Race & Religion takes center stage this GE14 – Karamjit

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Rev Dr. James A. Forbes Jr., a renowned British consulate to Mexico and America, once said, “When people rely on surface appearances and false racial stereotypes, rather than in-depth knowledge of others at the level of the heart, mind and spirit, their ability to assess and understand people accurately is compromised.”

Since the 20th century, issues with regards to race and religion have dominated the political scenario in Malaysia. It was always alleged that the Barisan Nasional coalition relies heavily on racial politics to steer ahead as the dominant force in Malaysia. Who can forget the ‘keris’ incident that took place in the Umno Youth general assembly more than a decade ago.

Till the 13th general elections, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) projected a united front. Ethnic differences remained taboo in the blueprint of the opposition. PR won many hearts with progressive politics. They promised a Malaysian race. We lived optimistically for a better tomorrow. It was a question on ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Quoting the late famous Canadian author, Pierre Berton, “ Racism is refuge for the ignorant. It seeks to divide and destroy. It is the enemy of freedom, and deserves to be met head-on and stamped out.”

Unfortunately, those dreams have vanished in thin air with the demise of Pakatan Rakyat. Pakatan Harapan with Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the helm has reverted back to the old-school politics of race and religion. Initially the neutrals applauded Harapan for agreeing to set aside different ideologies and work under a single banner. We were told it would signify a united coalition devoid of race.

However, DAP’s Seremban MP, Anthony Loke, later said that the decision of contesting under the Keadilan flag is to woo Malay votes. After taking one step forward, they take two steps backwards by justifying their action based on race. Why lambast BN then when they do the same? After all, every action appears to be about wooing the dominant ethnic group only. Terminologies like ‘Malay Tsunami’ and ‘keling’ is constantly reminding us that the opposition is no different from the people they speak ill about.

In 2015, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim set up a Nasionalis blog to broadcast the voice of moderates in an attempt to combat negative racial sentiments. Today, he is trying to stir unrest by questioning the silence of Malay components in Harapan. He previously rebutted the claims of Chinese chauvinism in DAP. However, presently he labeled DAP as a ‘Chinese Party’.

When leaders from BN utter the same thing, arrows of racism are speared towards them. The late Karpal Singh and Nik Aziz never towed along such lines. Muhyiddin Yassin and Mahathir appears to be banking on the essence of race that was opposed by the opposition in the past. Ironically, this time the opposition is okay with it.

In his segment ‘Corridors of Power’, Raja Petra Kamarudin constantly brings up racial sentiments in his writings. Raja Petra says he is an ardent supporter of PAS. The PAS under Tok Guru never ridiculed another race or religion. What happened to those teachings? Should we forgo racial sensitivities just for the sake of politics? Raja Petra who opposed BN previously, is speaking a different language now. What is with the turncoat phenomenon these days? Shouldn’t someone with royal blood conduct himself in a more neutral manner?

Politicians should refrain themselves from such racial sentiments as it risks turning ugly. As Barack Obama once said, “Politics, differences of religion or race, all that fades away when we are confronted with the awesome power of nature, and we’re reminded that all we have is each other.”

If the people are pushed to decide between the devil and the deep blue sea, it wouldn’t surprise me that the turnout for the general elections would be horrendous.