Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A day of infamy

I have had it with the Malaysian government. Over the years I have often defended some of its policies (online and socially, often to some personal cost), in particular those that privilege indigenous Malays in the economic and academic sphere. In part my decision was due to a sober assessment of the over-arching necessity of preserving racial harmony as the Malays, whether due to heredity or culture, would be outcompeted by Malaysian Chinese and Indians in a completely level playing field, and end up as a dispossessed majority in their own land. That this is a surefire recipe for racial tension, one need only look across to Indonesia with its long, troubled history of anti-Chinese pogroms. That this program of affirmative action has been abused by political insiders is also open knowledge, nevertheless many have been lifted from rural poverty to create a solid Malay middle-class, a pre-requisite for a stable democratic nation.

Anyway never again. The recent deportation by the Malaysian authorities of the Saudi blogger Hamza Kashgari back to torture and near-certain execution has exhausted my patience. Hamza's crime? On the eve of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday he tweeted:

  • On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you've always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.
  • On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.
  • On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.

Thats it. Totally innocuous and the only crime, if any, is to display a semblance of independent thought different from the common herd. Of course any sentiment short of near-idolatry (funnily enough, conservative Muslims accuse Christians of syirik, or blasphemously associating a created being with Allah while never noticing this inconsistency) is just unacceptable and thus set off a shit-storm in the kingdom. Being justifiably concerned for his life, Hamza boarded a plane for New Zealand (again, rather funny that one should flee a pure land where sharia reigns to a Western country for safety). However, on transit in Malaysia, he was detained and sent back despite attempts by his lawyers and concerned groups (liberal Muslim NGOs, I salute their courage) to stay his deportation.

Predictably enough, the minister concerned, Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, hemmed, hawed, writhed, wriggled, obfuscated and lied to weasel himself out of any responsibility for the blood that will eventually be on his hands. Hishamuddin is the son of a former Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn, who was universally noted for his integrity. His grandfather, Onn Jaafar, was one of the giants of the pre-independence period and floated a political plan so visionary that the country is alas still not ready for, 60 years on. Sadly, the grandson is a walking example of regression to the mean. I am heartened that one of my personal heroes, former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad, has come out in support of Hamza.

My thoughts on this day are:

I hope Hamza makes it through this ordeal and that the Saudi authorities may feel pressured enough to make some concession to international opinion. This is assuming that the main orchestrators of liberal outrage, who would jump at any opportunity to paint the Iranians as theocratic madmen, feel compelled enough to act against one of their house-broken puppets. All we lowly folk can do is to make sure that this issue doesn't fall off the radar, I've joined the FaceBook support page and if anybody feels like sharing this post, please do so.

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