Akmal is a national problem whose actions have created mass fear

Mariam Mokhtar, Free Malaysia Today

Can it be right for one lacklustre politician to defy the king and continue to provoke the public? Is it any wonder that Malaysians feel that the government has lost its focus?

Sarawak minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, like many Malaysians, was right to express his concerns and fears about hate speech being used to provoke Sarawakians.

Of all the areas in Malaysia, Sarawak is the place where you would least expect a petrol bomb to be lobbed into a store on account of religious provocations. Sarawak has enjoyed peaceful co-existence and champions itself on its multi-faith and multi-cultural identity.

If ordinary Malaysians are swiftly investigated for their allegedly seditious comments online, can it be right for one lacklustre politician to defy the king and continue to provoke the public?

Akmal Saleh, the leader of Umno-Baru Youth, has refused to stop calling for a boycott of KK Mart. He has dismissed allegations that he was responsible for instigating violence that led to three KK Mart shops being firebombed and vigilante groups taking the law into their own hands.

The latest arson attack which occurred in Sarawak has shocked us as we have always believed the state to be an exemplar of a harmonious, multi-faith nation.

Is it any wonder that millions of Malaysians feel that the government has lost its focus?

Fed up with Akmal Saleh

Many Muslims are embarrassed by Akmal because he has put Islam in a bad light. One Muslim said: “Everyone is fed up with him. The KK Mart boss has apologised three times and met the King. What more does Akmal want?”

Another said: “People like Akmal do not know their religion. He does not understand that Islam forgives and enlightens. He is wrong to spread tension.”

A professional Muslim lady said: “Akmal should be put under ISA (the now-defunct Internal Security Act which allowed detention without trial). At least the ISA will finally be put to good use.”

Akmal’s belligerence, and his open defiance of the king, have continued to fan hate and animosity among sections of the population.

Impotence of Umno-Baru leaders

He is emboldened because the Umno-Baru leadership is unwilling, or afraid, to censure him. The leaders have dug a hole for themselves by refusing to act sternly against him. Their impotence to rein him in has allowed the “socks issue” to get out of control. It has the potential to snowball into ethnic-religious conflict.

Akmal has become a national problem and his actions have created mass fear beyond just the call to boycott KK Mart.

The Youth wing leader may think he is defending Islam but the cost of his intransigence is huge. There is the damage to community relations. The damage to property. The fear and mistrust that he has sowed in the rakyat.

The business community is afraid. They are fearful that anyone who bears a grudge against them may feel empowered by Akmal’s hate speech.

Provoking the mentally unstable

It does not take much for a nutter, a pyromaniac or a juvenile vandal, egged on by gang initiation or peer pressure, to commit arson.

Akmal’s hate speech may spur someone nursing a past injury or insult, or who is emotionally unstable, to firebomb a business. The lone-wolf extremist lurking in our community may feel that Akmal has given him the go-ahead to defend Islam through violent means.

Some Malaysians feel that there are two degrees of justice in the country; one for the elite, the other for ordinary people.

Two standards of policing

Now they firmly believe that there are two standards of policing, too. The swift action behind the arrest of the Israeli man, who allegedly travelled to Malaysia to assassinate a gangland rival, contrasts sharply with the lack of arrests and progress over the firebomb attacks on the three KK Mart outlets.

Nor was action taken against the vigilantes who had intimidated two Malaysians over their comments on social media.

Akmal’s belligerence proves that our politicians have not learnt from our past mistakes. Since 1969, politicians, rather than ordinary citizens, have launched racist tirades and mocked other religions. None has been punished.

Actions of the Thought Police

Ordinary members of the public who made innocuous or inane remarks, or posed rhetorical questions on their own social media profiles, have been swiftly investigated, fined and jailed.

The clandestine ‘Thought Police’ acting on behalf of the current and previous governments have always found it useful to punish those whom we could loosely refer to as “the little people”. That’s you, and me.

You and I are warned to guard our words and actions for fear of triggering public unrest or a repeat of May 13. Then why are politicians allowed to say and do things which jeopardise the peace?

Politicians use the 2R (race, religion) template to shore up their support, and propel them to giddying heights of infamy.

Hubris to nemesis

Akmal had the backing of the Umno-Baru supreme council and on March 20, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the Umno-Baru president had specifically requested him to handle the socks issue “courteously”.

Perhaps Umno-Baru’s definition of “courteous” does not resonate with ours.

Umno-Baru supreme council member Bung Moktar Radin claimed that the Umno-Baru leadership had told Akmal to drop the Allah-socks issue and stop making a huge fuss of his call to boycott KK Mart.

When did Zahid announce this?

Akmal was both short-sighted and self-serving, but the hesitancy displayed by both the PM and Umno-Baru president is damaging.

Now, none can avoid the classic hubris-to-nemesis path for Umno-Baru and Pakatan Harapan, which Akmal knowingly, or unknowingly set for them.