Utusan Malaysia: Messenger of hate and spite on religion and race
|Written by Dr Lim Teck Ghee|
|Tuesday, 15 December 2009 21:27|
|Sitting today in a small group international meeting on the subject of the linkages between religion and development being held in Phnom Penh, I am engaged in deep discussion on how to build inter-faith synergies that can effectively address the many pressing challenges of the region.
The group of 15 participants from different faiths and religions (I am possibly the sole atheist participant) includes three Muslim activist colleagues. They are the country director of Muslim Aid from Bangladesh; a Muhammadiyah senior lecturer from the State Institute for Islamic Studies in Walinsongo Semarang, Indonesia; and the executive director of a Muslim-based organization Ummah Fi Salam based in Mindanao that has been working on an interfaith programme called ‘Building Darusalam’ or ‘peace communities’.
Present also is a Muslim senior lecturer from the National University of Singapore who is actively involved with giving voice to professional Muslim women in Singapore.
Our two-day workshop is part of the research programme underway at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, and the World Faiths Development Dialogue which has to date covered North America, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, and Latin America. More information is available on the Berkley Center website: http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu
What I (and others from the non-Muslim faiths) have gotten from our discussions with these Muslim colleagues is not only of their strong conviction in their religion as a religion of compassion, peace and justice; but also of their view of the need for Muslims to stand up and speak out against disrespect, intolerance or injustice, especially in instances when these actions are carried out in the name of the religion against people of other religions and faiths.
As I return to my laptop to review the latest news from the Utusan Malaysia on developments on race and religion in the country, the contrast between the noble values and reasoned and rational statements of my Muslim colleagues here and the ‘Islamic supremacy’ mindset and irrational and provocative ranting of the newspaper editors makes me wonder what version of Islam the Utusan Malaysia is promoting.
The contrast between these Muslim colleagues committed to values of justice, freedom, equality and peace that are common to all religions and faiths, and the Utusan proponents of a racist and religiously warped social order for Malaysia could not be more striking.
In Cambodia for the workshop, these Muslim advocates for inter-faith understanding and reconciliation come from poorer and less developed societies that have much less in the way of material achievement and socio-economic goods. Yet their respect, lack of envy, compassion and positive attitudes towards other religions shines through in their writings, speeches and actions.
In contrast, our Utusan Malaysia and their compatriots of similar ideology are affluent, well educated and come from the most prosperous and powerful Muslim society in the region. From them what we get are messages of hate, spite, narrow-mindedness and intolerance towards the non-Muslim and non-Malay communities in the country. How sad!
See articles by Utusan Malaysia editors – English version translated by Utusan Online.
Malaysians are deprived of a free media when industry practitioners become too close to the ruling parties and their newspapers are owned by these parties and their cronies.
Journalists like The Star’s Joceline Tan clinch top awards at the inaugural Umno Media Appreciation Night for her writings, and her RM5,000 and notebook prize presented by no less than the Umno president Najib Razak himself. Whereas independent news portals are branded ‘racist’ by the likes of Utusan’s infamous Awang Selamat.
Without a free media, distortions like that purveyed by Utusan news editor Noraini Abd. Razak, who refers to the great ‘benevolence’ of the federal government in funding other religions, is left unchallenged.
But according to external sources, “The federal government, allocated RM428 million to build Islamic places of worship, and RM8.1 million to build Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and other places of worship for minority religious groups between 2005 and 2008.”
Contrast this with the Selangor state government under Pakatan which in January 2009 alone allocated RM6 million for non-Muslim places of worship.
PAS’s embattled Perak Menteri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin rebutted Utusan saying that the Umno Malays were presently attempting to distort all statements and actions taken by the non-Malay politicians in the Pakatan Rakyat, in order to create a false impression that they were ‘anti-Malay’. “They are doing this everywhere and trying to get the Malays to believe them”.
Now I’ve only just read of the threat to use the ISA on DAP state representative Nga Kor Ming for questioning the lack of government resources to other religious houses of worship between the years 2000 and 2008, compared to the RM748.26mil spent on the construction of 611 mosques.
The thought then occurs to me that if the situation was reversed in Malaysia and there was a non-Muslim majority or if another religion was the religion of the Federation, surely these same people would be concerned about the extent to which the state was practicing religious equality and the extent of bias and prejudice that may be inherent in official policies against the Muslims.
The Utusan Malaysia writings highlighed above have little in common with the Islamic values and norms of the great majority of the Muslim community in the country.
There was a phrase used by one of my fellow participants earlier today on the need to reach out to “the religious hardliners however much they may appear to be beyond the pale”. Since non-Muslims cannot reach out to them, it is important that more rational thinking Malaysian Muslims do this and not sit by idly while their co-religionists propagate their messages of fear and hate.
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