AUGUST 23 — If you clicked on this article, it is most probably because you’re curious about the subject or you may have heard this rhetoric floating around. 

This mentality is not anything new. Just a few days ago, Perlis Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin mentioned that when it comes to national identity, there must always be a dominant race, citing China for Chinese and India for Indians, among some examples.

This rhetoric is called “ethnonationalism.”

The problem with this rhetoric is something that one can observe in those countries that Datuk MAZA referenced, plus more:


1) Uighur Muslims are being sent to concentration camps;
2) Rohingyan Muslims are fleeing to escape ethnic cleansing;
3) and Modi’s nationalist movement is breeding violence against Muslims.

For a country that is very vocal against international violations against Muslims, we sure have a hard time holding a mirror up to ourselves.

Here are some of the common arguments I received from people for using those countries to highlight the dangers of ethnonationalism:


Kita tak pernah pun hantar non-Muslims/minorities to concentration camps.” 
“We have never sent non-Muslims/minorities to concentration camps.”

Ni semua negara non-Muslim. Negara Muslim tidak akan buat sedemikian.
“Those are all non-Muslim countries. A Muslim country would never do that.”

Sampai hati kau terfikir yang kita tergamak nak buat macam tu dekat non-Muslims/Malays.
“How could you even think that we would ever do that to non-Muslims/Malays?”

To whom it may concern:

People do not just wake up one day and decide to commit mass persecution and violence.

Ethnic and religious violence, and vigilante groups, are not born overnight. It takes a seed, a thought, an idea — which festers slowly over a period of time. It’s a cancer, that if not dealt with at its earliest stages, will bring death upon its host.

It is a mentality that is passed on from one person to the next, breeding within until it becomes an inherent part of our societal make-up. It may take days, months, or even years, but there are countries right now that are living proof of what can happen if we don’t stop it.

We wouldn’t want to wait until it’s irreversible and life-threatening to finally lament on the ways we could have avoided it from spreading.

Saying that we should be ‘thankful’ that we do not set up concentration camps is hardly something to be proud of. It is basic human decency and common sense.

One person even said: “Kita kat sini ada hantar non-Muslim to concentration camps ke? Bagi masuk IPTA lagi lah ada,” as though we’re doing non-Muslim/Malays a favour by giving them access to education.

Translation: “Do we even send non-Muslims to concentration camps? We send them to schools, more like it.”

Saying that Muslim countries will be entirely fair and just is an exaggeration from the truth, for there are various self-proclaimed Islamic nations that are not doing very well on the Human Rights index.

This is also an ironic statement, especially when it comes from the exact same individuals who, only just a few days ago, rationalised and justified Zakir Naik’s inflammatory remarks against our Chinese and Indian community.

Besides that, Buddhists are known to be some of the most peaceful adherents in the world, but the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims still happened and is still happening.

We should also not forget that our beloved country has once been tainted by the violence and hatred of a racial riot. We have gone there before, and though in many ways we have healed, we are still facing the price of it today.

IMPORTANT NOTE: None of the above is meant to be an attack on Islam or Islamic values, but rather the misuse of religion for political mileage. History has shown us time and time again how religion has been used as a political tool to attain power e.g. The Umayyads who were infamous for their despotism.

My dearest fellow Malay Muslims, 

Please understand that you do not speak for other races. You do not get to “reject accusations that non-Malays have been unfairly treated.” It is not your prerogative to decide whether they feel discriminated against or not. When you hurt someone, you don’t get to tell them that the pain you inflicted is “not so bad.” You are not the one feeling it.

Now I know a lot of people who will ask “Bila Melayu dan Islam dihina, takde defend pulak?” That’s because the only reason you feel that way is due to fear of having your privileges stripped. Any form of dissent or questioning of your privileges feels like an insult to you, when in reality, it is not.

Translation: “How come you don’t defend Islam and Malays when we’re being offended?”

I have also received numerous “warnings” that I should shut up or else riots will happen because of “people like me.” Questioning the majority will have its repercussions, they say. To these people: Thank you for further proving that we truly have a problem.

Should any non-Muslim/Malay come forward to tell me that they are happy with how things are now, I apologise if you think that I am trying to speak on your behalf. I’m merely standing for those who have been undermined by the system. I’m glad you were protected from it.

The analogy that I’ve been given is “We won’t go that far down this slope.” My argument is that we shouldn’t even be on that slope to begin with.

On another conversation that slightly deviates from the original topic, I think it’s worth reminding that appreciation for our Orang Asal (original people) and their diverse culture is slowly vanishing because Peninsular Malaysia keeps preaching Malay-nationalist sentiments. They’ve turned into remnants of history, a topic in our Sejarah subject, and mere tourist curiosities.

With that, I’d like to end on this note:

Equality only feels like oppression when we have been privileged for so long. Receiving the same treatment only feels like discrimination when we are used to preferential treatment.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.