Brave Malays

Zaid Ibrahim

Zaid Ibrahim

The Prime Minister has once again made a clarion call for the Malays to be brave, and the kind of bravery he wants them to emulate is that of the soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militant group in Syria and Iraq. At a recent dinner to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Cheras UMNO branch, he used the group’s military prowess as an example, saying that with just 1,300 fighters, they were able to defeat an Iraqi army of 30,000 soldiers.

The Prime Minister obviously makes no distinction between what you and I would call “bravery” and the overzealousness of those on a suicide mission. It’s true that suicide bombers and killers can, in a limited sense, be considered “brave”. They are after all willing to take their own lives for a cause they believe in, misplaced though that belief may be.

The Taliban, Boko Haram, Japanese suicide bombers during the Second World War and Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka might all be considered to be brave, but surely that’s not the kind of bravery we want the Malays to be concerned with at this point. Suicide bombers act out of desperation, when they have nothing else to live for and when their masters have managed to fill their souls with hatred. The Malays have not reached this stage surely, which means they need a different kind of story about bravery.

Bravery starts with being able to confront the fear that’s generated within ourselves. The Prime Minister can help address the fear Malays seem to have that the whole world is against them, which is a narrative that has been fed to them by the likes of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Ibrahim Ali. But no one is targeting the Malays. The Christians, the Chinese, the Jews, etc are all busy accumulating and consolidating their economic wealth so they have neither the interest nor the time to single out the Malays and do them any harm.

The Malays will never learn to be brave if their political and religious leaders only open their mouths to talk about the enemies who are out to destroy them. It’s time leaders reassure the Malays that their position is safe, and let them learn to be positive about their future. The PM himself should stop this fear-mongering.

The Prime Minister can also help the Malays to be brave by giving them a proper explanation of the rights of all citizens, as they are enshrined in the Constitution. Telling the Malays that they can be stronger by working together and learning alongside the other races is an act of courage. Ensuring academics remain true to the spirit of scholarship and not become part-time politicians is an act of courage. Recognising and protecting the rights of all minorities under the law is an act of courage.

There are leaders who don’t want to see the Malays free from all this fear and consequently become brave, because they think that if that were to ever happen their political capital would be gone.