I felt Helen Ang handled herself capably with a cogent defence of her ‘controversial’ article that spawned a PERKASA police report and incurred the wrath of the infamous ‘Saudara Baru’ at the Utusan. However, her latest expositions, in which she (attempts to) critically dissect the recent controversies surrounding the DAP’s attempts – and Lim Guan Eng’s in particular – at bridging the gap towards the Malay-Muslim community, reveals on her part both an extreme naivety and parochial outlook insofar as our national political realities are concerned.
In typically caustic fashion, she derides these attempts as confused and overly-eager:
DAP courting Malay voters has been as muddled in its approach as TV3’s mish-mash 1Malaysia-Raya greeting, and equally stepping on Muslim toes.
Some DAP leaders and followers – like Teo Nie Ching and her supporters – are, in their over-eagerness, not helping matters with careless gaffes that allow propaganda machines such as Utusan Malaysia and the Umno-affiliated blogs to make political capital.
For example, Teo was bent on continuing her informal Visit Surau Year campaign until the Selangor religious authorities slapped a ban on her. Imagine that they had to go to the extent of barring her from entering a surau.
On the one hand, here is someone who is constantly bemoaning what she strongly feels to be institutionalised ‘religious persecution’, while on the other hand she sarcastically labels genuine efforts at inter-religious engagement as ingratiating. If her definition of failure is that these actions have resultingly been used as Utusan fodder and manipulated into right-wing political vitriol, and then cites the ‘ban’ by the Selangor religious authority as proof that it exacerbates divisions, then I believe she is missing the (and her own) point.
I ask: why did she write her previous, infamous article in the first place, knowing full-well that it would come under immediate attack by the very same right-wing quarters? She practically invited abuse from the ‘Saudara Baru’ of the Utusan. I believe her intention in pointing out what she perceived to be ‘religious persecution’ was to invite reflection and debate on the issue. She succeeded.
In the same vein, the DAP has brought much food for thought to the table. YB Teo’s ‘gaffes’, as it were, did not merely result in ultra-defensive censure from the self-appointed ‘protectors’ of Malay-Islam (read: UMNO), but it also very importantly exposed UMNO’s own overzealousness. As for the ‘ban’ that was put in place by MAIS, it merely highlights the double standards and biasness apparent in the religious authorities in our country (the BN’s Hulu Selangor MP, on the other hand, faces no problems in his mosque-capades).
Miss Ang also feels that it is embarrassing for PAS to always have to ‘come to the rescue’ of the DAP whenever these issues emerge. I postulate that these ‘rescues’ in fact project a great perception of brotherhood and solidarity among the Pakatan parties. At least in the Pakatan, member parties look out for each other. Whenever the MCA is attacked by PERKASA, where is UMNO? And honestly, who would the lay-Muslim believe more when it comes to matters of religion – Nik Aziz or UMNO? Tok Guru’s defence of YB Teo’s surau visit was particularly logical and the natural view that most Malay-Muslims share. Any debate that has spawned from this particular episode only adds much-needed flesh to a skeletal body of discourse in this country, especially where political Islam is concerned.
I also made note earlier about what I deem to be an acute sense of political naivety on Miss Ang’s part. The fact is, the general perception of the DAP is that it is inclined towards Chinese chauvinism. Previously, this label may not have harmed their image as a perennially opposition party, but this is no longer the case today when the party is genuinely trying to administer a government for all Malaysians.
The DAP is in great need of an image makeover, because parochial politics no longer works. Years of UMNO-BN propaganda has created much division amongst our people, and there is still a great deal of lingering mistrust on the part of the Malay-Muslim populace towards the DAP. I for one feel that Guan Eng’s efforts at reaching out and engaging the Malay-Muslim community are laudable and must be continued if not increased.
Some people know only to complain about things, while others actually try to do something about it.