Wednesday August 17, 2011
By Marina Mahathir
Malaysian policies often state that we are different and therefore cannot be compared with others. Yet those who join peaceful marches are likened to British rioters. Suddenly we are the same?
ARE we getting progressively schizophrenic? Judging by current responses to events around the world, it would be easy to conclude that we are.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses and to behave normally in social situations.
If you read up on Malaysian policies and statements on various issues, the one striking factor is our insistence on exceptionalism. That is, we are different and therefore cannot be compared with any other country.
In the early years of the AIDS pandemic, we thought we were protected because we were different. If non-Muslims in other Muslim countries use the word “Allah” for God with no fuss, ours can’t because we are different. We are apparently unique and incomparable to anyone else in the world.
Which is why it puzzles me that all of a sudden our citizens, or at least the ones who want to voice their opinions with peaceful assemblies and marches, are being compared to British rioters and looters.
If we are always different, how come suddenly we are the same?
Going by the statements of our leaders, basically we are nothing more than savages who would rob, rape, loot and pillage given half the chance. Therefore, we need all sorts of laws to keep us in check and not venture in groups of more than five outside our homes.
Now, this is why that schizophrenic inability to think logically comes into play. Despite evidence that none of the 30,000 or so peaceful marchers last July robbed, raped, looted or pillaged, our leaders insist that we would have. They must be looking at mirrors.
Just a few days ago the fellow who demonstrated how inconvenient a protest is by inconveniencing everyone in Penang declared that he would burn down two online news portals whose reports he disagreed with. Now if that’s not London rioter behaviour, I don’t know what is.
More disturbingly, after already having insulted all the good citizens who exercised their right to peaceful assembly, our leaders go on to insult them some more.
Instead of being proud that we did not have the type of violence that the UK experienced, instead of talking about how so much more civilised our people are, our leaders liken us to rioters who have vandalised, stolen and killed.
Talk about the inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
A certain amount of hypocrisy also rears its ugly head. What if Mark Duggan, the man who was shot by police in London and whose family’s peaceful protest became the original rallying cry for the rioters, was Mohamad Duggan?
Between 1987 and 1993 and 2000 and 2005, the Palestinian people went through two uprisings against the Israeli government, known as the First and Second Intifadas, respectively. Both Intifadas involved demonstrations, protests and, yes, a certain amount of violent rioting.
They were met with an even more violent response from the Israelis that resulted in many deaths and the eventual blockade of Gaza, still in force today.
Our government supported the Intifadas then. Does that mean that our government supports the right of Palestinians to demonstrate, protest and riot, but refuses its own people’s right to do much less, that is to just march peacefully?
Or is the logic that when governments are democratically elected, its people then lose the right to protest against them?
Conveniently ignored, too, is the fact that in the UK, protests and demonstrations are held all the time without the type of violence we saw recently.
One of the biggest was in 2003 when hundreds of thousands of people marched against the Iraq war. At the time we looked benignly at this because we had the same stand. Did we tell the Brits and others round the world that they should not demonstrate against the war?
So what is the message here? We may be trusted to peacefully protest as long as the subject of our protest is in sync with the Government’s. Otherwise, if we should protest for free and fair elections, against corruption or anything else that the Constitution gives us the right to, we are labelled as unpatriotic thugs out to disturb the peace and destroy the economy and image of our country.
Looking at the UK riots, are we even talking about the same thing? What cause was the UK rioters espousing?
Some wide reading instead of political posturing might be more beneficial here. The UK rioters did not loot bookshops, and some have suggested it’s because they don’t like to read.
Perhaps they are not unlike some of our politicians.