Let us pay tribute to three unsung heroes who dare to stand up for inter-religious harmony, clean elections and a better education system – Azrul Mohd Khalib, Major Zaidi Ahmad and Mohd Nor Izzah

Let us pay tribute to ordinary Malaysians who are the country’s unsung heroes who dare to stand up for a better Malaysia whether in terms of a better education system, clean elections or inter-religious harmony, for they are the salt of the earth who will ensure that Malaysia will achieve her greatness instead of becoming a failed state.

Mohd Nor Izzat Mohd Johari, the head of Suara Guru Masyarakat Malaysia (SGMM), who is facing mean, petty and punitive persecution from the “Little Napoleons” in the Education Ministry with the Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin too “busy” to intervene, is one such unsung hero in Malaysia.

What is Nor Izzat’s crime? None, instead he had rendered great national service in spearheading the protest against the woes of the badly-planned and poorly-conceived student-based assessment (SBA) system. He should be rewarded for his positive contribution in forcing the Education Ministry to suspend the SBA instead of being subject to mean and petty punitive actions.

Another unsung Malaysian hero is Royal Malaysian Air Force pilot Major Zaidi Ahmad who should be rewarded instead of being penalised for speaking up about the indelible ink fiasco in the recent 13th General Elections and is now awaiting court-martial for his great service as a patriot to the country.

Nor Izzat wants to have a better education system for our teachers and children. Major Zaidi wants the country to have a clean election system which Malaysians can stand tall in the world.

A third unsung hero Malaysians should pay tribute to is social activist Azrul Mohd Khalib who led a Malaysians for Malaysia group to spearhead a “Walk for Peace” movement among ordinary Malaysians who care about the country to push for national healing in the face of the worst racial and religious polarization in the nation’s 56-year history.

It all started on Sunday, January 5 this year outside Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Klang where the nearly 1,000 Catholics who turned up for Sunday mass had expected an angry mob of Muslims protesting against the possible use of the word ‘Allah’ but instead met a group of progressive Muslims bearing flowers to express solidarity and preparedness to defend the Church from the planned protest.

Among the progressive Muslims who turned up was social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.

This was followed by a “Walk for Peace” at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) park on Sunday, January 26 in the face of rising inter-religious and inter-ethnic tensions.

Dressed in purple – the colour that signifies religious tolerance – a group of Malaysians led by Azrul handed out flowers, candies and bookmarks in the hope of promoting diversity in Malaysia.

Azrul said the ‘Allah’ issue, allegations of conversion and propagation of Muslims were all threatening to tear apart the fabric of Malaysia’s multi-cultural community.

He said: “The individuals who are currently speaking on these issues are not promoting national unity and solidarity in the country.

“Instead, they are promoting hate and distrust, and pushing the various ethnic groups into their respective communities.

“We must reject this hatred, we believe in a pluralistic society, one which is united regardless of different creed, religion and race.”

Next was the peace walk in Penang on Sunday, February 23, organized by a housewife and a choreographer/activist, involving some 50 Malaysians, who carried purple balloons, carnations and roses, who walked from one house of worship to another in Penang, to reject racial and religious extremism surging in the country.

The group’s mission to promote inter-religious tolerance came some 12 hours after a mosque in Cheruk Tok Kun on mainland Penang was defiled with a slab of meat believed to be pork, which was thrown at one of its entrances.

Azrul is driven by a need to have an “alternative voice” in the “current monologue” produced by extremist groups who had sown the seeds of bigotry, hatred and violence.

He said: “We want to be one of the voices that speak about moderation. And speaking about it and having dialogues are great but it is equally important to show the people what moderation looks like.

“Malaysians need to be able to see other Malaysians standing up for each other in order to move forward as a country.”

The group, made up of people from different faiths and backgrounds, prides itself on being inclusive, in contrast to what extremist groups espouse The next programme is scheduled to be Klang tomorrow, followed by Ipoh a week later.

I fully agree with the editor of The Malaysian Insider, Jahabar Sadiq who in his article “For some, it is the pursuit of destroying Malaysia”, to launch off a series for its readers to share their hopes and fears about the nation after half-a-century of nationhood and whether ordinary Malaysians can save the country from those who want to destroy multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia, wrote:

“Yet, the baiting continues unabated and some people appear to want this country to go up in smoke. They have tried many ways in the recent past, encouraged by the lethargic response to their deeds.

“The question is: will Malaysians continue to hold the line or explode with anger that would lead to unpleasant circumstances akin to the race riots of May 1969.

“Or can they turn the other cheek and let the authorities catch up and put the culprits behind bars? And can the government of the day ensure there is still peace and harmony in Malaysia?”

This is why moderates in Malaysia, whether Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat or outside these two political coalitions, must unite and isolate extremists and traitors of the country who want to foment racial chaos and religious conflagration through incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension.

The silent majority must not pay heed to Najib’s ridiculous and even atrocious advice to “ignore” the instigators and extremists but must become an articulate majority to support a nation-wide “Love Malaysia, Save Malaysia” campaign to rescue the country from the nefarious and treacherous designs of a small group of anti-Malaysian elements who want to pit race against race and religion against religion to set the country aflame!

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah