The advertising campaigns on our local cable TV is “Malaysia, truly Asia”, suggesting that you can visit there and see all of Asia in a microcosm: The beaches of SEAsia, the foods of India, and the bargains of China, all in one.

Well, last week’s attacks on seven churches just lost them the visits of a lot of Catholic Filipino tourists, not to mention that the openly racist undertones will scare away tourists from India, Singapore and China.

What is behind the riots? The pretext is a lawsuit by the government to stop Christian newspapers to use the word “Allah” when discussing God. That lawsuit was just thrown out by the Supreme court, and upset some radicals in that country.

What’s the reason behind this court decision?

The reason for the ruling is that the use of Allah as the term for a Christian God predates Islam (especially in Egypt, where the Christian Copts still use the term). But Islamic conservatives believe that Moslems now “own” the term and are willing to use violence to defend that belief.

The majority of Christians are Indians or Chinese, or converts, many living in Western Malaysia where the “lingua franca” is a dialect of Malaysia that uses the word “Allah” as a generic word for God.

AlJazeera’s Asiablog notes that before the violence, the Prime minister put his stamp of approval on “peaceful demonstrations” against the ruling, even though the violence could have been predicted, while in contrast, a peaceful demonstration of Hindraf (representing Hindu Malaysians) was met with teargas and arrests.

Since taking office, Prime Minister Najib Razak has been pushing a programme he calls “1Malaysia“, on the face of it a recognition of – and an attempt to resolve – the ethnic and religious tensions in the country…

But his commitment to the principle has come under severe scrutiny, precisely because of events like this, and the response of government ministers and police when tensions do arise.

Yet to someone who lives in SEAsia, there is a cultural context behind the attacks against the better educated minorities; this resentment can be seen in the party of UMNO, which advocates a more radical “Malay first” policy, and is one reason for the growing religious and ethnic tensions in that country.

Of course, one wonders about outside money funding the fifty Muslim NGO’s that have decided to make an issue of the century old use of God’s name.  Are outsiders manipulating the issue to inflame Malay nationalism and impose the imposition of Sharia law? Or is the firebombing of the Christian churches simply politics as usual, making scapegoats of the more financially successful Chinese and Indians, using the Hindu and Christian issues as a fake issue to gain votes?

The imposition of Sharia law would result in the emigration of these minorities, and a decrease in civil rights of those minorities who would stay.

This article is an example of the racist hate speech against non Malay minorities:

What Malays want is LEADERSHIP in addressing this issue, not posturing for votes!

To also then have so called Malay “thought leaders” like Marina persist with liberal drivel when the matter has past the point of her comprehension of the Malay mind and sociological history adds insult to injury.

Malay history is punctuated by incidents of violence, with the common theme leading up to such being the continued denigration of the race simply due to our good nature.

No majority ruling race has happily allowed for the culture of other races to bloom other than this country ruled by Malays.

And this essay was written by one leader of an NGO (pro-tem VP of the Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs (MAYC)). If this is an example of what is being spread in Malaysia, then I worry about that country’s future (and remember, if this is what is said in English, in public, how terrible is the hate speech said by similar demagogues in private).

Why do such tirades spread fear in anyone who knows  the history of SEAsia?

Because one quarter of Malaysia’s population is ethnic Chinese (and another 8 percent are Indian ethnic background, whereas only 53 percent are ethnic Malay.

What you have is a successful group who runs things, and outsiders who have trouble breaking into that group.

It’s similar to the “glass ceiling” faced by women and minorities in the US, but worse, since affirmative action has increased awareness of the problem in the US, and of course in the US, outsiders quickly become assimilated, intermarrying and speaking English, and of course to find major barriers against religion, you have to be a grandmother to remember when Jews and Catholics were the ultimate outsiders.

In the Philippines, the Chinese and Spanish quickly intermarried and became Filipinos; in Malaysia, one wonders if the religious differences is stopping a similar assimilation.

Now and then, the western press will notice the ethnic problems in Asia, but usually they are ignored.

Not so, however, by the Chinese who tend to be envied and disliked for their business acumen, even in countries where they have lived for generations.

Well, the half million Chinese (many of whom were Christian) killed in an Indonesia pogrom in the “Year of Living Dangerously” of the 1960’s could tell you, as could the one million ethnic Chinese who were thrown out of the People’s paradise of Viet Nam.

Yet not all is bleak.

The pastors of the  Christian church that was completely destroyed by a firebombing has forgiven their attackers, and pointed out that they do not represent the majority of Malaysians.

And six Muslim NGO’s are arranging for their members to guard the Christian churches against further attacks.

So although I suspect some of the tensions are being exploited by the “Arabfication of Islam” in Malaysia, where Middle East Charities to destabilize Malaysia and bring it into the column of radical Islam, it should be noted that the ethnic tensions there are longstanding and more complicated than they seem.


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