit tight knowing that their children will unlikely leave the church just because there might be a mosque in their neighbourhood. After all, like Siambun said, there is already one 10 minutes away.
Minority rights always, all the time
Minorities in Malaysia have often decried policies which unfairly favour the majority, and for good reason.
Like the relative of that Sabahan I spoke to, many have raged about bright students from minority races who were denied scholarships or spots in their chosen university courses seemingly due to the colour of their skin.
But unlike the Sabah case, it is likely much easier to prove such discriminatory policies and double standards in law enforcement against the minorities.
The fact that the Taman Medan protest is considered kosher (perhaps the better word would be halal), when a post by a pair of attention-seeking sex bloggers inviting someone to have bak kut teh for buka puasa is sedition, is evidence enough.
But that’s not the point, is it?
The point is, if we want to be angry about the Taman Medan protest, we have to be equally outraged over all manners in which the majority tries to push their weight around.
Growing up in a Malay community, I often hear people around me ask why we must “give face” to minorities. They are minorities after all, I am told, so should not demand too much.
But the strength of society is measured by how it treats its smallest and weakest.
We have to bend backwards to make sure the rights for minorities are upheld for the simplest reason that they are too small to do it on their own.
The Penampang mosque (if it is even indeed a construction for a mosque) is not yet there for residents to protest in front of.
But what if it is built and Christians there hold a noisy protest scaring congregants and demanding the crescent moon symbol be brought down, or for a halt to the azan?
Would you also stand up for that minority, too?