We have a Government that seems uncertain on its stand against racism: officially, the PM condemns it, but when leaders with racist leanings speak, the PM won’t confront them. Instead, he sends his attack dog to do the barking for him. Is that enough? No, it isn’t.
We have an Opposition that wants us to embrace the ideals of freedom of expression and liberty. Those exact words appear in their Common Policy Framework (CPF), but it seems this only applies when what you say agrees with them and not when it doesn’t. Case in point, PKR Youth’s call for police action against the PERKASA anti-Namewee demonstration a few nights ago.
“The police should have arrested them immediately. Even for the Teoh Beng Hock vigils, the police simply arrested sympathizers who weren’t do anything rowdy. They just grouped together to light candles in his memory but they still got rounded up and roughed up. Why did the police not give the same treatment to the Perkasa group? Their behavior was violent, they incited fear and should be detained under the Sedition Act,” PKR Youth leader Badrul Hisham Shaharin told Malaysia Chronicle.
The logic being, since the police “roughed up” the Teoh Beng Hock demonstrators, they should give the same treatment to the anti-Namewee demonstrators; don’t use the Sedition Act on us, but use it on them. The faulty logic is simply mind-boggling — if anything, the PKR response should be to applaud the police for showing restraint, and making a point for them to do the same the next time a demonstration organized by the Opposition is called. That would be the reasonable, rational and positive position to take.
Furthermore, right of assembly and freedom of expression is a two-way street, surely PKR realizes this. Just as PKR has the right to say good things about freedom, liberty and all of that, the racists have the right to say “bad” things about Malay supremacy, rights and power.
“Good” and “bad” are relative terms, you see. I might agree with you that racism is “bad”, but to the next guy, maybe someone among the crowd of the 50 that demonstrated against Namewee, what they’re doing is not even being racist, let alone “bad”. In his mind, Ibrahim Ali probably thinks that he doing a great service to the nation. The fact that we disagree, doesn’t necessarily negate his position. The fact that thousands agree with him, means that this is not simply the irate and nonsensical musings of a deranged mind.
When we champion the rights of individuals to express their feelings and thoughts, this doesn’t include the right to control how they feel and think. If we believe that we have a monopoly on defining what is “good” and “bad”, then we’ve gone down the same slippery slope that we’re fighting to defeat.
Take the United States for example. The recent hoolabaloo surrounding pastor Terry Jones and his intention to burn a heap of Holy Qurans on September 11. To me, that’s a nasty, nasty thing to do. America has millions of Muslims, and such an act would certainly inflame their sensitivities. But did the Federal Government, or anyone else, have the right or even spoke of the possibility of forcibly stopping the pastor from carrying out his plan? Perhaps arrest the man for inciting hatred against Muslims? Perhaps send the police to break up his party, and ban the event? No, they didn’t.
The “sensitivities” of American Muslims were tempered by their respect for their Constitution, which interestingly enough, says many of the same things that our own Malaysian Constitution says, many of the same rights that we see the Opposition in Malaysia fighting so strongly to obtain for its people.
We really can’t have it both ways. We can’t be selective about the types of ideas we’d give freedom to express and the types of ideas we will lock away in a jail cell. The battle of ideas was never won with the heavy handed hammer of the law. Especially in a democracy, which really boils down to a competition of ideologies between political parties, the debate of ideas, pleasant or otherwise, needs to be allowed to flourish unhindered.
If we’re going to be serious about the freedom of expression, and the liberty to assemble and demonstrate against what we feel strongly about, then PKR needs to walk the talk and not only be happy to defend it when it suits their purposes.
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. – Voltaire
Let the racists speak. If we are of sound mind and body, let us condemn their ideas in equal measure. Good ideas will always float to the top, eventually. Bad ideas will sink to the bottom and disappear. Have faith in that process.