A lesson on Malaysian national identity

The unfortunate and deplorable incident at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta last night when three Malaysians were injured, tear gas fired and Malaysian football fans pelted with metal objects and water bottles after Harimau Malaya scored a stunning victory over Indonesia in the Asian Zone Group C match of the World Club 2022 Qualifiers is a lesson on Malaysian national identity.

The lesson is particularly timely and salutary when for the past two months, the Malaysian social media was dominated by fake news and hate speech pitting race against race and religion against religion inciting inter-racial and inter-religious doubt, suspicion, animosity, fear and hate to create the phobia that each ethnicity is facing an existential threat to its values and culture.

It is a reminder that Malays, Chinese and Indians in Malaysia, who are citizens of Malaysia, have more in common with each other than with the Indonesians in Indonesia, the Chinese in China or the Indians in India.

It is sheer mischief and evil for a foreigner to suggest that Indian Malaysians are more supportive of Indian Prime Minister Narendran Modi than Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, just as it is equally mischievous and evil for anyone to suggest that the Malays regard Joko Widodo or Jokowi as their President or the Chinese Malaysians regard Xi Jinping as their President when all Malaysians are loyal to the Yang di Pertuan Agong, the system of constitutional monarchy and the institutions of state as set out in the Malaysian Constitution.

I remember my meeting with the Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in September last year, who was recounting his successful first trip to China the previous month as the Pakatan Harapan Prime Minister and that many Malaysians met him at a gathering in Beijing, including those who had been in China for ten or more years.

I pointed out that these were Malaysian Chinese and not China Chinese, and though they had worked in China for ten or 20 years, their heart and soul had all along been with Malaysia, as they continued to be Malaysians, regarding Malaysia and not China as their home.

Unfortunately in the past two months, the social media has presented a false picture of Malaysia as if the country is on the verge of a racial and religious conflagration, with an unprecedented intensity of fake news and hate speech calculated to raise racial and religious temperatures with each ethnicity hating other ethnicities because of the implanted but baseless fear that it is facing an existential threat – when this is completely false and not reflected by the inter-racial and inter-religious goodwill, understanding, tolerance and harmony on the ground.

But if the venom from the fake news and hate speech to incite inter-racial and inter-religious doubt, suspicion, antagonism, fear and hate is not checked, then the real-life Malaysia could be sufficiently poisoned to mirror the “social media Malaysia”, plunging the country into a major inter-racial and inter-religious conflagration.

The Cabinet must be commended for providing the lead in rejecting calls of a boycott on products made by non-Muslims and instead calling on citizens to support Malaysian-made goods.

We must not succumb to the wiles and machinations of those who want to see Malaysians more divided than united, seeking new ways to divide Malaysians and poison inter-racial and inter-religious relations.

This is why Malaysians must always strive to achieve greater unity, understanding and harmony among Malaysians instead of creating more division and disunity among Malaysians.

Those who advocate that Muslims must vote and support Muslim leaders even if they are corrupted not only goes against the teachings of Islam, but go against the Malaysian Constitution and the five Rukunegara principles especially “The Rule of Law” and “Good Behaviour and Morality”.

It is a matter of concern that have been announcements in the past few days which militate against this emphasis on national unity and are creating greater division, which calls for reconsideration.

I agree that inter-faith prayers are not about mixing religions but are merely about human fraternity coming together in solidarity to seek universal values of love, compassion and justice.

There had recently been many instances of religious communities in Malaysia coming together in solidarity prayers, like the MH370 and MH17 air tragedies, as well as the violent attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

As the confluence of four great civilisations of the world – Malay/Islamic, Chinese, Indian and West – we should leverage on the best values and virtues of these civilisations so that Malaysia can be a showcase to the world of the success of the Alliance of Civilisations instead of being a failure from the Clash of Civilisations.

The Yang di Pertuan Agong and the Sultans of Perak and Selangor have stressed the importance of national unity and the perils of fake news and hate speech.

Let all Malaysians stand up for national unity and condemn fake news and hate speech designed to create inter-racial and inter-religious doubt, suspicion, animosity, fear and hate.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri