I would like to congratulate the police force for a job well done in arresting 8 suspects for the church attack. Granted, the police had had a lucky break when one of the arrested person sought treatments for burns on his chest and hand, but the arrests would not have been possible without diligence on the part of the police force. Well done.
On the same footing, I hope these people would, upon completion of a thorough investigation, be immediately charged under section 436 of the Penal Code for causing to destroy a place of worship by fire. That section carries a penalty of 20 year imprisonment.
And I do hope the AG Chambers would successfully prosecute these persons, if a case has been made out against them in the investigation papers.
I am sure the Home Minister would be pleased to note that the police has done a great job. Congratulations to him too for under his tutelage the police has managed to solve this utterly ugly crime.
We must not forget however that the attacks on the churches are but just symptoms of a far more malignant disease in our society. We cannot continue to focus on treating the symptoms all the while without giving attention to the debilitating cancer that our society is patently suffering from. Without that treatment, we would soon descend into a deep and dark pit of racial disharmony, disintegration and religious intolerance.
First of all, the attacks are symptomatic of a society which is scornful of valuable discourses and civil disagreement. It is a display of a degree of shallowness and obvious disability to articulate on an issue in order to put forth a viable position or stand on that issue. The obvious reaction then would be to resort to our primordial instinct, namely, to stamp our authority by inflicting fear and show of strength.
Secondly, the attacks reflect a culture which is lacking in civility, humility and good manners. Contrary to what Minister Rais said recently, I do not think this erosion of civility from our cultural vocabulary is caused by facebook, twitter, myspace, the blogs (this blog included) or the Internet generally.
The erosion of good manners and civility is a result of years and years of social neglect in our schools, our work place and our homes led by the behaviours and mannerism of some of our so called leaders. One of our so called elderly statesman - I am sure about the "elderly" part but am not too sure about the "statesman" part - reflected this neglect a day or two ago by claiming, among others, that the holocaust had failed as a final solution. I do not have to elaborate more on this. As we lawyers say in Courts, res ipsa loquitor, the facts speak for themselves.
Thirdly, the attacks are the culmination of ultra-nationalistic - read, racist - stance taken by some of our so called leaders. Racism in Malaysia is insidious. That is because it is tacitly supported or even encouraged by governmental policies and actions or at the very least quietly acquiesced by the powers that be. It is further muddied by the equation of a particular religion to a particular race. Thus we have a situation of interchanging nationalistic-pseudo-religiosity stance whenever certain issues are raised.
Issues which are perceived to be against Islam would be viewed as against the Malay race. And vice versa. This inter-play between religion and race gives racism in Malaysia a deeper and more insidious effect on our society. Suffice if I say that the fuse has been lighted and we should not wait to find out the exact length of that fuse.
When I was in the university, the concern was racial segragation and polarisation. That has however transformed into a full blown racial intolerance and marking of racial (and religious) territory. Soon, if not treated, hatred would set in. And God helps us in that event.
There must be an honest approach to this problem. And a fully consistent one. It does not help for a leader to cavort and emphatise with the plight of some cow head stomping group on one hand and on the other to set out to spray acid laced water on peaceful demonstrators against the ISA. It does not help for the police to arrest some candle carrying men and women sitting in some car parks while at the same time a threatened demonstration in some mosques were deemed alright unless "national security is threatened."
That kind of inconsistencies result in credibility deficiency. And when the authorities lack credibility or is perceived as lacking in credibility, no amount of earnestness or even honesty could make up for its credibility crisis. That is why nowadays many have grown cynical about every actions taken by the authorities, especially the police, the MACC and even the Courts.
At the core of our social cancers is our school and education system. We are so deep in our misplaced emphasis on getting as many A grade as possible that we forget to imbue our little ones with the concept of nation building and racial integration in our schools. A famous person once told me that a school in Bangsar even had a racial profile on the games played in school where the Malays would play football, the Chinese, basketball and the Indians, hockey not long ago.
Back in Pengajian Islam classes, we have ustaz and ustazah who see absolutely no problem in prying into the privacy of a student's family by asking students whose parents do not pray at home to put up their hands. This actually happened to a neighbour of mine who actually went to the school to complain to the ustazah for doing so.
Racial segregation and polarisation are further made worse by a culture of exclusionism perpetrated by our religious authorities. The banning of the usage of certain Arabic - and I choose the word Arabic deliberately as these words are not Islamic words but Arabic - words from being used by non-Muslims is but an example of this culture of exclusionism. That serves to isolate the Muslims from other religions and consequently the Malays from other races.
Day in and day out, Muslims - and hence, the Malays - are reminded that we are different from the others. That we have different - and more - rights than the others. That we are always weak and under siege. That we have to unite so that we are stronger. Day in and day out we have this imaginary bogeyman following us, always trying to confuse us, always trying to take our rights and what is ours, always waiting to exploit our weaknesses.
We are a threatened race. We are a besieged race. And we have to be aware of this. And we have to treat "them", the bogeyman, with extra caution.
This is the disease permeating the air which we all breathe now.
The attacks on the churches are just but a small symptom of this disease.
The police, the MACC, the FRUs, the RELA and whatever NGOs that we have are not in a single position to treat this disease.
It is in us to do something about it. And it is for the government to take an honest lead.