Saturday, May 10, 2008

'Disquiet' On Paper



The editors of the new Malay Mail had very kindly asked me to write a weekly column in the new Malay Mail. I got the assurances I needed from the editors and am now writing 'Disquiet' for the Malay Mail every Tuesday. My arrangement with the newspaper allows me to post my article on this blog two days after the print version appears. My first article appeared on Tuesday, 6th May. Here it is.

(My article for next Tuesday is on the decision of the Penang Syariah Court on the apostasy application of Siti Fatimah)


The Fortress

March 8th brought with it a new landscape, one that to many, across the divides, offered a promise that had long been abandoned. Some dared venture a little further into a hope of a new beginning, tentatively at first but then with more conviction as they realized the full effect of what had transpired.

I was asked soon after how I saw things. I said that I thought that it was a good result, one that would show the politicians that Malaysians now took democracy more seriously, that we valued our freedoms that much more and were prepared to defend it. My inquisitor, who as it turned out shared my view, asked where I would start if I could rebuild things.

I gave it a thought and while it was tempting to point to a greater freedom of expression and assembly or even of religion or liberty, there were more fundamental problems that had to be tackled as a matter of priority.

One of the first insights gained when learning about human rights is how much of a cornerstone freedom from discrimination is. The right to equal treatment, regardless of race or religion or gender or any other factor, informs every aspect of the human condition. It is the right to be treated as equals that allows us to stand up and hold our heads up high, regardless of where we have come from, that protects our personal dignity. It gives meaning to a simple truth; that each of us wants to be able to live our lives to the fullest and achieve our dreams in a way that only each of us can.

No one has the right to tell us who we are, or to tell us how we should live our lives. No one has the right to tell us that we cannot reach for the stars. No one.

The right to equality, to equal protection, is a cornerstone of the constitutional framework of this nation. It is cast in stone, even though it was unnecessary to do so for it being so self-evident. Merdeka brought us together as one, the collective beating of our hearts setting the rhythm by which we would stride into the future.

And yet, it would seem that even the most sacred of truths are not spared when they stand in the way of ambition. Fifty plus years into our history and Malaysia does not have a culture of non-discrimination. Race politics, greed and the lust for power have trampled into near obscurity our path to the single thread that binds us all together, the freedom to be Malaysian.

It is so wrong when we separate our children into Malays, Indians, Chinese and Others. It is so wrong when we tell our young that they should be wary of their friends just because they are different. It is so wrong that some of us feel ourselves entitled to a better life at the expense of others. It is so wrong that we have been made to fear others, not for what it is they intend to do to us, but for what is we are told they will do.

And it is so wrong that the nation, and the futures of all that call it home, are held to ransom by a political vision whose driving purpose is to protect vested interests. For those who find divisions along racial and religious lines useful, a multi-racial Malaysia in which the energy and vision of all Malaysian are harnessed to a common and beneficial end, is threatening. It is in their interests to make it equally threatening for others.

The declining standards in the public service, from education to health care to the administration of justice, all stem from this sad state of affairs. In the fortress that has been built around the Malay community, it is trapped in a vicious cycle that prevents it from seeing the obvious and doing what is necessary. In the push to protect the Malays from perceived threats and enemies, Malays and non-Malays have suffered. The pain that has been caused is immeasurable, the extent of the injury unmapped.

What would I do, where would I start? I would start here.

MIS

11 comments:

hellfried said...

kudos on the new 'appointment'. the malay mail will be richly rewarded, i am sure.

Anonymous said...

Malik,

Syabas!

Having Disquiet break into the mainstream media is an encouraging step towards gaining a space for the voice of minorities in the dominant public discourse.

It's also a step hopefully, towards the inclusion of 'sensitive topics', long forbidden from public discussion.

-wan-

Anonymous said...

you must know also ust ahmad jailani's comments on you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=echaEOz0OrU

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said...

Thanks, Anonymous at 10.54 am.

I have never said that the syariah court is akin to the land office. I have also never taken the position that if an apostasy application was permitted to be made in the syariah cour, this would elevate the status of the syariah court to a status equal to or higher than the civil courts.

My position has always been that the syariah court is an 'inferior' court in the legal sense (the civil courts are referred to as the 'superior courts' in law). The syariah courts like the subordinate courts - magistrates, sessions - are creations of statute. I have taken this position in articulating my views on the jurisdiction and the jurisdictional basis of the syariah courts.

MIS

Old Fart said...

If htere was to be a new begining, it has surely got to start with the removal of any and all fears that have governed our lives for so long. It is those fears and those who promote that fears that have caused all this polarisation.
By our own conduct we have all given validity to the fear mongering. *th March to a large extent called a bluff on that fear. Yet, Starting with the Prime minister himself, they are trying so hard to reestablish the place that fear had in the conduct of our lives. Maybe its time to call all attempts to cul;tivate and perpetuate fear, to identify them, list them and condemn them. No one does this, so anyone issuing a threat or a veiled threat gets his or her MSM exposure..but that this is fear mongering,no one protests.

chew said...

a true malaysian at heart, as evident in the thoughts and ideas expressed in your articles, the publication of which in any media towards a wider readeeship, would be very much encouraging and appreciated as well.

caravanserai said...

The shaft of light
On the wall it shines
You see the crack walls
Colors and blinds

Through it all
The silence stays
There is a wooden table and a chair
For somebody to come
And take the rights

On the wooden table
There is a luggage
With a note by its side
What will it be?

The mind ponders
About the truth and hearsay
Jumping into this world
Of leaders and headhunters
People and their dreams

The emptiness wakes
Only the soft susurrus wind
Somebody will be coming
To write into a wonderful dream

Like the streams
Flowing at the back of the decrepit house
There lies the memory
Of freedom and truth
God make everything beautiful

stevenotes said...

MIS,

The following excerpts made tears well up in my eyes.

"...that Malaysians now took democracy more seriously, that we valued our freedoms that much more and were prepared to defend it."

"No one has the right to tell us who we are, or to tell us how we should live our lives. No one has the right to tell us that we cannot reach for the stars. No one."

"The right to equality, to equal protection, is a cornerstone of the constitutional framework of this nation. It is cast in stone, even though it was unnecessary to do so for it being so self-evident."

"And yet, it would seem that even the most sacred of truths are not spared when they stand in the way of ambition."

"The pain that has been caused is immeasurable, the extent of the injury unmapped."


Great stuffs. An oppressed nation which potentials have been suppressed for 40 years (the years the Tunku was PM do not count).

Bernie Chow said...

Syabas Malik!

Getting into a 'new' paper is indeed a breakthrough. I just pray that you will not eventually suffer the fate of writers such as Zainah Anwar who had to be 'axed' at some point because of disquiet 'political pressure', although these were not "official" reasons given.

There certainly is a great need for more open spaces for expressing "alternative" (from the mainstream and politically-owned media), intelligent and mature views of interpreting policies and so-called social contracts, of rule of law, etc. There is also a need to counter skewed and myopic views spilling out of some our politicians' mouths as well as prudent commentaries on the political going-ons in our country.

People like you who have the hallmark of putting forth unbiased and non discriminatory opinions, based on the principles of justice and equality, will assist greatly in helping us the ordinary raakyat to make informed choices and form intelligent opinions.

Reading your writings or hearing you speak always give me fresh hope - a hope that more learned people like you will one day be a law maker or better still be the brains behind new ideas and policies (beginning with a revamp of the education system) that will carve the 'new dawn' that is now taking shape in our beloved county.

We need people of your stature to take over from some of our politicians who have such bigoted, out-of-touch with reality, biased and self-serving views.

This is my dream which I hope will be worthy of your consideration at some point in the not too distant future.

Malik, will you take up the challenge?

with every good wish,
bernie chow

Anonymous said...

"What would I do, where would I start? I would start here"

We can start by listening to each other and be compassionate towards one another. If we allow compassion to arise then Malaysia racial issues will be solved. Isn't that easy?

Anonymous said...

Dear Malik,
Somewhere along the line somebody has to tell the truth and shame
the devil.More intresting news are expected in the near future when our young people come to terms and believe we need to be united to survive in this country.