60 years on, identity politics still Malaysia’s scourge

Many find themselves questioning what the Madani government truly stands for, but we must accept that all four prime ministers since GE14 came from the same DNA – Umno.

Joe Samad, Free Malaysia Today

Malaysia, 60 years since its formation, remains ensnared in the quagmire of identity politics, where race and religion are wielded as tools for personal gain.

This entrenched cycle has left the nation adrift, seemingly governed by the whims of mobs.

The recent uproar over a handful of offensive socks epitomises the volatile nature of Malaysian society, where minor incidents can spiral into widespread unrest, drawing international ridicule.

Many of us have afforded Anwar Ibrahim a fair opportunity to helm the government, recognising his merits and rightful claim to leadership. However, it appears that this recent ugly incident has served as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

The scorched-earth policy of certain individuals and political parties has heightened racial tensions. The boycott of the offending KK Mart stores, and even outlets like McDonald’s and Starbucks, has hurt their Malay employees, depriving them of their livelihood.

Nobody cares for these victims; we are just too focused on the big “towkays”.

Are all Malays like Dr Akmal Saleh, the Umno Youth chief? Of course not. The vast majority abhor violence. Why?

Because we understand that resorting to violence would not only undermine the harmony we have painstakingly built in our country but also threaten the economy upon which we all depend to provide for our families.

It is incredible to think that a mere five pairs of offending socks could incite such destructive behaviour.

While recession, mismanagement of the economy, wrong monetary or fiscal policies can bring down a nation, only in Malaysia can an individual allegedly affect the economy using religion as a tool.

We are fortunate to have voices of reason, such as Penang mufti Wan Salim Wan Noor, who has stepped forward in this sensitive row.

His caution against boycotting non-Muslim businesses is a beacon of wisdom, reminding us that such actions constitute an overreaction and run contrary to Islamic teachings.

He rightly emphasises the potential of these actions to breed religious misunderstandings, exacerbate injustices, and ultimately endanger our national unity.

Former Wanita Umno leader Rafidah Aziz, often referred to as the “Iron Lady”, had trained her guns on Umno’s “rabble rouser” Akmal.

Drawing on the example of Prophet Muhammad, she highlighted the exemplary restraint he demonstrated when faced with hostility.

Rafidah emphasised that the Prophet did not allow his ego to interfere with his interactions with others.

By invoking this example, she has called upon individuals like the Umno Youth chief to emulate the Prophet’s behaviour in their dealings with others.

According to Rafidah, failure to do so would signify a departure from the expectations Islam places upon them.

Despite the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Ibrahim’s decision to defer to the legal system to deal with the situation and religious affairs minister Na’im Mokhtar urging Muslims to maintain composure and allow the authorities to conduct their investigations, Akmal remains undeterred.

He persists in advocating for the boycott of all outlets deemed offensive, asserting his purported endorsement from the Umno supreme council.

Akmal’s actions evoke memories of Hishammuddin Hussein’s infamous keris-wielding display at the Umno Youth assembly of the past.

In Peninsular Malaysia, issues surrounding race and religion often take centre stage. However, the Borneo states are closely monitoring these developments, recognising that any downturn in the economy could have a disproportionate impact on them, given their historical underdevelopment.

It is important to acknowledge that Akmal’s actions do not speak for all Malaysians or Muslims in the country. He does not speak for the Borneo states.

Moreover, his party’s fortunes have taken a downturn since the last general election, suggesting a desperate attempt to regain relevance. This desperation may drive individuals to resort to various tactics, regardless of their consequences.

The mood of the nation has indeed shifted, particularly among the TikTok generation. These youths are disinterested in the kind of politics exemplified by figures like Akmal.

Instead, they prioritise enjoying life, promoting happiness, environmental stewardship, advocating for human rights and fostering equality.

Today’s youths are not passive followers; rather, they wield their smartphones as tools for empowerment and activism.

They reject the notion of an unwritten “social contract” that may favour certain groups, insisting instead that social justice must be equitable and inclusive for all.

One of the most disheartening aspects is that despite the considerable support of the people, the Madani government has been unable to contain the disruptive actions of a single individual bent on undermining the country’s economy and international reputation.

This lack of accountability is glaring, especially when contrasted with the consequences faced by figures like Najib Razak, who was held accountable for damaging the country and subsequently faced jail time.

The apparent impunity surrounding Akmal raises troubling questions.

Is political expediency the driving force behind the government’s reluctance to confront him?

Are Malaysians expected to endure such behaviour to uphold the Madani government’s grip on power?

Many citizens find themselves questioning what the Madani government truly stands for. While the concept of reforms has been discussed, the specifics remain elusive.

What reforms are being pursued, and in what areas are they intended to effect change?

These are critical questions that demand answers from those in power. Akmal’s behaviour has undermined any goodwill left in the Madani government.

We must accept that all four successive prime ministers since the 14th general election in 2018 came from the same DNA – Umno.

Does that tell us anything? Can a leopard change its spots?