The Malaysian witch hunt
SEPT 13 — With news of the death threats against a Malay man for saying he’s gay, ridiculous 8TV commercials over Ramadan belittling Malaysia’s minorities, the death of Malay transsexual who was never able to change her name and gender, the raiding of a church dinner attended by some Muslims, and the false accusations against Arlene Tan for being some radical anti-Islamic blogger — Malaysia is… struggling.
With regards to Arlene Tan, I don’t think enough people realise the seriousness of this moment in Malaysian history — especially people who can really help.
I have heard this attempt to persecute non-Muslims being called “the Malaysian witch hunt.” That pretty much sums it up. Good people are being targeted because they think differently and do not conform to the norm.
This isn’t anything new in human history — whether it be race, gender, sexuality or religion — but I like to think that humanity has progressed past this.
When Arlene Tan was accused of being some sort of anti-Islamic blogger named Makcik Hajjah Sitt Al Wuzara (whoever that is?), she immediately started receiving death threats including creepy phone calls late at night, and Internet hate pages directed at her.
A very sweet intelligent caring person was being “put on trial” — guilty until proven innocent. In reality, she had done nothing wrong, but a large group of emotionally-driven individuals didn’t seem to care about the facts.
Since these accusations, Gaysec (the self-proclaimed hacker group) has admitted Arlene isn’t Makcik Hajjah Sitt Al Wuzara, but in their opinion she is still a sceptic and non-Muslim so she has problems which make her worthy of being targeted. Many people in this country seem to think that because one is a sceptic/freethinker, that person must be anti-Islamic or full of hate.
What concerns me is the fact so few people came to this Malaysian woman’s defence. When I asked my moderate Muslim friends to stand up for Arlene, many didn’t feel it was their responsibility.
According to them, the group that falsely accused her is not of “their ways,” and is misusing Islam — a religion that preaches tolerance. But, isn’t that all the more reason to say something?
I think it is these accepting, open-minded moderates from all beliefs who need to speak up and defend people like Arlene from being wrongfully attacked. It is Malaysians — specifically Malaysian Muslims — who need to say “Stop — these people live in our country too — and deserve the same rights as us.”
The problem is, these moderate citizens fear being labelled anti-Islamic so they stand idly by and let things happen. Luckily, some brave people, Muslim and non-Muslim, have spoken up in Arlene’s defence.
When I told one of my good friends from Canada, a critically-minded Muslim who is attending Harvard, about these crazy events in Malaysia — he laughed in disgust. He said the Muslim world is paranoid, and he doesn’t think it is going to get any better. I hope he is wrong.
Just when I thought the whole thing with Arlene as was over, more baseless accusations are being thrown around. Hawa Othman, the co-founder of Unscientific Malaysia (a website that is basically Malaysia’s hope for a more rational, scientific society), has been accused of being some anti-Islamic troll. This is obviously ridiculous, as I know Hawa for her experiments on fruit flies (she is a scientist) and her soft-spoken demeanour.
Sceptics, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, brights, humanists or whomever else, are not ANTI-ISLAMIC. These people have an interest in facts, research, science, and understanding. They generally think rationally and want peace.
Unscientific Malaysia as an organisation follows the principle of “question everything.” This means that Islam, like Christianity, homeopathy, ghosts and aspartame, is included. Many Muslims in Malaysia are members of Unscientific Malaysia — this doesn’t mean that they are not devout followers of their faith — it just means they like to question the world around them.
If some confused individuals are out there spreading hateful messages on the Internet, these hateful messages should simply be ignored. They are looking for attention — so why are we giving them an audience.
They must be enjoying these false accusations — watching their pseudonyms being published everywhere, yet nobody knowing who they really are. It is impossible to stop hateful messages from existing because the Internet allows for anonymity. However, it is possible for a rational person to tune this type of junk out.
It seems so convenient to frame the freethinking/sceptic community as being similar to like these anti-Islamic blogger types. The average person in Malaysia does not know enough about the non-religious so they just follow whatever these self-proclaimed righteous groups tell them to.
My friends at Unscientific Malaysia are simply trying to better understand the world around them — through science — whereas a religious person might be interested in understanding it through whatever religion it is that they follow. People from both groups generally want Malaysia to be a better place.
It is time that citizens in Malaysia demonstrated peace and tolerance to a threatened minority group. If this doesn’t happen, Malaysia and the people inside its borders have failed at protecting its own and doing what is right — two ideas that I think a just God would support, and according to my Muslim friends who are good people, Islam would definitely support.
If blind accusations can be used as tools against good people, then you or I could be next. Imagine waking up one morning, and just because you are who you are or think what you think, you are accused of being someone you aren’t, doing something you didn’t do, you have all your personal details released, receive death threats, become the subject of hate pages on Facebook made specifically against you, and so on. Is all this acceptable? A good citizen would of course say this is unacceptable!
It is also important for the international community to see that Malaysia is an accepting country, full of accepting peoples — not just a country with a 1 Malaysia slogan and little evidence to back it up. Nobody, male or female, religious or non-religious should have their basic human rights infringed upon.
It wasn’t Christianity that killed 50,000 women during the Witch Hunt, it was paranoid people. Similarly, I believe Islam is not the reason my friends have been targetted, it is paranoid people acting under the guise of Islam.
We are all in this together and in the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.