INDEPENDENT news portal Malaysiakini may be no stranger to attacks. Nonetheless, the recent use of purported black magic and vandalism against the media outfit and the threat of a butt-wriggling display at its office deserve our attention. Why? Because the attacks on Malaysiakini are part of a pattern.
Malaysiakini is but one of several recent favourite targets for threats, hate speech and criminal intimidation. The other recent targets have been DAP vice-chairperson Teresa Kok and the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs (Comango). Additionally, the threats against Christians have continued, and even the Federal Court is not exempt, it would seem.
What do these attacks tell us about what is going on in Malaysia? And how do we know that these attacks constitute an attempt at nurturing anarchy in the country?
Lies, more lies and threats
The attacks and threats against opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), a minority religious group, a human rights coalition, and now the highest court of the land have several things in common.
One, the basis of the criticisms and threats that have been hurled at these different targets is replete with misinformation, fallacies and even outright lies. At the same time, irrationality and hate are de rigueur.
For example, Christians were plotting to overthrow the government, according to Utusan Malaysia. Its proof? The unsubstantiated claims of two pro-Umno bloggers. At the same time, slapping Kok for her Onederful Malaysia satirical video deserves a monetary reward of RM2,000 and is just cause for Malays to reenact the racial clashes of 13 May 1969. Why? Because she purportedly insulted the Malays, Islam, the monarch, the security forces, the prime minister and his wife.
And on 5 March 2014, what was the Perkasa-led mob’s justification for shouting, screaming, throwing objects at the federal court building entrance, and advancing on the police barrier? Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali said the group “got upset” because they heard about the Catholic Church lawyer’s submissions in the ongoing “Allah” case.
Another man in the rowdy group said, “We are like this because we don’t want Comango in the building.” And yet another Perkasa leader, Irwan Fahmi Ideris, said the crowd wanted to storm the building because of Comango’s provocation in giving out flowers inside the building while Muslim pressure groups were only allowed to be outside.
And what’s the issue with Comango? Comango is a threat to the nation and should be shut down for purportedly undermining Islam. How so? Because the coalition of human rights NGOs has been highlighting the government’s poor performance in upholding every citizen’s constitutional rights, regardless of gender, age, race, religion, sexuality and ability.
On top of all of that, grown men from the Armed Forces Veterans Association are threatening Malaysiakini with a display of their butts, out of, it would seem, piety and loyalty towards the prime minister’s wife. They have demanded that Malaysiakini apologises to Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor for a report that accurately quotes her as saying she did not have time for her hobbies because she was serving the rakyat. Instead, the association wants Malaysiakini to “spin” good things about Rosmah.
Jaringan Melayu Malaysia Negeri Selangor has also threatened to protest at Kok’s office unless she publicly apologises to the nation’s leaders, families of the victims at Lahad Datu, and, for good measure, all Malaysians for her political satire.
Dictionary definitions of “anarchy” include a state of society without government or law; and political and social disorder because of the absence of government control or because of insubordination. It would be hard not to come to the conclusion that this is what Malaysia is heading towards.
The police have yet to charge anyone from the Council of Islamic NGOs that was responsible for the cash-for-slap offer involving Kok. Instead, Home Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi declared that what was clearly a criminal offence under the Penal Code didn’t constitute a threat at all. He added that the police would only take action if Kok was slapped.
At the Federal Court on 5 March, nobody from the Perkasa mob was arrested, either. This was even though one member of the group had to be restrained by police as he verbally assaulted a priest, while others threatened non-Muslims and Comango with shouts of “Lynch that Chinese!” Comango members, mostly women, were forced to leave the federal court through the back door after police feared for their safety.
At the same time, the Home Ministry cannot even follow its own procedures or the law when it declared Comango illegal. Not only that, it has been surreptitious about the fact that it has rescinded its declaration against Comango.
What Malaysians are confronted with is this: State and non-state actors are harassing us into believing that what is good for the nation is bad, and deserves to be vilified and even physically attacked. And what is bad is permissible and will receive protection, no less by the state.
There is also the constant use of Malay rights, sentiments and superiority, and the invocation of Islam to harass, oppress, intimidate and deny the rights of others. We are being pressured to be suspicious of our differences instead of being allowed to enjoy how easily and peacefully we have lived together through generations no matter our diversity. We are being provoked to retaliate with fear, aggression and violence even if such retaliation has not yet occurred.
In short, we are a nation that is being upended. And the ruling government seems complicit in this overturning of order, peace and stability.
Malaysia’s worst practices
In a presentation on hate speech, Singaporean academic and writer Cherian George had the following table to share about best and worst practices:
It’s not rocket science to figure out which column Malaysia is occupying after more than 50 years of Barisan Nasional rule.
To be certain, what we’re currently facing in Malaysia is not entirely new. When Datuk Ambiga Sreenevesan was head of electoral reform group Bersih 2.0, she, too, was targeted repeatedly and even threatened with rape and death. Indeed, the Armed Forces Veterans Association first gained notoriety because they had wagged their posteriors outside Ambiga’s house.
What that tells us is that those who want anarchy in Malaysia are not letting up. And the state is not discouraging or stopping them from their tactics of harassment, criminal intimidation and threats of violence. If they keep this up, what, then, will stop Malaysia from descending into full anarchy?
Presentation at Mapping Digital Media Southeast Asia Roundtable on 28 Feb 2014 at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore titled Hate speech – Mechanisms to counter hate speech online.
While Perkasa threatened fellow Malaysians, the Federal Court and the police outside the court building on 5 March 2014, other Malay Muslims gathered publicly with balloons, flowers and inclusive messages of reconciliation. Jacqueline Ann Surin is thankful the likes of Perkasa do not represent all Malay Muslims in Malaysia, and worries that that may still not be enough to save the nation.