The Zahid Hamidi Destruction Counter

OCTOBER 25 — Ex-deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has claimed — not suggested, mildly related, loosely associated, casually reminded, leisurely ad-libbed or faintly smirked — the tsunami which wrecked Sulawesi’s Palu was god’s wrath for the ways of the LGBT.

So he asked the minister, with a serious face — why would anyone doubt how serious Zahid can look — what, oh what was Malaysia doing to evade damnation for crossing the spirit in the sky? 

I suppose when asking the minister in charge for Islamic affairs he’d be limited to bits connected to the faith. Perhaps my limited theological mind wonders if he could have requested Malaysia help with the Muslim funeral rites for the 2,000 dead or the further 5,000 buried under the rubble or swept away to sea. Or maybe just food, shelter and love for the people who survived. That’d be charity, but perhaps I misspeak.

Being fair to the former defence minister, who’d be well acquainted with disaster relief, I fear he may have been misquoted. A vengeful media hell-bent to pour down scorn on a man down on his luck — 45 charges and counting at the courts can be an open invitation for opponents unwilling to respect the Umno “sheriff.”

So, I watched the parliamentary proceeding. Yup, he was every bit damning about LGBT members, those who let them be (super-liberals?) and even those who stupidly choose to be in their vicinity.

Therefore, not just members of the LGBT are targets, the rest are too, by virtue of their indifference.

It’s math, really

From Zahid’s observation, several things can be surmised. For example, he has inadvertently suggested a crudely structured disaster calculator.

The environmental minister does not need to bother with a tsunami warning system, one only needs to do a series of equations.

First get the number of LGBT members, in and out of the closet. Then factor them to the total population available. Subtract those planning to attend rehabilitation clinics as prescribed, for example, by our authorities through the minister. Subtract too those who see themselves as gay but have not acted on impulse even if not overridden guilt, lesbians who refrain from butch culture, bisexuals who’d perform for their husbands and transsexuals who’ve already paid for their treatment, but the cheque has not cleared. Have a multiplier, 1.5 for openly gay bars open and 1.25 for those with facilities willing to serenade as something else, like a gym or barbershop.

Divide by the number of religious programmes engaging the community to change their minds. Divide further if they are willing to hit them with cricket bats while encouraging them to mend their ways. Minus four, walk past the field, jump around like a pagan, feel demonstrably upset about your weak turn of faith and count the toes you have, and then guess the possibility of when and where the next disaster will be.

That’ll teach science. That’ll teach boy scouts, well, someone ought to teach them.

Anyway, back to Zahid. It’s just him staying classy. Or leaving a legacy, this might be his parting gift in view of his court troubles.

The Zahid Hamidi Destruction Counter may stay in our minds far longer than Zahid Hamidi the politician, for the wrong reasons.

Are we all guilty?

Within Zahid’s outburst is his conviction that, when Muslims put up with LGBT members in their midst, they are equally culpable, at least in the eye of the beholder. I wonder if there is much truth in that.

For if there was valid support, there would be lynch mobs ready to assault those who walk out of gay bars, like the Orlando shootings two years back.

Because if there is no action against the “transgressors”, all of us pay the price.

That’s pretty salty, even for Zahid.

I mentioned earlier that the Amanah minister for religion is on it, and there is the rabble rouser in me tempted to group them together, even if at opposite ends of the same misguided spectrum.

There is love

The best answer a liberal environment offers to all our maladies is to cater to the idea that so much is not known.

Things which truly suck happen all the time, and there is no rhyme or reason even at the best of times.

My friend, John Long, used to be based in Indonesia for years. So when the tsunami hit so many Asian beaches and towns in 2004, it was unsurprising that he was sent in by the UN right off from Europe to Banda Aceh. Surprising does not begin to describe what I expect he was hit with upon landing on the makeshift tarmac in the old city.

I’m not sure how high up Aceh, Colombo, Maldives, Penang, Kuala Kedah or South India falls in the Zahid Hamidi Destruction Counter, but it remains a moment which always reminds us of the fragile nature of life. And perhaps a lesson that it is better sometimes to live and let live, and be happy that people are alive.

It is tempting to use humanity’s calamities to underline our moral superiority, and maybe it is escape from one’s own tribulations, as Zahid is experiencing today.

After all, this is the second time he may end up in a jail cell, and both times at the hand of Mahathir Mohamad. And it is tempting to condemn the rest of us before it is too late.

But I’m done with Zahid. Let’s not be like him. I don’t seek to provide a defence for the LGBT community or a reason for what has no reason. I do ask for those who can to provide support for the people of Palu, and everyone else who needs that extra help.

AirAsia Foundation has kicked off the #ToIDwithLove programme to help the situation. So have others. Read about those efforts. I believe Zahid’s long 15 minutes of fame is about to be up.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.