KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 — Prominent human rights lawyer Siti Kasim today called for the removal of political parties in the country based on religion and race, which she described as being “one step away from Nazism”.
The outspoken proponent of equality said religious and race-based parties in the country have chalked up a record of being divisive rather than inclusive and reminded Malaysians to be critical and call politicians to be accountable.
“When political parties exist solely based on two of the most divisive premise in human history, their contribution to society at large will be net negative. This is because their objectives and implementation of their vision is predicated on the bigotry of ‘my kind is the kind that matters’ premise.
“Instead of looking at what is best for society at large and then seeing how to accommodate the special interests that need assistance for the overall good, race and religious-based parties look at what is best for their kind first, at the expense of society at large. Additionally, such racial and religious parties not only heighten divisiveness but also easily hijacked by demagogues.
“I dare say all religious and race-based parties are just one step away from Nazism,” she wrote in her column in The Sunday Star today under the title “Governance and the maturity of Malaysian politics”.
She noted that the concept of a herrenvolk or “master race” had been adopted by Adolf Hitler's Nationalist Socialist Workers’ Party in Nazi Germany to exploit and eventually eliminate those they deemed to be of an “inferior” race.
“Naturally the Nazis thought they were the Herrenvolk — Master Race — and they considered themselves to be pure Aryans, every other race was inferior, with some like Slavs, Romany and Jews at the bottom of the ladder, and while the Aryans had to be kept pure, the bottom could be exploited, hated and eventually liquidated.
“The Volksgemeinschaft was thus inherently racist and contributed greatly to the Nazis’ attempts at mass extermination,” she said, referring to the systematic mass murder of some six million Jews in Europe during World War Two.
Siti also said religious-based parties are an “anachronism of time” and should have no role in politics today.
“I will take one step further with respect to religious-based parties; they are an anachronism of a time when societies were run by shamans, witch doctors and spiritual advisers to despots and kings, rather than civilised logical societies,” she said.
Forestalling criticism against her as being anti-religion, Siti said she is calling for an objective and “inclusive” civil discussion on the role of religion in politics as she acknowledged it is “impossible” to separate the two in majority-Muslim Malaysia.
“I am not anti-religion, but religion shouldn’t have a place in political decisions. This isn’t a slam on religion; it’s a call for inclusive political debate. In a society where most people (politicians in particular) have some sort of faith that guides their decisions, it’s impossible to have a true separation of faith and state.
“What I am suggesting is we create and support a system where political decisions are made based on arguments that stand on their own merits without a religious crutch or, to put it another way, 'my holy book tells me so' is off limits as an argument,” she said.
She said critical Malaysians should base their arguments on logic rather than taking the word of those purported to be learned in religion as is.
She said Malaysians also still have a stereotyped perception of politicians.
“Our society still looks at politicians as potential Municipal Councillors rather than Legislators — unless they become Ministers. then they take an oversized God-like persona.
“We need a complete revamp in our societal-mindset. Our education system and the media need to play a role in educating the public in this respect,” she said.
Siti urged the public to be more critical of their elected representatives and remind them of the power of their vote by demanding accountability.
“We need to demand from politicians and officials answers to tough questions. We need to make them uncomfortable with the questions and the follow up to such questions. Grilling politicians for truth and facts, instead of lobbing softballs and backing off for fear of being disrespectful must be a Malaysian culture.
“Politicians are aspiring job seekers for public service. Elected and appointed politicians, Councillors, State Assemblymen, Members of Parliaments, Ministers, and even the Prime Minister, are all civil servants. They came to us for a job and now we have to be respectful of them? No! They must be respectful to us. We are the bosses,” she said.