The price of speaking up

By Jacqueline Ann Surin (The Nut Graph)

CONSIDER this. Despite the available evidence of Al Islam‘s unethical undercover report in which the magazine’s Muslim journalist spat out the holy communion to photograph, no action is going to be taken. The Attorney-General’s Chambers decided this despite the police reports and a memorandum lodged by Catholics about the insensitive treatment of a holy sacrament in Christianity.

Then consider this. Because some Muslims perceive that Islam is being challenged by a non-Muslim journalist, English-language daily The Star could potentially lose its publishing permit. At the same time, because some Muslim groups have taken offence at a statement by Sisters in Islam (SIS), the Muslim women’s group will likely be investigated under Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony and disunity on grounds of religion.

What exactly do these developments tell us about the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration’s idea of justice and fairness? And how can citizens make sense of how our government is responding to these issues?

Muslim “sensitivities” paramount

It’s clear that when it comes to defending a particular faith community’s sensitivities, Muslim sensitivities trump all others. And because the majority of Muslims in Malaysia are racially categorised as Malay, it would be logical to surmise that the BN government is only interested in defending Malay-Muslim Malaysians’ rights.

Other faith communities, mostly comprising the other races, will just have to contend with being second-class citizens who will not be accorded the same protection as the majority.

Al-Islam magazine containing the
offensive article
Actually, the state shouldn’t even be in the business of defending those who have been personally offended by the views or actions of others. Indeed, Al Islam‘s offence was unethical journalism and acting in ways which were un-Islamic despite its pretext of acting in the ummah’s interest. Hardly a crime against an individual or the state. No, the state should not be in the business of penalising offensive actions or words.

But since the state has decided to be the guardian of public sensitivities through various legal provisions, it needs to demonstrate that it will treat all citizens and their complaints fairly and equally.

By not doing so, the BN administration, now under Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s leadership, is clearly proving that it is incapable of treating all citizens with equality. And that if you’re not a Malay-Muslim in Malaysia, there are no guarantees that the state will do right by you.

How else would we be able to make sense of why the administration will not act on addressing Catholics’ hurt feelings, but will immediately snap to action when some Muslims’ sensitivities are affected?

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