Is it justifiable if the Government were to use the ISA or Sedition Act on the likes of Ridhuan Tee and Ibrahim Ali? Of course the chances of that happening are slimmer than the first lady’s thighs (hold on, that’s not saying very much…), but should we laud such an action?
“The government should also initiate legal action against irresponsible writers, like the controversial Mingguan Malaysia columnist Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah who provokes the non-Malays with his weekly diatribe against them, saying that minorities who cannot respect the special position of Islam and the Malays should return to their “homeland”, which he means China and India.”
The above view was expressed by Thomas Lee Seng Hock in MySinchew.com.
Many Malaysians have come to adopt this view but I fully disagree with it.
The fact is, there will always be distinctions between people, if not at a physical level then at an ethnic level i.e. customs, beliefs, practices, languages, norms, values, etc. There are even people who refuse to identify to any ethnic group despite how others may perceive them.
Racism as I see it stems from one’s unknowing or ignorance of a certain ethnic group. I think it is almost natural within human beings to fear something they don’t know or cannot comprehend. But the key here is what you do with that fear?
(i) Do you acknowledge that fear and try to overcome it by learning and getting to know a certain ethnic group; assimilating their goodness and sharing the good you have cultivated?
(ii) Do you marginalise them and impose stigmas on them?.
There are very clearly two ways to go about this.
I have had the opportunity of meeting 3 distinct groups of Malays in my life:
1. The Malays that put their hands out to me and greet me like a brother. Where in 5 minutes it becomes apparent we won’t need to use words like “Malay”, “Chinese”, “Indian” or “lain-Lain”; that we’re just people;
2. The Malays that shake my hands and are skeptical about me. They treat me like a friend but aren’t too sure internally whether a person besides a Malay can be sincere or not.
They are in cognitive dissonance; trying to understand why I am not a “greedy Chinese“, an “untrustworthy Indian” or just “out to deprieve them of their Malay rights” – as told to them by Biro Tatanegara, UMNO, Utusan Malaysia, the Malay Rights NGOs and sometimes their own family members.
Both viewpoints are in conflict, both don’t sit well together and they feel uncomfortable about holding these two conflicting viewpoints.
These people need time and exposure to what they have been made to fear; in time they will eventually discard what doesn’t sit well with their experiences with non Malays.
3. The Malays who just despise those who aren’t Malays and who seek every opportunity to hurt them, almost always verbally.
What do we do with these people? Simple. Don’t marginalise them!
Reach out to them instead and show them how wrong they are. Make them realise that we’re all here just to be happy; that to be hateful is a waste of time. I know it sounds almost “hippie-ish“, but truth is, I can’t think of any better way and I don’t think there is any better way.
These people take a longer time to convince and sometimes you may never succeed.
Most times what is said by these people can be hurtful and downright nasty but we will not convince them if we be as them. It in fact will only give credence to the prejudices they have of you. To punish them for their views and to hate them for it is only going to make matters worse.
We must never punish anyone for their views or the language they use.
Justice Brandeis writing in the 1927 American case of Whitney v California 274 U.S. 357 (1927) said the following wise words:
“Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties… They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that, without free speech and assembly, discussion would be futile;… that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government… But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies, and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones.” [emphasis is mine]
I cannot help but agree.
Ridhuan Tee and Ibrahim Ali are indeed known for saying crazy things, perhaps hired to do so, perhaps not.
Most of what they say easily convinces you that they MUST come from another planet, but there is no point if we penalise them for what they say.
Penalising them will only force them to take their views underground and give them validation and that in turn will give them more support. We have no right to silence someone merely because our feelings are hurt. We must sit down and debate it out till the cows come home and then let “others” decide whose idea they favour. The favourable idea gets the vote and then we work on making it a reality.
There is no other civil way to deal with racism ala Ridhuan Tee and Ibrahim Ali, if we don’t provide good counsels as remedies to their evil counsels.
It is easy to let our emotions run unrestrained and say “Use the Sedition Act on him!” or “Use the ISA on him!”; that is a coward’s way of dealing with the problem. As long as Acts like the ISA and Sedition exists, till then will Malaysians continue to be shackled, repressed and un-Merdeka.
As long as Acts like this exist and can be used on citizens, regardless of whether it is Ridhuan Tee or Karpal Singh that it is used on, then we are not free people. In time, one day, it might also be used against you or me.
There are no shortcuts here ultimately – just a lot of patience, common sense and reason.
LB: The writer was up at 5.00a.m. doing his work and said that he’ll work on a bio blurb for the next post.