COMMENTARY, April 20 — One-time Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia women’s chief Anina Saadudin probably thought posting the image of a billboard in Sabah conveying well-wishers to those observing the Christian Holy Week would elicit some righteous anger.
In a caption accompanying the uploaded image, she appeared to critique the so-called “brazenness” of the contents of the said billboard — which was a special message for the Christian community in conjunction with Good Friday.
“Before this, it was just banners and buntings. Now they have power, they can upgrade to billboards. Can use cranes if not high enough. If not big enough, can double the size by adding pillars. Next year can advertise it on TV. Equality, they say,” read her Facebook post.
Her underlying message was simple enough. How dare these Christians make such a public display of their faith, on a billboard for everyone else in Malaysia to see?
Anina’s allusion is that this would have never happened under the old pre-GE14 Malaysia, and that the country’s minorities are becoming “too much to handle”, and that the next thing they will demand for is “equality.”
But her sad attempt at turning this into an issue of faith in Muslim-majority Malaysia backfired, mostly because according to Sabahan Facebook users, Anina does not truly understand the extent of diversity, peace and understanding among the different communities in the state.
“Blessed good Friday sister Anina Saadudin and to you all my brothers & sisters. Sister Anina I pray may the almighty Allah forgive you. “Father, forgive her, for she didn’t know what she is doing,” said one Facebook user, Kerrol Kay.
Another user, Emmanuel Joshua Fernandez thanked Anina for “sharing” the picture and wished her a blessed Good Friday.
One user, Jacque Konoffsky who said that as a Muslim and Sabahan, he felt disgusted with the former PPBM leader’s Facebook post.
“Why do you want to instigate religion issues?? Sabah doesn’t belong to just one race or one religion. It belongs to everyone regardless of their background,” he said.
But get this. Anina’s post has been liked by over 5,600 people, and has been shared 5,500 times at the time of writing.
Why are people sharing this? The same reason why I think many of them on Facebook are responding to the hate in her post with greetings of love and peace instead.
So why is Malay Mail even writing this then?
I’ll be honest with you. It’s partly for the online clicks. But it is also to show that in Malaysia, there has always been room for love, compassion and understanding — regardless of whether its Malaysia Lama or Malaysia Baharu.
Politicians don’t get to define who we are. Sure, we let them run their mouths every now and again, but at the end of the day, the buck starts and stops with us, and our understanding of the narratives we want this country to be built on.